Infighting implodes council
The hiring of an interim city manager, an event that usually takes place behind closed doors, has become heated and public, with reports of shouting at a July 20 closed City Council session. Mayor Nikuyah Walker has gone on Facebook Live twice to express her concerns that the process is part of the old boys’ network because someone suggested a candidate for the position to Vice Mayor Heather Hill, which she calls a “white supremist practice.”
On July 23, councilors Hill, Mike Signer and Kathy Galvin issued a five-page response to Walker’s Facebook Live video. “We regret that our rules requiring confidentiality about closed session discussions for personnel choices—which are in place under Virginia law, to protect local elected officials’ ability to discuss and negotiate employment agreements—were broken by the mayor.”
The search for an interim city manager became more urgent when Maurice Jones took a town manager job in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, leaving the city without a chief executive as the anniversary of August 12 looms.
Chris Suarez at the Daily Progress reports that three sources have confirmed U.S. Army Human Resources Command Chief of Staff Sidney C. Zemp has been offered the job.
In the councilors’ response, all three say they’ve never met the candidate, and that review panels are not used when filling interim positions.
In her July 20 video, Walker walked back a comment she made on Facebook and Twitter July 19: “We might have to protest a City Council decision. Are y’all with me?” She said she didn’t want supporters to shut down a council meeting, but did want them to pay attention to the process.
Walker was back on Facebook Live July 23, blasting her fellow councilors for their “very privileged” backgrounds and questioning their integrity.
She says she favors an internal candidate—the two assistant city managers and a department head have been floated—which councilors Wes Bellamy and Signer initially favored.
Bellamy issued his own statement: “Elected bodies agree and disagree all of the time” and that can lead to “healthy debate.”
Will council actually vote for an interim city manager at its August 6 meeting? Stay tuned.
Mayor Nikuyah Walker expressed concern in a July 20 Facebook Live video about the hiring process for an interim city manager.
Too much heritage
The Louisa County Board of Zoning Appeals said the giant Confederate battle flag on I-64 must come down because its 120-foot pole is double the county’s maximum allowable height. Virginia Flaggers erected the “Charlottesville I-64 Spirit of Defiance Battle Flag” in March and argued that after putting up 27 flags across the state, they wouldn’t have spent $14,000 on this one without confirming county code.
A petition with more than 2,000 signatures of UVA faculty and students objects to the Miller Center’s hiring of Trump legislative affairs director Marc Short as a senior fellow. The petitioners are opposed to Trump administrators using “our university to clean up their tarnished reputations.”
Outgoing UVA prez Teresa Sullivan’s base pay of $580,000 and total compensation of $607,502 last year makes her one of the higher paid university chiefs, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Her successor, Jim Ryan, starts with a $750,000 base pay, but to put those numbers in perspective, remember that UVA football coach Bronco Mendenhall makes $3.4 million—with a possible $2 million-plus bonus. At this week’s ACC Kickoff event, media members predicted—for the fifth straight year—that UVA will finish last in the conference’s Coastal Division.
New tourism director
Adam Healy, the former CEO of online wedding marketplace Borrowed and Blue, which closed abruptly last October, will now serve as the interim executive director of the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Standoff on Lankford
About 50 city, county and state police and SWAT team members were on the scene of a four-hour standoff with 29-year-old Alexander Rodgers, who had barricaded himself inside a Lankford Avenue home on July 19. Someone called police around 8am and reported shots fired. Rodgers, who has a history of domestic violence and was wanted on six outstanding warrants, eventually surrendered and was charged with three felonies and a misdemeanor.
Quote of the week:
“The fish rots from the head.”—Senator Tim Kaine, after U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security and UVA alum Kirstjen Nielsen said about last summer’s violence in Charlottesville at a July 19 press briefing, “It’s not that one side was right and one side was wrong.”
County crime report
The Albemarle County Police Department released its annual crime report for 2017 last month. Here are a few things that caught our eye.
-Police misconduct has been reframed in a new “cheers and jeers” section, where police complaints are compared side-by-side with commendations.
- Complaints: 57
- Commendations: 69
-The award section may come as a surprise, because Detective Andrew Holmes, who faces five lawsuits for racial profiling, was granted a community service award.
-Albemarle County had the second-lowest crime rate in the state while Charlottesville had the highest. Crime rate is measured by tallying the number of crimes committed per 100,000 people.
- Fairfax: 1,273
- Albemarle: 1,286
- Prince George: 1,334
- Arlington: 1,355
- Prince William: 1,370
- Chesterfield: 1,450
- James City: 1,611
- Roanoke: 1,638
- Henrico: 2,548
- Charlottesville: 2,631
-County police officers made 2,296 arrests and used force “to overcome resistance or threat” on 14 occasions.
-Assaults on police officers have gone up and down.
- 2015: 3
- 2016: 10
- 2017: 7