Transparency News, 9/28/2022


September 28, 2022

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state & local news stories


In the weeks leading up to a massive fire that destroyed William Fox Elementary School, a Richmond Fire Department captain warned leaders with Richmond Public Schools of "extreme neglect" to fire safety and accused the district of a "complete lack of effort" ensuring schools were safe for occupancy. On February 11, 2022, the night Fox Elementary went up in flames, the school remained in violation of eight fire codes including a faulty fire alarm panel. The violations were documented during an inspection conducted in August 2021 — six months before the fire. Though they were supposed to have been fixed and then checked by the fire department for compliance within a month, a reinspection never took place. In efforts to investigate why not, the CBS 6 Problem Solvers obtained dozens of pages of communication records between the fire department and the school district through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. 
The man in charge of facilities for Richmond Public Schools (RPS) received a $30,000 raise between August 2021 and August 2022, according to information the CBS 6 Problem Solvers received through a public records request. Bobby Hathaway's salary was $118,937 on August 15, 2021, and by August 15, 2022, his salary was $149,314 those records showed. The increase was unanimously approved in May by the Richmond School Board at the recommendation of the administration, sources told the Problem Solvers.

Newly released body cam footage by Wytheville police officersresponding to the scene of the alleged assault by Del. Wren Williams, R-Patrick County, against Del. Marie March, R-Floyd, at a Republican fundraiser last weekend shows that Williams was initially uncooperative when the officers confronted him with the allegations, refusing to state his name and telling them that he would leave, unless he was being detained.  “Am I in custody?” Williams asked Officer Tommy Lester after he inquired about the incident that had occurred just minutes earlier. “You can be, until we figure it out,” Lester responded.  The two video clips were obtained by Cardinal News as part of a Freedom of Information Act request on Tuesday. They also offer a different perspective, including sound, of surveillance video released yesterday showing March explain to the officers her version of what had transpired. 
Cardinal News

The new transgender student policy from the administration of Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) has drawn nearly 18,000 comments from the public in just over 24 hours. The 30-day public comment window for the new model guidelines opened Monday and already has more than 17,800 messages, with more pouring in every minute. In the first 24 hours, 14,883 comments were submitted to the Virginia Department of Education. From 10 to 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, 317 comments came in.

stories of national interest

After Mississippi spent millions of dollars in welfare money on Brett Favre’s pet project, a university volleyball arena, the retired NFL quarterback tried two years later to get additional cash from the state’s welfare agency for another sports facility, new court documents show. The governor at the time, Republican Phil Bryant, texted in 2019 with Favre, who wanted to build an indoor practice facility for the University of Southern Mississippi’s football team. Bryant told him federal money for children and low-income adults is “tightly controlled” and “improper use could result in violation of Federal Law.” Text messages between Bryant and Favre are in court documents filed Friday by Bryant’s lawyers, which seek to show the governor was willing to help Favre raise private money for the volleyball facility starting in 2017 and was unaware for more than two years that welfare money was going to the project.In the court filing Friday, Bryant objected to producing documents unless it was under a protective order to prevent public release of the contents.
Associated Press