Transparency News 9/6/13


Friday, September 6, 2013
State and Local Stories


About 2,000 Arlington County residents who use a dashboard device called “iPark” to pay for parking around the county will soon have to dig into their pockets for coins or credit cards, after the company that makes the device declared bankruptcy Tuesday. Any money still loaded in the devices can still be used to pay for parking, county officials said, but users will be unable to reload the devices.
Washington Post

The Smith Mountain Lake mansion that Star Scientific Chief Executive Jonnie Williams Sr. lent to his friend Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has been sold. Cuccinelli’s three stays at the house, two of which he originally neglected to disclose, came as Star was fighting a $1.8 million tax assessment from the state. Williams sold his 10-room, 4,400-square-foot mansion on Upland Shores Drive for $2 million, courthouse records show. The property includes a boathouse and covered dock.
Roanoke Times

The executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia hopes the U.S. Supreme Court will uphold its past rulings on sectarian public prayer. Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the Virginia ACLU, said during an interview Thursday that the organization hopes, expects and anticipates that the Supreme Court will continue to make rulings finding it inappropriate and unconstitutional for governing bodies to engage in government-sponsored sectarian prayer.
Register & Bee

Loudoun's Board of Supervisors on Wednesday granted Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling)about one-third of what he was seeking in funding for three district newsletters. Delgaudio asked his colleagues for more than $17,000 for three newsletters to “promote fire safety, Sterling Fest on October 12 and Columbus Day parade," among other items.  The board instead awarded Delgaudio $6,000 for one newsletter for the remainder of the current fiscal year, which runs through July 2014. Delgaudio's request for promotional and informational materials came at the first meeting following a strict reprimand from his colleagues on the all-Republican board.
Loudoun Times-Mirror

New invoices covering the month of June for Gov. Bob McDonnell’s state-appointed legal team show Virginia taxpayers are footing a roughly $90,000 tab for _______ and _______. Add that’s on top of the more than $53,500 bill for April and May, covering services for _______ and _______, for total of more than $143,500. Huh? And filing a request under Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act for those details probably won’t do any good. “If it’s attorney-client privilege or a work product, it’s exempt,” said Alan Gernhardt, staff attorney for the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council, which helps resolve disputes and advises legislators and the public on freedom of information issues. Virginia Bureau (w/ links to redacted invoices)

National Stories

Newly revealed documents show that the NSA has circumvented or cracked much of the encryption that guards global commerce and banking systems, protects sensitive data like trade secrets and automatically secures the emails, Web searches, Internet chats and phone calls of Americans and others around the world. The project, referred to internally by the codename Bullrun, also includes efforts to weaken the encryption standards adopted by software developers.

The Colorado Supreme Court is asking prosecutors to explain why court records in the death penalty cases of two Aurora men should be kept secret. The move comes more than five years after an Arapahoe County District Court judge barred the files from public review. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court issued an order to attorneys of both men, Sir Mario Owens and Robert Ray, to explain why they want the court files opened. In previous filings, defense attorneys have claimed misconduct by the prosecution. They are asking that the case files be made public, including transcripts, a registry of actions, pleadings or motions and court orders that had names blacked out.
Denver Post

The Gregg County (Tex.) District Attorney’s office has been asked to investigate alleged violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act by the Kilgore College board of trustees. In a letter dated Aug. 23, Dean R. Kinney alleged to the prosecutor’s office the board failed to post items of business to be discussed during informal planning sessions that occur immediately before the formal meeting.
Longview News-Journal

Louisiana is the nation's most corrupt state if you count the rate of public corruption convictions of government officials in the last decade, the news website Business Insider reported Tuesday. Between 2002 and 2011, Louisiana convicted 403 government officials of crimes "involving abuses of the public trust," according to the DOJ data. This amounts to 8.76 convictions per 100,000 people, the highest rate in the country.

Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo refused to meet in a closed session of legislative leaders Wednesday to discuss circumstances surrounding complaints of three legislative staff members against Rep. John Arnold. Stumbo and his fellow House Democratic leaders voted no on a motion to close the meeting of the Legislative Research Commission and then walked out as other leaders proceeded to meet with top legislative staff behind closed doors for four hours.
Louisville Courier-Journal

In a major victory in one of EFF's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits, the Justice Department conceded Wednesday that it will release hundreds of pages of documents, including FISA court opinions, related to the government’s secret interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the law the NSA has relied upon for years to mass collect the phone records of millions of innocent Americans.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Here's a piece last week about the state of South Dakota putting more public information online. You can now go to the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources site here to look up production and ownership data on oil and gas wells. You can also get DENR public notices here. And you can go to the state Department of Labor and Regulation site here for market-conduct examinations by insurance companies.
Rapid City Journal

An unusual conflict between the district’s ethics board and its internal watchdog agency appears to have been put to rest. Darrin P. Sobin, director of government ethics for the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability, said Wednesday that the Office of the Inspector General had shared documents necessary to proceed with a case against an employee accused of misusing a disabled parking placard. Inspector General Charles J. Willoughby, whose deputies investigated the case, had initially resisted sharing some of the records pertaining to it, arguing that granting the board unfettered access to the files would threaten the independence of his office.
Washington Post


Los Angeles Times: The battle over federal "net neutrality" rules resumes Monday when a federal appeals court takes up the challenge filed by one of the country's largest Internet service providers: Verizon. The phone company, which argues that the Federal Communication Commission's rules violate federal law and the Constitution, asserts that ISPs have a 1st Amendment right to edit or block the data flowing from websites to their customers. The company's stance is strange and self-contradictory, considering its long-standing efforts to be freed from liability for the "speech" that travels through its wires. The court should reject it out of hand.