Tag Archives: CAO

Search Continues for Economic Guru

Rachel DePompa – bio | email

Help Wanted:

The job’s been open for more than a year. The city is still  looking for a “Director of Economic Development”. We learned today that a candidate was flown in, interviewed and offered the job, but was unable to accept for personal reasons. So, the city’s moved on to another person. 

The news came out today at a lunch between the Mayor and City Council. Councilman Chris Hilbert wanted to know why the job has been so hard to fill. He credited the Mayor’s ability to keep people in their jobs and stop the turnover, but wondered if that particular position had a “reputation”. The Mayor and Chief Administrative Officer, Byron Marshall, admitted it’s because that position has not been stable for years. Marshall said, “prior to this administration and even the last administration, there have just been a number of Economic Development Directors. It’s like a revolving door and that gives people pause.”

Mayor Jones urged patience and said the city is close to finally filling the position. And he said, “we ought not to imply that economic development is not going on. It will be great to have that one other person in the shop as another tool in our tool kit, but economic development is aggressively taking place.”

Marshall added that he’s been looking for a specific set of skills. He says this job is not just about attracting big companies. It’s also about bringing in small businesses and growing the ones that are already here.

I hear there could be an announcement by the end of the month.


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Filed under City Council, City Hall, Dwight Jones, Uncategorized

Who Should Control Animal Control?

Rachel DePompa – bio | email    

Forget budget cuts and shortfalls! The real question these days at city hall is “who let the dogs out?” I’m kidding about the title, but not the brewing battle. It appears people are very concerned about who is in charge of Animal Control. From day one, the mayor has said he was going to look for ways to streamline government, find savings and increase services. He made headlines a few months ago when he decided to re-organize the Department of Economic Development. His latest proposal may not get through council as easy. His administration wants to abolish the Department of General Services. Then move the 311 Call Center to Public Utilities.  The print shop would go to Information Technology. Fleet management would be headed by Public Works. And then there’s Animal Control. The administration also wants to move it under Public Works. Some are pushing for the department to be headed by the Richmond Police. (Henrico County’s Animal Control is set up this way.) We learned today, the Police Chief is against the idea, so is the Mayor and CAO Byron Marshall. At a council breakfast they said, Animal Control would be better suited under Public Works. They’ve also moved to fill three vacant Animal Control Officer positions and will start getting more information out about the department through the Public Information Officer of Public Works.  

One source tells me this idea could split the council 5-4 and no one seems to know which way that vote would go.Kathy Graziano said today, “The bottom line is not what department does it. The bottom line is do we get the job done?”  At the meeting Byron Marshall, said Public Works would be better suited because it had the resources and man power. He also said better supervision by Public Works could lead to more animal adoptions and even more revenue for the city from people applying for animal tags.  Councilman Bruce Tyler raised the biggest stink today. He questions Public Works’ ability to handle all the new programs. Tyler said, “My biggest concern is that we’re creating a department that’s too big. We’re setting them up to fail.” He went on to say, “This is already one of the city’s largest departments and its track record is not good.” He sighted problems with the tree planting and removal program. He also pointed out the department’s trouble keeping up with Richmond’s pothole filled roads.

CAO Marshall said those problems are real, but are a money issue. He pointed out that the department was underfunded the last five years. And he said in this upcoming budget, the mayor will recommend more funding for Public Works for city roads and new city trees.


Filed under City Council, City Hall Talk, Dwight Jones

By the Power of City Hall!!!!!

Rachel DePompaRachel DePompa – bio | email

For those of you who just got my slight He-Man reference in the title… Kudos! 🙂 (Sorry, child of the 80’s here!)

So, who has the power to do what at City Hall? Simple enough question, but the answer varies depending on who you ask.  It’s still hard NOT to forget the power struggle we saw nearly every day at City Hall during the Doug Wilder Administration.  But the question has arisen again, even when everyone is “just getting along.”

The Shake-Up:

Shortly after the Jones’ Administration announced its first major internal shake-up , I got a few calls from people telling me the move was a violation of city’s charter. And on the surface, they appear to be correct.  According to sec. 4.02 of the charter. Only the City Council has the power to create, alter or abolish departments.

Sec. 5.03 of the charter also says the Chief Administrative Officer has the power to make temporary transfers of personnel between departments.

The Debate:

The changes to the Departments of Community Development and Economic Development were announced last week. People were shuffled and the deal was done, without ever getting approval from the council. As some council members put it to me: It’s a classic case of putting the cart before the horse. People appear to be hung up on “the process.”

The Mayor’s Press secretary says, the CAO made the moves after first consulting with the City Attorney. She also said he’s already told council he plans to submit papers this budget cycle to “officially” seek approval.  But as some council members point out….. the changes will have already been in place for months before the council ever has a chance to sign off on it. Council member Bruce Tyler has asked the City Attorney to render an official opinion. Tyler and Councilman Charles Samuels would both like papers introduced to council sooner rather than later.  They city has indicated MORE changes are coming and that it wants to wait until they are all complete.

The Talk:

Bruce Tyler says, “I think the Mayor’s trying to do the right thing but we’ve got a little bit of a miss step here and we need to get the thing lined back up and put in the proper order.”  I’ve consulted with a few members of the Charter Commission (a group put together to clarify the current charter) and they said it appears to be a clear violation of the charter. The City Attorney,  however, still has to officially weigh in. And, as the Mayor’s Press Secretary, Tammy Hawley aptly points out, “The intent [of the changes] is to improve services and to generate an efficient operating government.” By all accounts, the move itself is not under the microscope… just the process.

Charter Commission:

The Charter Commission has wrapped up its meetings and has submitted a list of recommendations for changes to the charter. Those changes will be reviewed jointly by the Mayor and City Council. The two want to present a united front to the General Assembly. State lawmakers have the ultimate say to any proposed changes to the city’s charter.


Filed under City Hall Talk, Dwight Jones

Investigations and Vacations…

Rachel DePompaRachel DePompa – bio | email 
The City launched an investigation today into the Richmond  Department of Social Services. (The agency hasn’t had a permanent director in over a year) Well, turns out it was also over billing the state… to the tune of 3.8 million!

Now, according to new Chief Administrative Officer Byron Marshall, this was not fraud or corruption but a sheer mismanagement and bad record keeping. (that’s comforting) City Auditor Umesh Dalal told me the city found out about this today and in a matter of hours launched an investigation and audit and began making personnel changes. (the quick response is comforting.) It looks like the state made changes this year to the way it is billed, but the city failed to keep up with those changes resulting in this multi-million dollar error. We’ll follow the audit and update you as soon as we know more.


Now, as for vacation…. I’m off to the great state of Florida for my birthday.  I’ll try to update my blog with a picture or two, but I make no promises. I plan to be as far away from the office as possible! 🙂

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Doug Wilder: Out of Office, In the News

Rachel DePompaRachel DePompa – bio | email 

When you least expect it, Doug Wilder slips back into my blog. And this one has turned into a doozy of a story. I had a headache most of the day trying to track down all the sides to this one. Here’s the basics: In 2007, (Under the Wilder administration) Richmond decided to buy 40 new police cruisers. The city bought them from Sheehy Ford and spent just under a million dollars. Sounds easy enough, right? Leave it to City Auditor Umesh Dalal to find the rub.

Turns out the city broke its own rules. (Procurement rules) Dalal says the city should have used a sealed bid process and given every Ford dealership in the area a chance to get that contract. We don’t know why this one dealership was choosen. (I’m digging) A city official has now resigned. 

ERIC MENSDirector of Procurement Eric Mens handed in his resignation on June 30th for August 30th.  And Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Herring is investigating. We tried to reach Mr. Mens but he’s out of the office until Monday. This story is not over yet. If this investigation makes it to a grand jury, it will be interesting to see who names who and who says what.

Here is Mayor Dwight Jones full statement on the matter:

“These are very serious allegations. I’ve had discussions with my leadership team about this matter. As a result, the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Byron Marshall, has initiated an administrative review that will be conducted by the Deputy CAO for Operations, Chris Beschler and will be completed within a week to ten days. While this review is underway, Garland Williams will serve as acting director of Procurement Services. Williams is presently acting as assistant director of the City’s Department of Budget and Strategic Planning and has previously served as acting director of the City’s Department of Economic Development.

“This administration has respect for the rules of law and will not condone any misuse of public office. In follow up to the City Auditor’s submission of his report to the Commonwealth’s Attorney, I contacted the Commonwealth’s Attorney to indicate the City’s desire to cooperate and offer any assistance that may be necessary if the matter should require action on their part. We want to ensure a procurement process that is fair, competitive, transparent, cost-efficient, impartial and above all, ethical.”

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VCU: The Changing of the Guard

RachelinStyleRachel DePompa – bio | email 

Getting the Style Treatment:

Make sure to pick up a copy of Style Weekly. There’s an excellent story on the state of television news in Richmond. It really breaks down the challenges we face in this tough economy. The nice folks at Style caught up with me last week during an interview with Lt. Doug Perry in Henrico County. I have to tell you, it was a little nerve racking having my picture taken while I was doing my job. (I know! I know! I’m on TV everyday!) But there’s something about a picture that feels much more permanent. Also, when I’m on TV, it’s usually just me and a video-journalist standing there. So, I never let myself think about how many people are actually on the other side of the lens. (If I did, you’d probably see me stumble a little more often) 🙂

VCU: Then and Now

 It was a quiet last day for Eugene Trani on the VCU campus. He declined all interviews; stepping out of the spotlight to make way for new leader Michael Rao.




Trani Statue On Campus

Trani Statue On Campus

We visited the Life Sciences building (which is named for him) to see his new life size statue. We talked to colleagues about his legacy and we actually found students who had quite a bit to say about his tenure. (The last time I did a story on Trani it took 2 hours to find a student who knew enough to go on camera.) I had an opportunity to meet Michael Rao a few months ago. He starts tomorrow, but is spending the weekend  moving in and won’t physically be on campus until Monday.

19 years is a long time to run an organization. And by all accounts, VCU is a much different place than it was in 1990; not just aesthetically, but image-wise. I came to Richmond under a changing of the guard. In my first year here, I’ve watched a controversial mayor leave office, along with a school superintendent and a University President. It will be interesting to see what direction this city is moving in, one year from now.

CAO Update:

The city is making way for Byron Marshall. Acting Chief Administrative Officer, Chris Beschler has been named Deputy Chief Administrative Officer of Operations. Which is basically an expanded role. He will now, not only head the Department of Public Utilities, but he will also be in charge of General Services. Beschler had applied to stay on as CAO. The City Council meets Wednesday to vote on the position. It’s expected Marshall will get the nod in a 9-0 vote.









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James River: Take 2

Rachel DePompaRachel DePompa – bio | email 

First order of business? City Business:

Before I post about the River Wild: Part Deux, lets get through the news of the day. City Council’s special meeting about the Chief Administrative Officer appointment is scheduled for Wednesday at 6:00 at City Hall. Don’t expect any surprises either. It appears Byron Marshall’s appointment will get a 9-0 vote… possibly an 8-1.  I won’t speculate on the lone hold-out just yet. But it probably would not surprise most people. 

Tubing on the James:

Went on my second adventure on the James River this past weekend. And unlike my first trip, which included high waters, rescues and my hilariously, funny analogy to a Kevin Bacon movie; this trip was uneventful. But, only because I had such high standards to live up to. Actually, this trip was even better than the first.

The water was below five feet. (So, no life jackets required). I felt safe. The company was awesome! And, because the water was not that high, the trip lasted longer. So, I was able to really enjoy the beauty of the James. It was really cool to go under the Nickel bridge while the guys were working on it. They were scaling the side of it with ropes and just hanging there, welding. A job with a high dangerous level, but amazing views.

All in all, people don’t appreciate that river enough. I had a few folks say, “EW! You actually got in the James???”

Um?!?! Yeah! I had a blast and I do it again!  

PS.. it’s our drinking water. Can’t be that bad.

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Filed under City Council, City Hall, Dwight Jones, James River