Transparency News 9/6/18



September 6, 2018


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state & local news stories


"Though the school system has chosen not to name the applicants, the Freedom of Information Act does not mandate that those names be kept private."

The Henrico School Board has whittled 11 applicants for the Tuckahoe District seat on the board down to three, each of whom the current four-person board will interview during a closed session tomorrow. Board members then will decide how many of the three candidates will advance to a 4 p.m. public hearing Sept. 13 at New Bridge Auditorium and will release their names “as soon as possible, once those determinations are made,” Henrico Schools spokesman Andy Jenks told the Citizen in an e-mail. The 11 applicants included eight men and three women, but the genders of each finalist are unknown. Though the school system has chosen not to name the applicants, the Freedom of Information Act does not mandate that those names be kept private, Virginia Coalition for Open Government Executive Director Megan Rhyne said. But, Jenks said, school system officials are keeping the names private anyway because they consider the applications exempt from disclosure as personnel records.
Henrico Citizen
After receiving 11 applications for the Tuckahoe District seat, the Henrico County School Board narrowed its list of finalists to three ahead of interviews scheduled for noon Thursday. In an email Tuesday evening, Linda McBride, who represented the Brookland District on the school board from 2004 to 2011, said she was dismayed that the board did not invite former school board member, Stuart Myers, to be interviewed. McBride questioned the selection process and transparency of the board. Megan Rhyne, executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, said she’s generally concerned whenever it appears that decisions are made outside of public meetings.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

The Bristol City Council will hold a called meeting next Monday for the purpose of removing Councilman Doug Fleenor from its ranks. At 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, the city manager’s office released a meeting agenda that includes a provision on whether the Sept. 10 meeting will occur in a private council session or in public. The city charter prescribes the impacted council member has the option of the hearing occurring in public or private. The balance of the agenda includes each side having the opportunity to present evidence, with the council getting the chance to present rebuttal evidence. From there, the council can discuss the matter. The agenda then calls for a motion, a second and a roll-call vote. The charter prescribes that no council votes may occur in private. On Wednesday evening, the city responded to the Bristol Herald Courier’s Aug. 28 Virginia Freedom of Information Act request by supplying copies of hundreds of emails and text messages between the other four council members and City Manager Randy Eads dating back to Aug. 1. The Herald Courier has reviewed those messages between Eads and the other members of the City Council, but they shed little light on why they want to remove Fleenor. Almost all the content of the messages has been redacted.
Bristol Herald Courier

A federal grand jury is looking into the Peninsula Airport Commission’s $5 million loan guarantee to a startup airline four years ago, according to a court filing in a separate case. The 2014 loan guarantee to People Express Airlines – which was shrouded in secrecy until the Daily Press reported about it in early 2017 – ultimately cost $4.5 million in taxpayer money when the startup airline collapsed only a couple months later. The court filing is the first official word that grand jurors have heard evidence about the airport. “A federal grand jury is investigating the transaction for possible criminal prosecutions,” a Peninsula Airport Commission attorney wrote in a filing asking a federal judge to toss a defamation lawsuit by former airport Executive Director Ken Spirito.
Daily Press

Ousted Pittsylvania Department of Social Services Director Sherry Flanagan filed for an injunction to compel production of records under FOIA and compliance with FOIA's meeting provisions.


national stories of interest

Missouri Rep. Billy Long left behind a career as an auctioneer when he took up his post in Congress in 2010. Nevertheless, old habits die hard. In the midst of a hearing with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Long employed his auctioneering skills to drown out a vociferous protester. The woman, who was holding a cell phone on a selfie stick and apparently taking video of her tirade against Dorsey, was suddenly stunned into silence as Long launched into rapid-fire bid calling. Capitol Police were called to escort the protester out as Long kept up his chant.

Missouri has a website designed to make government more transparent, according to state Treasurer Eric Schmitt. Schmitt’s office recently launched, which he calls “a one-stop shop” for information on state finances, revenue, payroll, expenses and cash flow. “This new website is powered by over 20 million individual data points, boiled down into easy-to-use charts, graphs, and search functions – this makes it one of the most comprehensive state financial-transparency portals in the nation,” he said. “On the home page, you’ll find a snapshot of Missouri’s financial health, featuring information about our credit rating and top-level data on how taxpayer money is being spent – it also shows current income-tax rates.” Schmitt said it’s more up to date and easier to navigate than the state’s older website, the Missouri Accountability Portal, which was launched in 2007 by Gov. Matt Blunt. “When MAP went online, Netflix was still a DVD-delivery service,” he said. “Technology has changed, and our financial transparency tools have fallen behind.”
St. Louis Public Radio



"When [the previous system] went online, Netflix was still a DVD-delivery service."