Transparency News, 8/3/2022



August 3, 2022

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state & local news stories


The pandemic, labor shortages and the rising cost of food have taken a toll. But Boyd Melchor, owner of Kelly’s Tavern, a local franchise with several locations throughout Hampton Roads, said skill games have helped some bars and restaurants stay afloat. In the past few years, Virginia has gone back and forth on whether the games are allowed. Those in favor say they’re fun for customers and offer support to small businesses during a challenging time. Others argue the games are harmful to the state’s new casinos and the Virginia Lottery. A court hearing later this year will decide the matter. But amid the ongoing litigation, the state’s budget included language that clarified and expanded the definition of a skill game — a move that drew ire from some lawmakers and local business owners. “Language was literally put in the budget in a manner that prevents legislators from opining and voting on that language,” said Del. Glenn Davis, R-Virginia Beach. “It was never brought up as legislation nor discussed previously.” The skill game language wasn’t the only measure slipped into the budget this year. Sen. Bill Stanley doubts most legislators would have signed off on the language. He said it also broke an “unwritten rule” in the General Assembly not to pass a measure related to an ongoing court case. But he said most lawmakers were shut out of the process because it was inserted into the budget.
The Virginian-Pilot

A special council meeting was held Tuesday — in the brand-new Virginia Beach City Council chambers — to interview three candidates vying for the Bayside seat. It was the first official council meeting in the new City Hall building, which opened in April to other city departments, after three years of construction. The city delayed the opening of council chambers for meetings because it took longer than expected for the audio-visual equipment to arrive, according to the city. It’s twice as big as the old chambers and has 300 seats. An overflow area in the back of the room can hold another 50 people, and there are several conference rooms where live meetings are streamed.
The Virginian-Pilot

A program that aims to give residents a better understanding of Harrisonburg functions is returning later this month. City officials announced Tuesday that the application process is open for the Harrisonburg Citizen Academy, a 12-week program where participants tour departments and learn from staff members about the services provided. “Harrisonburg Citizen Academy is an excellent way for community members to learn more about what the City does to make Harrisonburg a better place to live, work and play every day,” Parks said in a press release. “Whether you’re someone interested in serving on a City board or running for City Council, or you’re just curious about how government works for you, this program has something for everyone.”
Daily News Record

Nearly one week after Richmond police said 177 people were arrested in a special operation aimed to curb violence, the department has still not disclosed what charges are associated with the arrests. The department first shared details about 'Operation Red Ball' to 8News on July 28, noting that a majority of the arrests were connected to public housing. Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith spoke to the public on the afternoon of Tuesday, Aug. 2, about community building during a 'National Night Out' event, but he did not answer 8News' questions.  At the event, Tracy Walker, a spokesperson with the Richmond Police Department, indicated that the department was "saving [questions about] Red Ball until Thursday," something she said nearly a week ago.  It remains unknown what the near-200 people have been charged with, and why.

stories of national interest

A government watchdog group said Tuesday that the Pentagon "wiped" text messages from the cell phones of key Trump administration Defense Department officials after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, and is now urging Attorney General Merrick Garland to launch a "cross-agency investigation into the possible destruction of federal records." American Oversight, which describes itself as a nonprofit watchdog that uses public records requests to fight corruption, filed several Freedom of Information Act requests within days of Jan. 6, 2021, seeking text messages and other communications among senior Pentagon officials including acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller, his chief of staff, Kash Patel, and Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy. In March, the Pentagon filed court documents acknowledging that text messages belonging to those individuals had been deleted -- but framed that action as standard operating procedure whenever an employee leaves the department.
ABC News