Transparency News 9/5/13


Thursday, September 5, 2013
State and Local Stories


A scheduled public meeting of the Colonial Heights Planning Commission that was supposed to include a tour of the new courthouse was cancelled at the last minute after questions arose about whether the public could attend. City Manager Thomas Mattis cancelled the tour of the courthouse currently under construction at the south end of the Boulevard citing safety concerns due to the open nature of the meeting. Mattis said the tour wasn't intended to be open to the public although the Planning Commission meeting, including the tour, had been posted on the city's website as a public meeting.

The battle lines in the war over transparency at the Virginia State Corporation Commission have shifted from the committee room to the Internet. Last week, director of information resources Kenneth Schrad noticed recent changes to the Wikipedia page about the State Corporation Commission. One explained that "deliberations of the commission are made in secret without public scrutiny." The other change explained that "in 2011, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that the commission is exempt from Virginia Freedom of Information Act requests" and that "and effort is being mounted to overturn this decision through legislation." "The text additions posted in relation to the above reference are not factual," Schrad wrote using the login PR Geeks.
Mount Vernon Gazette

The state tab for private attorneys hired to represent Gov. Bob McDonnell amid political scandaleclipsed $143,500 through June, including $90,068 for work that month. The latest billing, dated Aug. 27, is for work done in June to assist the governor in the embezzlement case against his former chef.

Local governments in the area paid firms thousands of dollars to revamp their dated websitesand offer more online services. Costs to redesign websites differ for each jurisdiction depending on the content and features. But most redesigns completed so far brought sites current with common features such as connections to social media services, photo slideshows and video, scrolling announcements and drop-down menus.
Northern Virginia Daily

Fairfax County may be physically separated from Washington, D.C.—the ground-zero of All Things Political—but residents here are a politically-savvy bunch. Fairfax County residents go to the polls in record numbers compared to their national counterparts. During last year’s presidential election, voter turnout was 80.5 percent, significantly more than the lukewarm 53 percent of voters who turned out nationwide. In the past decade, voter turnout is trending higher in Fairfax County, while the reverse is true nationally, according to the Center for the Study of the American Electorate. By late September last year, nearly 90 percent of eligible voters, about 721,000 out of 800,000 people, had already registered to vote. #It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that U.S. News ranked Fairfax County as one of the top 10 Cities for Political Junkies in a 2010 study, calling the county a place “where those obsessed with political affairs live.”
Connection Newspapers

More than 100 students from Chesterfield County schools had their personal information, including Social Security numbers, sent to the wrong homes, a school spokesman has confirmed. The forms were sent home with students so parents could update emergency contact information, but the forms also included the numbers and other personal information.

National Stories

An attorney with Connecticut's Freedom of Information Commission has recommended the release of 911 recordings from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, siding with The Associated Press in a dispute over records withheld by investigators. The full, nine-member commission is to hold a Sept. 25 hearing before issuing its final decision on whether the recordings should be handed over to the AP. Mark Dupuis, a spokesman for the state's Division of Criminal Justice, said its attorneys would argue against the release.
ABC News

The California State Assembly Appropriations committee has put a halt to plans to fit state drivers’ licenses with RFID chips. The chips are already mandatorily embedded in licenses in New York, Michigan Vermont and Washington and are increasingly used in school ID’s and all recently issued passports.

The U.S. Justice Department was sued this week in Washington federal district court over access to a copy of a report on the Central Intelligence Agency's detention and interrogation program. Jason Leopold, an independent investigative journalist and contributor to several news outlets, is seeking the 300-page executive summary of a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on the CIA's detention and interrogation activities. The committee approved the report in December and gave copies to the CIA, the White House, the U.S. Department of State, the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, according to the complaint.
Blog of LegalTimes

Patch Media intends to appeal a Will County (Ill.) judge's order for a Patch editor to turn over documents and reveal a confidential source to the court. Ken Schmetterer, the attorney representing Patch and journalist Joseph Hosey, appeared in court with Hosey and told Judge Gerald Kinney during a hearing Tuesday, Sept. 3, that the journalist would not turn over the document nor would he reveal his source. Hosey wrote a series of stories about murders on Hickory Street in Joliet after a source provided him with investigative reports that described the activities of the accused killers that night.
Joliet Patch

The National Rifle Association said on Wednesday it supports a lawsuit brought by civil rights groups to strike down the U.S. government's broad telephone surveillance program, citing potential violations of gun owners' privacy rights. In a brief backing the American Civil Liberties Union's lawsuit against senior U.S. government officials, the NRA said the collection of vast communications threatens privacy and could allow the government to create a registry of gun owners.

The U.S. soldier convicted of providing secret files to WikiLeaks in the biggest breach of classified materials in the nation's history has asked for a presidential pardon, supporters said on Wednesday.

A research attorney in the Kansas Court of Appeals who used foul language when she tweeted messages about former Attorney General Phill Kline while he appeared before the Kansas Supreme Court faces her own disciplinary action, as of Tuesday morning. Sarah Peterson Herr posted the tweets about Kline while he appeared before the Kansas Supreme Court on Nov. 15 as part of an ethics complaint about Kline's investigation as attorney general and district attorney of abortion clinics in Wichita and Overland Park. Kline alleged the clinics performed late-term abortions and abortions on juvenile mothers who had been sexually assaulted.
Topeka Capital-Journal


Times-Dispatch: Steven Salaita, an English professor at Virginia Tech, says he doesn’t support the troops. He explains why in a long Salon essay that has enraged a lot of conservatives — perhaps because he makes some points that hit too close to home. We disagree with much of what Salaita says. But he has raised questions some people clearly would prefer not to think about. A few numbskulls evidently want Tech to censure him, or even give him the boot. That’s ridiculous. So is the accusation that the school is anti-military. Tech has done the right thing by standing up for the professor’s right to his opinions.

InsideNOVA: The governor is the state’s primary spokesperson and salesperson – whether trying to attract a new business or arguing the state’s position on a major issue before the federal government.And as goes the governor’s credibility, so goes the credibility of the state. Virginia cannot afford that kind of negative image and reputation. Bob McDonnell may not have done anything illegal, but he needs to do the right thing - for his party and for Virginia. It’s time for McDonnell to resign.