Transparency News 9/30/19



September 30, 2019



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state & local news stories


"The Times-Dispatch reviewed obituaries, marriage licenses and land records from three localities to establish the relation."

The disappearance of most of a one-day run of Radford University’s independent student newspaper is prompting questions about the timing and possible motive. Approximately 1,000 of the total 1,500 copies of The Tartan printed Sept. 18 were gone from as many as 22 of 32 racks around the school’s campus sometime between late that afternoon and the following morning. University police are investigating, according to the school. The newspapers were reported to have vanished en masse hours before television journalist Katie Couric arrived on campus to moderate a political discussion. The university also hosted its family weekend Sept. 20-22. Featured on the front page of the Sept. 18 Tartan was a story on RU freshman Aris Eduardo Lobo Perez, who died in a New River Valley Regional Jail cell after university police arrested him on a public intoxication charge.
The Roanoke Times

The top administrator of one of Virginia’s largest school districts is complaining he faces a hostile work environment from two board members who this summer opposed extending his contract. The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk reports that Virginia Beach Schools Superintendent Aaron Spence filed a complaint claiming he experienced “abusive conduct” from the two members of the board overseeing the state’s fourth-largest schools division. Spence wrote in an emailed statement Friday he believes he faces an unprofessional environment that doesn’t respect his work. The Virginia Beach School Board discussed his July 18 grievance against members Victoria Manning and Laura Hughes in private on Aug. 13, according to the letter sent by the members’ attorney to the city’s lawyers. But Manning, Hughes and another member, Carolyn Weems, say the closed session violated the state’s open meeting laws. Manning and Hughes also believe Spence filed a complaint because he was unhappy with a performance evaluation and social media posts from the two board members. John Sutton declined to provide a copy of Spence’s July 18 grievance because it is exempt under state law regarding employee and personnel records.

Del. Dawn Adams, D-Richmond, shared private patient health information with a former legislative aide as part of work the aide performed for Adams’ health care consulting firm, according to emails obtained by the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Adams’ former aide, Maureen Hains, said in an interview she was never asked to sign a confidentiality agreement required by federal law of health care workers who are asked to handle private health records. Emails between Adams and Hains, which The Times-Dispatch obtained from the state under the Freedom of Information Act, show the information was shared via Gmail accounts, at least twice without any encryption or other protection, a potential violation of federal laws aimed at protecting patient privacy. The records included names, birth dates, medical diagnoses and hospice statuses. In response to an Aug. 21 request from The Times-Dispatch, a spokeswoman for the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, Maria Reppas, said the department was not in possession of a conflict of interest agreement related to Adams’ work for Integrated Health Consulting. Reppas said the department does have agreements related to other outside work by Adams, but said those are protected by a FOIA exemption.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

A co-founder of WPVC 94.7FM is concerned a recent Federal Communications Commission complaint filed against five nonprofit stations by Saga Communications could silence local voices of color on the radio. Earlier this month, Saga subsidiary Tidewater Communications LLC filed on the company’s behalf a 78-page Consolidated Petition to Deny, alleging five local low-power FM stations are operating illegally and asking for their license renewals to be denied.
The Daily Progress

The Cavalier Daily obtained emails between University officials, board members and donors that reveal the influence of the admissions watch list first publicized in 2017. For the last 20 years, the University has used a list to track certain applicants who receive an additional review — many of whom are connected to major donors.  The documents from 2010 through 2017 show that alumni, donors and friends of the University would write to officials such as Sean Jenkins, senior assistant to the President, on behalf of certain applicants. The University would then flag the applicants they deemed “high-priority” in the admissions cycle. 
The Cavalier Daily

Before a nepotism scandal prompted her firing, Richmond’s chief administrative officer, Selena Cuffee-Glenn, led Mayor Levar Stoney’s administration through 18 months of negotiations over the $1.5 billion plan to redevelop downtown around a new Coliseum. On the other side of the table were officials from NH District Corp., the would-be developer for the project with a governing board that includes Cuffee-Glenn’s nephew, Carlos M. Brown, head of Dominion Energy’s legal department. In response to a Richmond Times-Dispatch Freedom of Information Act request, Cuffee-Glenn’s former office said it did not have on record any text messages exchanged between her city-issued phone and a cell number for Brown. The Times-Dispatch reviewed obituaries, marriage licenses and land records from three localities to establish the relation: Brown’s mother, Beverly, is Cuffee-Glenn’s sister. A relative in Cuffee-Glenn’s native Chesapeake acknowledged the link, but declined to answer specific questions about Brown or Cuffee-Glenn.
Richmond Times-Dispatch


stories of national interest

San Diego officials decided Tuesday that the public should not have access to the city’s staff directory of employee names, emails and phone numbers, arguing that the release of such information could jeopardize city security. The San Diego Union-Tribune sought the contact information under the California Public Records Act, to make it easier for reporters to locate city staff members for news stories.

A nearly six-month investigation into whether Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan gave preferential treatment to a local maternal health program is in its final stages and involves more than 400,000 pages of documents, the Free Press has learned. The Free Press sought the Detroit Office of Inspector General’s investigative records — emails, text messages, financial reports and other documents it has collected as well as newly created reports — through a public records request last month, but the city’s law department said the newspaper would have to foot a bill estimated at $222,667 to obtain them. Even if the Free Press pays the six-figure invoice, the city plans to fight releasing documents that the inspector general’s office has collected.
Detroit Free Press


quote_2.jpg"The San Diego Union-Tribune sought the contact information under the California Public Records Act, to make it easier for reporters to locate city staff members for news stories."