Transparency News, 9/23/2022



September 23, 2022

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state & local news stories

Amherst County Administrator Dean Rodgers tendered his resignation during the county board of supervisors meeting Tuesday.  Rodgers' resignation is effective in two weeks, according to county documentation, released Wednesday, of the board's actions on agenda items at Tuesday's meeting. He resigned at the end of the board's meeting, after a closed session held to "evaluate the performance of the county administrator," according to the agenda.  Rodgers and board members David Pugh, Tom Martin and Jimmy Ayers could not be reached for comment following Tuesday's meeting. The board did not take any action except to adjourn the meeting, according to the county documents. Supervisor Claudia Tucker, the District 2 representative and former board chair, said the majority of the board wanted his resignation for reasons she said she felt weren't enough to justify it. Tucker said the board leaned 3-2, without any formal vote, in favor of the resignation and she was opposed.
Amherst New Era-Progress

Spotsylvania County School Board Chair Kirk Twigg signed a contract with prospective superintendent Mark Taylor on Sept. 16, the same day that Twigg and other board members told the public that contract negotiations with Taylor were continuing. The School Board held a special meeting Sept. 16 and approved a motion to “submit the contract and negotiations forward as discussed in closed session.” “This is all under further deliberation,” Twigg told the public as the special meeting adjourned. When Taylor begins his appointment as superintendent Nov. 1, he will be the second-highest-paid school division leader in the region.Taylor will make more than King George County schools Superintendent Robert Benson, who retired in June after 10 years as division leader; and more than Caroline Superintendent Sarah Calveric and Fredericksburg Superintendent Marci Catlett, who both have decades of teaching and administrative experience. Benson’s salary, according to his most recent contract, effective July 1, 2020, was $195,722. Calveric’s is $186,963, as of Aug. 17 and Catlett’s is $199,500 as of July 1, 2021.
The Free Lance-Star

Danville Police Chief Scott Booth was one of the top three candidates for the police chief position in Aurora, Colorado, before withdrawing his name. Booth, who has been Danville's police chief since February 2018, said he was approached about a month ago with the opportunity of applying for the position in Aurora. According to the city of Aurora's website, Booth was a top contender for the chief position. . . . But an update at 4:05 p.m. Wednesday on the city's website said, "The city received word that Scott Booth withdrew from consideration. There are no additional details to provide at this time." "We are connecting with the city's recruiting firm to gather more insight [into why Booth withdrew]," said city of Aurora spokesperson Ryan Luby. 
Danville Register & Bee

A Virginia judge once again has booted Loudoun County’s progressive prosecutor from a criminal case, a judicial intervention that analysts say is extraordinary and raises questions about whether he is exceeding the bounds of his authority. In the latest move, Circuit Court Judge James E. Plowman Jr. this month disqualified Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj (D) from the misdemeanor case against a Leesburg father who was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest last year.  Plowman’s one-page order, dated Sept. 2, says the court could not find that Biberaj had a direct conflict of interest. But the judge called into question Biberaj’s impartiality and replaced her with Eric Olsen, the Republican prosecutor in Stafford County. Olsen said he received a courtesy call from Plowman before the appointment but that the judge did not say why he had been chosen.
The Washington Post

Nelson County Sheriff David Hill and Major Larry Cindrick have had legal fees reimbursed by the county after both appeared before the Nelson Board of Supervisors in February to request the board do so. Hill asked supervisors in February to recognize Virginia Code sections that allow a governing body to reimburse all or a portion of a sheriff or sheriff’s deputy’s legal fees from its treasury if the sheriff or deputy is “arrested or indicted or otherwise prosecuted on any charge raising out of any act committed in the discharge of his official duties,” and the charge is then dismissed or there is rendered a verdict of not guilty.  At the February meeting, Hill told supervisors he could not comment on what the request was about in detail because it involved an active investigation. Documents from the board’s regular September meeting suggest the board did so for Hill and Cindrick in connection with an Aug. 26, 2021 incident at Nelson County High School. A minute-long video taken that day and shared on social media showed Hill and Cindrick pinning a then-NCHS sophomore to the ground and struggling to handcuff him, while onlookers shouted.  Nelson Commonwealth’s Attorney Daniel Rutherford asked Virginia State Police (VSP) to investigate the incident. VSP spokesperson Corinne Geller said in an email Friday the State Police investigation is officially closed. Line items for $13,678.78 and $1,062.50 are listed as transfers from the general fund in a budget amendment supervisors approved at their Sept. 13 meeting. In an attached budget amendment explanation from the packet, both figures are identified as reimbursements for Hill and Cindrick’s legal fees. Interviewed after the meeting, Hill neither confirmed nor denied that the legal fees were related to the NCHS incident.
Nelson County Times

The Prince William Digital Gateway -- a controversial proposal that could remake 2,100 acres alongside the Manassas Battlefield National Park into a massive new data center corridor -- will not receive a final vote by the board of supervisors on Oct. 11 but will rather be "pushed out a few more weeks," according to Board of Supervisors Chair Ann Wheeler. Wheeler, D-At Large, said she decided Thursday morning to delay the vote and remove the Prince William Digital Gateway comprehensive plan amendment from the board's agenda for its Tuesday, Oct. 11 meeting to allow more time to clear up "confusion" and what Wheeler called "misinformation" about the process.
Prince William Times

stories of national interest

The demand was big: $5 million to unlock Wheat Ridge’s municipal data and computer systems seized by a shadowy overseas ransomware operation. The response was defiant: we’ll keep our money and fix the mess you made ourselves. “The city has made the determination not to pay a ransom,” Amanda Harrison, a Wheat Ridge, Colo., spokeswoman, said this week. “The city’s IT professionals are working diligently to restore files stored within the city’s network from viable backups.” But the decision not to play ball with the digital thief, who the city describes as a “foreign agent” likely from Eastern Europe, was not an easy one. It took three weeks from the Aug. 29 cyberattack for Wheat Ridge to determine that it had adequate redundancies and the know-how to put its databases and systems back into operation without the help of the hackers, which demanded payment in a hard-to-trace cryptocurrency known as Monero. Following the attack, Wheat Ridge had to shut down its phones and email servers to assess the damage the cybercriminals had done to its network. That, in turn, prompted the city to close down City Hall to the public for more than a week.

A Malaysian defense contractor nicknamed "Fat Leonard" who orchestrated one of the largest bribery scandals in U.S. military history has been arrested in Venezuela after fleeing before his sentencing, authorities said Wednesday. The international manhunt for Leonard Glenn Francis ended with his arrest by Venezuelan authorities Tuesday morning at the Caracas airport as he was about to board an airplane for another country, the U.S. Marshals Service said. The arrest came on the eve of his scheduled sentencing in a federal court in California for a bribery scheme that lasted more than a decade and involved dozens of U.S. Navy officers.  Francis pleaded guilty in 2015 to offering prostitution services, luxury hotels, cigars, gourmet meals and more than $500,000 in bribes to Navy officials and others to help his Singapore-based ship servicing company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd. or GDMA. Prosecutors said the company overcharged the Navy by at least $35 million for servicing ships, many of which were routed to ports he controlled in the Pacific.