Paige Rice, the former Charlottesville chief of staff and clerk of council who was indicted on felony embezzlement charges June 7, decided to resign from her post in September because her salary was reduced just two months after she received a raise and expanded role, according to documents obtained by C-VILLE Weekly under the Freedom on Information Act.
In her resignation letter to City Council dated September 6, 2018, Rice wrote that she was “not able to continue providing the high level of service and hard work required of this position at a reduced salary.” In July, she had received a raise of over $25,000 for taking on an expanded role that included overseeing two new positions. C-VILLE Weekly was unable to determine how much of her salary was cut or the reason why.
Shortly after Rice resigned, City Council discussed at a public meeting whether or not the increased funds and job title change were needed. The larger council staff had been part of the budget approved earlier in 2018. Mayor Nikuyah Walker requested a guest audit of the chief of staff position to get an outside opinion about whether the salary was justified given the job’s responsibilities.
In January, Charlottesville hired former Lynchburg deputy council clerk Kyna Thomas to fill the position. Thomas’ current job title is chief of staff and clerk of council, which is the same title Rice held before she resigned. However, Thomas’ salary sits at $105,000, which is about $7,000 more than Rice received after her July 2018 raise.
Rice was indicted under unusual circumstances June 7 by a grand jury on one felony count of embezzlement after she allegedly failed to return both an Apple Watch and iPhone X that were given to her for work purposes while she was employed. The devices are valued at over $500 and the circumstances surrounding her charges are unclear.
According to Nolan Stout’s Daily Progress story published Thursday, Rice was the only city employee with an Apple Watch, which she purchased in December 2017, and she didn’t need to seek approval to purchase either the watch or the iPhone.
A former city employee, who spoke to C-VILLE Weekly last week on the condition of anonymity, said “it seems kind of odd to me someone didn’t call her and say, you need to return the phone, rather than sneak around and charge her with a felony.”
Because the criminal case is an ongoing investigation, members of City Council aren’t permitted to speak publicly on the case. Rice hasn’t responded to multiple requests from C-VILLE Weekly for comment.
Her appearance in court, previously scheduled for August 19, has been moved up to July 24.