Transparency News 9/25/18



September 25, 2018


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state & local news stories


Over the course of about three years, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent told his bosses he'd inspected more than 260 ships as they traveled through Portsmouth. The real number, according to court documents, is closer to 35. Carl James Jr., 38, who no longer works for the agency, pleaded guilty last week to making a false statement on a government form. He is set to be sentenced Jan. 11 in U.S. District Court in Norfolk and faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The Virginian-Pilot


national stories of interest

A southeastern Wisconsin alderwoman said Monday a judge has set up a secret hearing to decide whether she's in contempt of court for complaining publicly about his decision to seal her open records lawsuit. Racine Alderwoman Sandy Weidner said she is scheduled to appear at a closed hearing Tuesday where Racine County Circuit Judge Eugene Gasiorkiewicz will consider whether to punish her for speaking about the case to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper. "I can't understand how this hearing could be sealed," Weidner, 18-year alderwoman, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "How can I be held in contempt (but) not in public? This is devastating to see not only how our city government operates, but now the court system. This can't be America." With all records, schedules and documents in the case sealed and inaccessible, it's impossible to confirm Weidner's assertions. According to her, the dispute began last year after Scot Letteney, the city attorney, declared that any communications coming out of his office are confidential under attorney-client privilege.
Chicago Tribune

The ongoing saga over the FCC’s handling of public comments to its net neutrality proposal continues after The New York Times sued the organization for withholding of information that it believes could prove there was Russian interference. The Times has filed multiple Freedom of Information Act requests for data on the comments since July 2017, and now, after reducing the scope of its requests significantly was rejected, it is taking the FCC to court in a bid to get the information.
Tech Crunch

A Freedom of Information Act request sent to clerks across the state of Michigan seems to have stalled at least in Monroe County. In mid-August, a group known as United Impact Group, LCC from Astoria, N.Y., sent FOIA requests to clerks in Michigan relating to ballots cast during the 2016 presidential election. The request asked for copies of all ballots cast and counted on Election Day, copies of all ballots cast on Election Day but not counted — along with the reason the ballot was not counted — and any and all records containing information regarding rejected or spoiled ballots. Additionally, the request asked for all information on absentee ballots along with copies of absentee ballot envelopes. The request was signed “Emily” with no last name.  Michelle LaVoy, clerk-treasurer for the City of Monroe, said her office answered the FOIA request but has not had any communication from the group since. “It was a hefty request that came very close to the deadline for ballot retention,” she explained.
The Monroe News