Transparency News, 9/3/20


 September 3, 2020
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state & local news stories
VCOG's Virtual Conference
SEPT. 10

details & registration
Check out our conference website, with schedules, sponsors, panelists and supporting materials that we will continue to update until the conference on Sept. 10.

The House and Senate convene again today. Click the links from this schedule of meetings to get to the feed you want.

Congratulations to Arlington and Chesterfield Counties for being named first in the country for their population categories in the 18th Annual Digital Counties Survey, conducted by the Center for Digital Government. Additional shout-outs for Albemarle, Fairfax, Franklin, Loudoun, Montgomery and York Counties.

A local immigrant advocacy group appealed a court’s ruling that Rockingham County Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson didn’t violate the state’s Freedom of Information Act when he refused to release information about immigration detainers on inmates booked into the jail. Sophia Gregg, an attorney for the Legal Aid Justice Center, a state immigrant advocacy organization, and the University of Virginia School of Law’s Immigration Clinic filed a writ of mandamus on March 3 claiming Hutcheson violated the state’s Freedom of Information Act. While Hutcheson answered many questions, the filing states, five pieces of information were not provided, including information on “the use or request for issuance of immigration detainers and number of immigration detainers received by the department.” To that request, the filing states, Hutcheson replied: “All communications with DHS/ICE are secure and confidential communications that are subject to their approval and consent in order to be released.”
Daily News Record

Judge Marcus Brinks has taken under advisement guilty pleas from a former chair of the Patrick County School Board on felony charges of election fraud and forging a public document and will review the case again next June. Records on file with the Patrick County Circuit Court Clerk’s office have remained clear of any details on the matter, but Ronnie Neal Terry admitted, after he was indicted almost a year ago, of committing a “foolish mistake.” “I messed up on the paperwork and signing something I shouldn’t have signed,” Terry said. “I turned it in. They checked it out. There were some discrepancies. I take full responsibility. I’ve never been in any kind of trouble.”
Martinsville Bulletin

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors has shuffled some of its legislative priorities for 2021. So far, among other things, the priorities will likely include enabling public bodies to meet by electronic communication means when a state or local emergency is declared. “Why do we have to be gathered during a pandemic to declare there’s a state of emergency, that’s my concern,” Supervisor Diantha McKeel said. “I’m just making a comment, it’s wackadoodle that we had to meet during a pandemic to say that it was not safe to meet together. I’m just trying to make sure that we do something along those lines that would cover it.” County Attorney Greg Kamptner also recommended that the board adopt a policy to enable notices of public hearings to be published on the locality’s website, instead of in newspapers, as statewide or multi-locality initiatives are.
The Daily Progress
editorials & columns
"Some public health officials’ refusal to provide critical information is not due to true privacy concerns but, rather, because of a desire for the power that can go with secrecy."
It is easy to understand why officials would be reluctant to tell a parent whether the COVID-19 case in a school was in a particular classroom. That could be taken as a violation of the HIPAA statute — by overzealous federal agencies or private attorneys eager to profit from lawsuits. At some point, common sense needs to prevail. Parents have a right to know whether there has been a COVID-19 case in the classroom next to their child’s. Let us hope educators can find ways to skirt the HIPAA law to provide such information. Meanwhile, Congress needs to reconsider HIPAA, at least with guidelines making it clear that some public health officials’ refusal to provide critical information is not due to true privacy concerns but, rather, because of a desire for the power that can go with secrecy.
Daily News Record