This Week’s FOIA Round-Up: The long-awaited story behind Washington’s "sky penis"

This Week’s FOIA Round-Up: The long-awaited story behind Washington’s “sky penis”

Plus, the West Virginia Governor’s schedule shows long absences, and text messages show Michigan lawmaker trading vote for cash

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Edited by JPat Brown

In this week’s FOIA roundup, the Navy Times investigates the jet that drew a giant penis over Washington state, text messages indicate that Michigan Representative Larry Inman sought campaign contributions in exchange for his vote, and records reveal that West Virginia Governor Jim Justice has been largely absent from his legislative responsibilities.

See a great use of public records we missed? Send over your favorite FOIA stories via email, on Twitter, or on Facebook, and maybe we’ll include them in the next round-up. And if you’d like even more inspiration, read past round-ups.

FOIA reveals how a Navy jet crew skywrote a penis above Washington state

In November 2017, Washingtonians looked above the Okanogan Highlands to find a penis crudely drawn in their state’s clear blue sky. The “sky penis” sparked a full-blown Navy probe into the circumstances of the incident.

Now, thanks to fearless reporting and FOIA requests by the Navy Times, new details have emerged about the origin of that fateful fall day. The artists in question were two junior officers of Electronic Attack Squadron 130, who after a training session found themselves in the peculiar circumstance of being both bored and inside of a Navy EA-18G Growler jet. Seizing the opportunity, one officer challenged the pilot to draw a penis.”

“I could definitely draw one; that would be easy,” the pilot said. “I could basically draw a figure eight and turn around and come back. I’m gonna go down, grab some speed and hopefully get out of the contrail layer so they’re not connected to each other.”

Read the full results of the Navy Times’ FOIA request into the Navy probe here.

Michigan lawmaker charged with accepting cash for his vote, lying to the FBI

Michigan Representative Larry Inman (R-Traverse City) faces up to 35 years in prison on charges of attempted extortion, bribery and lying to an Federal Bureau of Investigation agent. Court documents exposed text messages between Inman and a union representative of the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights. The text exchange occurred just days before Inman voted no on the repeal of a a 1965 law guaranteeing higher pay and better benefits for workers on state construction projects.

Inman stands accused of selling his vote for campaign contributions, then falsely denying communications with the union to the FBI.

Read the full story here.

Newly released schedule of West Virginia’s absentee governor

According to reporting by the The Associated Press, West Virginia 36th Governor and controversial business mogul Jim Justice has consistently skirted most legislative responsibilities in the past seven months. Justice’s office denied the AP’s initial request for the governor’s schedule, saying that it was not an accurate reflection of Justice’s work and releasing it could endanger the governor’s safety. After six weeks of phone calls and emails by the AP, Justice’s lawyer Brian Abraham eventually released a calendar between November 2018 and May 2019, showing a timeline of unaccountability and photo ops.

The calendar indicates that Justice almost never meets with his Cabinet and only sporadically attends legislative sessions at the capitol.

Read the full story here.

Read a great FOIA-based news story we should highlight? Let us know and maybe we can include it in our next roundup! Send it over via email, on Twitter, or on Facebook.

Image via Wikimedia Commons