Category Archives: Transparency

Bacon Bits: Reality Sucks Edition

Bye, Bye, Brackney. The City of Charlottesville will not renew the employment contract of Police Chief RaShall Brackney, who took on the job in June 2018, the City announced on its website yesterday. No explanation was given. However, the announcement follows less than two weeks after publication of a survey of Charlottesville police officers showing the morale was in the dumps, that toxic city politics had prompted many to scale back on traffic stops, arrests and community policing, and that few officers felt that Brackney had their back. Among other actions as the city’s first Black female police chief, who came on shortly after the tumultuous Unite the Right Rally, Brackney had dissolved the SWAT Team after allegations of misogynistic and other inappropriate behavior.

Speaking of employment contracts… University of Virginia President Jim Ryan was awarded a $200,000 bonus during a closed session of the June 3 Board of Visitors meeting, The Cavalier Daily student newspaper has revealed. The university froze salaries for all employees during the early months of the COVID-19 epidemic, and Ryan and other senior officials took a 10% pay cut. Said Rector Whittington Clement: “When the situation this year became clearer and we had a highly successful handling of COVID-19, we think the University did as well as, if not better, than any institution of higher learning in making the adjustments necessary to COVID-19, we thought that it was appropriate to give him a bonus.” Continue reading

Unequivocal Support for Free Speech… but Not Transparency

by Walter Smith

To the tune of “Unforgettable”…

Unequivocal you’re not at all
Unequivocal nowhere this fall
Like an empty phrase that runs from me
How your illusion does things to me
Never before has something been less
Unequivocal in every way

The University of Virginia formed the Free Expression and Free Inquiry Committee in February 2021. In May the Board of Visitors “unequivocally” endorsed the work of the Committee. Personally, I think the statement is a disgrace to Jefferson’s free speech legacy – I was hoping for more than the Chicago Principles and got a lukewarm, turgid, academic, PC jargon, kinda sorta saying UVA believes in free speech..

Does UVa really believe in free speech? We have seen that F— UVA is vigorously protected on the Lawn, but what about in the classrooms and on the Grounds? Are students and professors free to express their beliefs without fear of recrimination? Anecdotally, I don’t think they are. I have heard stories. and I have seen true harassment and shaming and threats for the “crime” of not agreeing with current woke ideology du jour. Continue reading

Challenging JMU with a Slingshot

by Joe Fitzgerald

The reasons Jake Conley might win are moral and the reasons he might lose are legal.

Jake Conley is the Breeze editor suing JMU over FOIA requests the student newspaper made for the location of Covid cases on campus. Call it the Dorms to Avoid suit.

JMU declined to provide the info, citing privacy laws that allow it to withhold health information about issues involving 10 or fewer of its 21,000 students.

It’s worth noting that for 10 or fewer of the 697 cases among on-campus students last year to be in one dorm, there would have to be 70 dorms. Or the 25 dorms the school actually has would have 28 cases each, but never 10 at the same time.

Also worth noting, the Breeze isn’t suing JMU, because the paper is part of JMU and can’t sue itself. So the editor is acting as a citizen of Virginia, and is technically on his own unless someone joins the suit or decides to represent him for free. JMU on the other hand can send its staff attorney or, in a pinch, call in the state Attorney General’s office. Continue reading

Loudoun School Board Flouts Law, Constitution

Loudoun County School Board meeting… before the restrictions. Photo credit: Loudoun Times

by Emilio Jaksetic

According to The Virginia Star, the Loudoun County School Board has issued new procedures for its public meetings that improperly restrict the right of Virginians to comment at public meetings.

Citing “ongoing security threats” the school system website declared: “Only people signed up to speak to the School Board will be allowed to enter the building. For everyone’s safety, no public viewing area will be open during the public comment portion of the meeting.” Also: “Although the School Board is committed to public input, there remains concern about the safety of all participants in the public-input process. The safety and security of all staff, students and visitors remains our highest priority.”

Any School Board rules or procedures limiting speech at public meetings must comply with the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. (See the Attorney General Opinion of April 15, 2016.) Further, criticisms of governmental officials — including personal attacks — are protected speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Accordingly, public criticisms of Loudoun County Public Schools and the Loudoun County School Board are protected by the First Amendment and cannot be impeded by the School Board. Continue reading

Descano Promises More Sunlight for Criminal Justice Data

Democracy thrives in sunlight

by James A. Bacon

Steve Descano, Fairfax County Commonwealth Attorney, plans to begin publishing data on prosecutions as part of his campaign to root out alleged racial and socioeconomic disparities in the county’s criminal justice system, reports The Washington Post.

Data to be published online will cover such metrics as race, charging, sentences, bail decisions, and plea offers.

“You can’t fix what you don’t measure,” Descano said. “I’ve heard from a lot of members of our community they don’t know what goes on inside this building and they don’t feel comfortable that they are going to get a fair shake.”

This is a positive development. Open publication of the data is far preferable to the attorney general’s office compiling the data internally and selectively citing statistics that support a predetermined narrative. Anyone who values open, honest government should approve. In fact, Fairfax County might be setting a precedent that other Virginia localities should emulate. Continue reading

Fear and Loathing in Mathews County

Menacing

by Carol J. Bova

When Mathews County Supervisor Amy Dubois offered a resolution on June 22 that the Board of Supervisors meet at the high school auditorium instead of the Historic Courthouse, surprised members of the public attending called out, “Why?”

At the meeting, all Dubois said was, “We were urged by an organization within the county to move to the high school.” Although it was not audible on a citizen’s recording, the Mathews Gloucester Gazette Journal added that she said “for safety reasons.” (County staff failed to broadcast or record audio for the meeting.)

Supervisor Paul Hudgins was not pleased about the resolution and clearly said on the citizen recording, “We voted on this last month, to go back to the old courthouse. We keep changing these meeting schedules like some people do their clothes.” Supervisor Jackie Ingram also objected, and she and Hudgins voted against the change, which passed 3-2. Continue reading

Beach School Board’s Meeting Was Legal. But It Wasn’t Right.

by Kerry Dougherty

Good news for elected officials who find the public’s presence at their meetings a pesky distraction, who give half-hearted, last-minute notice of meetings and then lock the doors to the building where the meeting is being held.

It’s all legal!

Yep, apparently Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act law has broad exemptions for what are considered “special meetings,” so the June 1 shenanigans of the Virginia Beach School Board members — who did all of the above — did not run afoul of the open meeting statutes, according to a judge’s ruling yesterday.

Neither did the fact that they were obviously trying to confuse the public by postponing and then cancelling meeting dates, which resulted in the happy accident of thwarting a scheduled rally protesting Critical Race Theory in Beach schools. Continue reading

Beach School Board’s Clown Show

by Kerry Dougherty

It’s tempting to call the latest shenanigans by the Virginia Beach School Board a clown show.

I probably shouldn’t, though, since that insults the proud tradition of clowning and implies that there is something humorous about the board’s ham-handed attempts to circumvent open meeting laws and its quiet determination to infect the schools with Critical Race Theory. 

The Beach School Board is not funny. It’s behaving in a way that is profoundly undemocratic.

We wrote last week about the board’s suspicious “special meeting” held June 1.

Despite being set weeks earlier, it was held without the usual public notice and was not broadcast.

At 8:30 this morning in General District court, a judge will decide if — as School Board member Victoria Manning claims — this was an illegal meeting. (Then again, there may not be a decision. On Sunday afternoon Manning told me that it appeared the Board was spending tax dollars on outside counsel to represent the body and might ask for the case to be continued.) Continue reading

Shhh! Don’t Ask! COVID-19 Equity Analysis Is for Governor’s Eyes Only

by Carol J. Bova

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) blog posted March 16 that the department and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) would open community vaccination centers in Danville, Portsmouth, Petersburg and Prince William. “The sites were selected after the Virginia Department of Emergency Management conducted an equity analysis to determine the communities with the largest number of vulnerable populations and communities with the largest percentage of vulnerable population and greatest COVID-19 impact.” (See Steve Haner on March 26.) I sent a FOIA request to VDEM for a copy of the equity analysis.

While waiting for the VDEM reply, I wrote on Bacon’s Rebellion March 17 that VDH should target vaccination efforts to neighborhoods with high rates of poverty where COVID-19 risk factors were most likely to be found rather than basing the sites on VDH’s flawed virus statistics of racial demographics.

I received a response from VDEM denying my request. Continue reading

Odd Behavior by a Loudoun County Teachers / Parents Group

by DJ Rippert

Author’s note. There is a story circulating about a private Facebook group focused on Loudoun County schools that is keeping an “enemies list” of people opposed to Critical Race Theory (CRT) as it is being used in the Loudoun County Public Schools. The members of the group reportedly include teachers, parents, school board members and at least one prosecutor. Some within the group have reportedly gone so far as to seek hackers to compromise the websites of groups opposing CRT in Loudoun County.

I initially picked up this story from an article in The Bull Elephant written by Jeanine Martin. The story was titled, “Loudoun County teachers plot war of harassment against parents and others who disagree with racial curriculum.”  That article, published Tuesday, relied on information from Townhall.com and The Daily Wire. I was not sufficiently confident in those sources to either ask for permission to repost Ms. Martin’s article or to write my own summary. However, the story continued to gain traction yesterday and today in the conservative media  Fox News and The Washington Times have picked up on the story. Finally, there is a direct quote attributed to a spokesman for the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office (Kraig Troxell) stating, “The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office is aware of the situation and the information has been forwarded to our criminal investigations division to review the matter.” Given that, I believe there is something going on that merits the attention of Bacon’s Rebellion readers. Continue reading

Democrats Propose Expanded Virginia Government Personal Information Collection, Integration and Dissemination

George Orwell

by James C. Sherlock

There are few things the Left desires more than government access to personal data on every citizen and everything he or she does. Virginia continues down that path.

Government Data Collection & Dissemination Practices Act Chapter 38 of Title 2.2 of the Code of Virginia (§ 2.2-3800 et seq.) reads in part:

B. The General Assembly finds that:

1. An individual’s privacy is directly affected by the extensive collection, maintenance, use and dissemination of personal information;

2. The increasing use of computers and sophisticated information technology has greatly magnified the harm that can occur from these practices;

3. An individual’s opportunities to secure employment, insurance, credit, and his right to due process, and other legal protections are endangered by the misuse of certain of these personal information systems; and

4. In order to preserve the rights guaranteed a citizen in a free society, legislation is necessary to establish procedures to govern information systems containing records on individuals.

Democrats in the General Assembly consider those principles trumped by their desires for control of every aspect of citizens lives from birth until death. Thus they are leading an effort to expand government collection, dissemination and integration of citizens’ personal information.  Continue reading

Most Virginia Public Universities Score Low in Board Accountability

by James A. Bacon

Five Virginia universities score an “F” in a rating of governing board accountability and transparency released today by the Partners for College Affordability and Public Trust. They include Virginia Tech, James Madison University, Virginia Military Institute, Virginia State University and Longwood University.

George Mason University set the pace for board accountability with a B+. The University of Virginia scored a B.

The report was released in conjunction with the filing of a bill, HB 2120, which would provide greater public access to university board records, to meetings and even to board members. The bill would ensure that students, parents and the public could view board meetings remotely, email board members, and provide public comments before major board decisions are made, not just when tuition & fees are discussed.

“Service on a Board of Visitors for a Virginia public university is a highly coveted political appointment, but it is also a position of serious responsibility,” said Del. Mark Keam, D-Vienna, who sponsored the bill. Continue reading

What Must Jim Ryan Do to Earn a $100,000 Bonus?

James Ryan — what has the Board of Trustees incentivized him to accomplish? We don’t know, and the University of Virginia won’t say.

by James A. Bacon

When the University of Virginia hired Jim Ryan as president in 2018, the terms of his employment were spelled out in a contract. Anyone can obtain a copy of the document under the Freedom of Information Act, as Bacon’s Rebellion has done.  You can view it here.

Among other things, the six-year contract calls for paying Ryan a base salary of $750,000, provide him a $20,000-a-year car allowance, cover membership fees for two clubs, give him free housing (including the cost of housekeeping and utilities), grant him 22 vacation days a year, allow him to accrue Sabbatical leave at the rate of two months per year, and award him a performance bonus of up to $100,000 a year.

While the details of a university president’s compensation are interesting, the most important clause from a governance perspective covers the performance bonus. The contract says this about the bonus:

An evaluation of the President’s performance shall be conducted annually by the Rector after consulting with the Board of Visitors. The evaluation shall be based on the achievement of mutually agreed upon performance objectives determined by the Board of Visitors and Mr. Ryan.

Continue reading

Joe Biden, the SALT Cap and Virginia’s Hidden Taxes

by DJ Rippert

SALT of the Earth. The Trump Administration pushed through a change to the US tax code which capped the deduction for State And Local Taxes (SALT) at $10,000 per year. Previously there had been no cap. The imposition of the cap effectively increased the federal taxes paid by high-income earners, especially in high tax states / localities. Given that many high-income, high-tax areas in the U.S .are solidly Democratic, this loophole reduction rankled Democrats in the Congress. Those Democrats have made several unsuccessful attempts to repeal the cap.

Democrats are likely to win the presidency in the upcoming election and may take control of the U.S. Senate as well. If that happens, it is likely that they will make good on their prior efforts to remove the SALT cap. In Virginia, Democrats control the House of Delegates, the Senate and the Governor’s mansion. They have used that control to raise state taxes including the passage of a number of hidden taxes that have been implemented through regulation. If Joe Biden is elected, will the hidden taxes imposed by Virginia’s Democrats put the state’s residents at a disadvantage since they won’t be deductible when the SALT cap is lifted? Continue reading

Lost Absentees, Found Roll Call, Missing Statues

By Steve Haner

Faulty Absentee Ballot Tracker Still Losing Track

Complaints continue about an absentee ballot tracking system on the Virginia Department of Elections website. Someone with a problem similar to what I encountered in September reached out to Richmond’s WTVR-TV 6 News, which reported that the problem lies with the United States Postal Service. The tracking system is provided by an outside vendor.

Jessenia Eliza, the Director of Government Initiatives at Democracy Works (the outside vendor), told CBS 6 the issue the Duszaks were facing was as a result of their ballot barcodes not being scanned by USPS.

“Ballot Scout relies entirely on USPS data in the state of Virginia. How it works is that as the intelligent mail barcode on ballots are scanned, that information is sent to our tool, and it updates the associated voter record,” explained Eliza. “We’re seeing this here and there with ballots that aren’t moving beyond that ‘in-transit’ status. That typically means just that the USPS didn’t scan it further, not necessarily that the ballot isn’t moving.”

The reporter then spoke with somebody at the state, who said: Continue reading