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City apologizes to activist barred from Cville360

Charlottesville issued an apology Friday to a local activist after she was barred from participating in its Cville360 program this summer.

The city launched the program to provide updates on the coronavirus pandemic and government business. It is hosted by Communications Director Brian Wheeler.

Activist Tanesha Hudson attempted to provide public input during the May 19 show featuring Councilor Heather Hill, but Wheeler refused, citing comments she had made at the City Council meeting on the previous night.

“I think you had plenty to say last night,” he said. “[You] had a good opportunity with city council during two matters in front of them for public comment and at this point I don’t want to bring you on the program because I think we need to follow, in those venues, council procedures and that includes addressing council as a whole and not attacking individual members of council.”

Wheeler went on to say that the program was not a public meeting under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act and therefore didn’t fall under open meeting laws.

At the May 18 council meeting, Hudson spoke during public comment and accused city staff of operating in conjunction with Hill and Mayor Nikuyah Walker in a plot to fire City Manager Tarron Richardson.

“This is personal,” she said of the council’s issues with Richardson. “This ain’t business.”

Walker addressed the comments at the time, saying Hudson’s information was incorrect. She offered Richardson and other councilors a chance to respond, but they declined.

Richardson and the council mutually agreed to part ways last week. His last day is Sept. 30.

Friday’s statement said that Hudson filed a grievance with the city after the incident and, in response, Richardson approved a formal policy for the program.

The policy says that anyone can ask questions or make a comment during the program. It says that questions and comments should be related to the topic of the program.

The policy also says that the host and guests on the program are not required to answer the questions or respond to any comments.

The formal policy was approved in July. Officials declined further comment. No lawsuits had been filed regarding the incident in Charlottesville Circuit Court or federal court as of Friday afternoon.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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