Transparency News, 5/7/20


May 7, 2020
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state & local news stories
"In addition to the 28 people who signed up to speak, the county assembled 90 pages of comments submitted by phone and email."
Minutes after midnight Wednesday evening, the Hanover Board of Supervisors approved controversial zoning changes to clear a path for a Wegmans distribution center in the county. More than 50 people congregated outside the county office building to oppose the project as officials limited entry, citing Gov. Ralph Northam’s ban on large gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic. The crowd represented a fraction of those who’ve protested against the project in the five months since it was unveiled, many of whom have cited concerns about traffic and quality of life issues. In addition to the 28 people who signed up to speak, the county assembled 90 pages of comments submitted by phone and email. Inside the board room Wednesday, blue and red tape throughout restricted access to the pews and reminded people to stay six feet apart from one another. Outside the administration building, the county deployed large PA speakers and signs with the “emergency meeting” rules in front of the administration building for the people they expected to assemble. 
Richmond Times-Dispatch

The Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority board on Wednesday named an interim replacement for departing CEO Damon E. Duncan. Stacey Daniels-Fayson, the housing authority’s controller, will replace Duncan while the board conducts a search for a permanent replacement. Five members of the board approved the appointment during a virtual meeting held Wednesday. There was no discussion of the appointment in open session, and no members of the public addressed the board during the meeting.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

Virginia courts can begin hearing non-emergency matters in person beginning May 18 — if they determine it’s safe and comply with court system rules on how to transition from emergency to routine operations, according to a new order Wednesday from the state Supreme Court. That doesn’t mean court operations are returning to normal, though. Virginia’s highest court extended its “judicial emergency” until June 7 and said courts should continue conducting “as much business as possible” in ways that don’t involve in-person contact, including holding hearings by video conference and telephone. Judges are responsible for taking steps to minimize spreading of the coronavirus, and the number of people allowed inside courtrooms or courthouses may be limited to accommodate social distancing, Chief Justice Donald W. Lemons wrote in the order.
The Virginian-Pilot
stories of national interest
Two watchdog groups that targeted and sued Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson for taking part in weekly Bible study meetings at the White House announced they have reached a $17,800 settlement. The groups, Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) and the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), announced the settlement last week, putting an end to a two-year dispute. The groups claimed they were repeatedly denied Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests about Carson's schedule and the Bible study, which at one point were purportedly attended by several Cabinet members.
Fox News