Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mayor's deception against Richmond City Council

Richmond City Council – Richmond City Hall - 900 E. Broad Street, Suite 200 - Richmond, VA 23219 - www.council.richmondva.gov

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

The Honorable E. Martin "Marty" Jewell, Councilman,
Richmond City Council, Central 5th District

Mayor's deception against Richmond City Council

"Richmond City Council, as the governing body of the City of Richmond, has the right and duty to expect and ensure an accurate and honest flow of information from the Mayor’s Administration. As Policymakers, Richmond City Council has the responsibility to establish policies and procedures that facilitates a free flow of timely reports and information that should maximize Council’s deliberations and decision.

Such procedures are sufficiently in place and should never be abrogated without severe penalties. Moreover, it has been of considerable concern for some time that pertinent information regarding city actions has not been shared with most Councilmembers for some time. Examples include:

1. The absence of any recent updates on emergency response plans or access to any plan itself that Richmond City Council and the public should have had to know what to do in case of emergencies, i.e., the latest earthquake and Hurricane Irene.

2. Failure to disclose to most Councilmembers during budget preparations last year and this year that the city was applying for a Choice Neighborhoods $300K planning grant that could bring $30 million of HUD funds to public housing replacement in the East end. The Eastview Initiative was created to enhance the success of this grant application with the probability that the jail construction would in all likelihood be an anchor to this development. Council crafted a budget without this knowledge. HUD denied this application last October. Another application was submitted this year deadline August 8, 2011 with Eastview included, extending to Creighton Court/Nine Mile Road. All this away from the view of a full Council majority.

3. An ongoing effort has been afoot, for some months, to stifle the Richmond City Council Office of the City Auditor. A draft MOU. was crafted (drafted by our Richmond City Attorney and the Richmond CAO) without notification to Council that it would change the current audit protocol, reducing Council authority, giving the CAO sign-off authority, under certain terms and conditions and require the Council Inspector General function to report fraudulent or criminal acts to the police chief (i.e. the CAO) vs. The Commonwealth Attorney and Richmond City Council.

4. And, more recently there appears to be blatant push-back from the Mayor's Administration against departmental audits, stalling tactics are utilized, supervisors are present during employee interviews (intimidation) and failure to follow recommendations (around 50%) has become routine and likely dictated from the top.

5. The big Mayoral announcement of a $60 million RMA deal he splashed in the media is another example of failed communication, collaboration and cooperation. Have any of Councilmembers been briefed on this mega-million dollar deal? Do we know the nature of this “deal” and whether this is good for Richmond and tax-paying citizens? Has Council been asked to give their input?
These are but a few examples of communications failures between council and the Mayor, which has established a pattern. Has an edict gone out by the Mayor to marginalize Richmond City Council?

Sadly, the most egregious example of the above is what appears to be the intentional untruth (lie) told to Richmond City Council on July 28, 2011 to the question “have we gotten the Department of Correction’s approval for this proposed jail design (Tompkins/Ballard)”? Sheriff C.T. Woody answered emphatically, “Yes”. This Councilman then stated that he had, just that day, talked with DOC staffers Ms. Ballard and Mr. Wilson and was informed that while Richmond had been approved in 2009 for a renovated, existing jail, we would be required to secure another review and approval for the new, stand-alone brand new jail.
So the answer was clearly NO. And, while it is possible that the Sheriff may not have been informed of this, we now know that the Mayor’s Chief of Staff Ms. Suzette Denslow knew as early as three days before the vote. Ms. Denslow does not work for herself. She works for the Mayor. It is reasonable to believe that the Mayor and his executive staff knew or should have known that for two months (at least) when Tompkins was selected no one applied for a new review from DOC and would need to do so.

They certainly knew July 28, 2011 the night of the vote, according to a letter from Peter Decker, III, Chairman of DOC Board, dated August 3, 2011. (Please see attached letter). This letter was addressed to both Mayor Jones and President Graziano and not to this day has it been forwarded to Councilmembers by Ms. Graziano. How should this fact be received by Council?

So, it appears that neither the Mayor, who was present, nor Ms. Denslow nor Mrs. Graziano nor any executive staff refuted the sheriff’s misstatement (lie). In fact, CAO Marshall and architect Kessler substantiated the Sheriff’s misstated “yes.” (Lie)

The consequence of this deception caused Council to vote based on false information on two occasions July 28, 2011. One was a vote to delay the vote until September 12, 2011 which would have given Council the opportunity to act on our own Auditor’s advice to get a second legal opinion on the questionable “interpretations” rendered by the Director of Procurement as well as know with certainty, all of the ramifications of voting up millions of taxpayers’ money while a host of questions remain (see attached). The second vote was the well known 7-2 vote to approve the contract which also could have been very different.

Subsequent to the vote on July 28, 2011 media reports indicate the Mayor moved forward and signed a contract with Tompkins/Ballard and indicated that because Council provided full funding of $134.5 million the City would maintain its scheduled start date in December. However, there are indications that the state biennium budget includes no money for any state jail construction for 2012 – 2013.

Therefore, I submit the Following Questions:

1. Is the Mayor asking Council to forgo $29 million dollars of state support for this project?

2. Given that DOC pays the City jail for one deputy for every three isolation and segregation beds, is the Mayor asking us to forgo these funds that will add up to nearly $100 million over the next 50 year life of this new jail?

3. Is the Mayor prepared to show us where he expects the state to provide $30 million plus when we are told that zero dollars were included in the just passed biennium budget for jail construction?

4. Does anyone expect Council to continue to ignore the fact that Ms. Rivers knowingly deflected MBE concerns by confusing discussions about DBE definitions knowing that DBE is a federal term having nothing to do with MBE policies locally?

5. Did the City Administration notice that only one bidder actually followed DOC guidelines in the submission of all proposals?"

CONTACT For more information, please contact The Honorable E. Martin "Marty" Jewell Councilman, Richmond City Council, Central 5th District, at 804.646.5724; or by email, at marty.jewell@richmondgov.com.

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