Transparency News 9/5/18



September 5, 2018


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state & local news stories


"After a nearly 30-minute, closed-door discussion to discuss Virginia’s public-meeting law and how it does or doesn’t apply to the process, a Virginia Board of Pharmacy committee reopened the meeting."

With 51 applications in the mix, the competition for Virginia’s first five medical marijuana licenses is fierce. When a makeshift panel of state regulators met in a Henrico County office park Tuesday to begin reviewing boxes upon boxes of paperwork to decide who will get to run Virginia’s first cannabis oil dispensaries, their first order of business was closing the meeting to reporters, lobbyists and advocates. After a nearly 30-minute, closed-door discussion to discuss Virginia’s public-meeting law and how it does or doesn’t apply to the process, a Virginia Board of Pharmacy committee reopened the meeting. But it was only to announce that the application review process, which may take two days, will be kept confidential. “The committee has decided to consider the applications in closed session,” said pharmacy board Chairman Rafael Saenz, who’s leading the committee made up of officials with medical licensing, economic development and legal backgrounds.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

In the decade after Purdue Pharma agreed to stop deceptively marketing OxyContin, the pain pill maker sent a sales force into Virginia that pushed nearly 150 million of its opioid pills and patches, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said. Herring recently updated the lawsuit he filed in June against Connecticut-based Purdue Pharma to fill in some of the missing details as to what he alleges was the drug maker’s role in the opioid epidemic. In June, a Purdue Pharma spokesman, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that the company denied Herring’s allegations and would present a substantial defense. Herring initially filed the complaint under seal with a redacted version released to the publicbecause of a pre-existing confidentiality agreement between Purdue Pharma and the commonwealth. The parties have since agreed to unseal the complaint.
The Roanoke Times

The Roanoke City Council is likely to try again to convince the General Assembly to allow it to bar firearms from council meetings, and is also poised to endorse a plan to use an anticipated windfall in state tax revenue to fund school facilities repairs and renovations across the commonwealth. The council discussed both those options Tuesday as it refined a draft of its proposed 2019 legislative agenda. They included a measure seeking the General Assembly’s permission to ban guns altogether from city hall in the 2017 session, but that bill died a hard death in a Senate committee. The new proposal is more narrowly tailored. It doesn’t seek a total ban on firearms in the municipal building but instead seeks to bar guns in places where a local governing body is meeting. The ban would apply only during a council session, not all the time, and it would apply wherever the council meets, even if it’s not in the municipal building.
The Roanoke Times

The Lynchburg City School Board unanimously approved a policy that allows board members to participate in public meetings electronically. According to the new policy, which was approved during Tuesday night’s board meeting, “electronic communication means the use of technology having electrical, digital, magnetic, wireless, optical, electromagnetic or similar capabilities to transmit or receive information.” Board members can participate electronically if the member notifies the chairperson on or before the day of the meeting that the member can’t attend due to a temporary or permanent disability or other medical condition or personal matters related but not limited to extenuating circumstances, a member’s job, military or family emergencies.
The News & Advance

On a voice vote, the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors denied a conditional-use permit of a 178-acre utility-scale solar facility in the Stevensburg district Tuesday. After more than 2.5 hours of presentations and public comments, the majority agreed there were too many questions remaining about the project to move ahead. Throughout the meeting, tempers flared and one couple was led out of the Board of Supervisors Meeting Room by Culpeper County Sheriff’s deputies.
Culpeper Star-Exponent

A member of the governing council of a University of Virginia think tank resigned after a records request by POLITICO uncovered an email in which he belittled women working at the prestigious public policy center. Council member Fred W. Scott Jr. said women at the Miller Center “don’t like to be put into groups” unless they involve “Lunch, coffee, Children, etc.” and that “some people just like to stir up trouble” and should not be promoted. Scott, a member of a prominent family of longtime UVA donors, also wrote: “There are no United White People College Funds or White Students' Alliances or Men Against Drunk Driving. Even at a ‘tolerant university' ... especially there! Women's Initative [sic]. We both support it. Is there a Men's Initiative???” It was only after Miller Center leadership learned that another of Scott’s emails was going to be released to POLITICO through a FOIA request that center leadership launched an investigation that led to his resignation from the council on Friday.


national stories of interest

University of West Virginia asked that a lawsuit by Appalachian Mountain Advocates Inc., a nonprofit, over claims that WVU failed to comply with a Freedom of Information Act be dismissed. In the motion, filed in Monongalia County Circuit Court last week, WVU called the group’s request “burdensome,” said the FOIA sought statutorily protected documents that it is not required to produce and is untimely and falls outside the statute of limitations. Appalachian Mountain Advocates requested WVU turn over four types of records generated Jan. 16-Nov. 10, 2017.




editorials & columns


Go back a decade and imagine your response to the question: “What would a threat to truth look like?” You might have thought of censorship—perhaps the Fahrenheit 451 version, in which books are piled up and burned, or the 1984 nightmare of a regime with total information control. Or perhaps you would have worried about the limits and biases of the mainstream media. But in the digital age, when speech can exist mostly unfettered, the big threat to truth looks very different. It’s not just censorship, but an avalanche of undistinguished speech—some true, some false, some fake, some important, some trivial, much of it out-of-context, all burying us. For the longest time, we thought that as speech became more democratized, democracy itself would flourish.
Zeynep Tufekci, Politico