RICHMOND, Va. - The investigation into the departure of former Deputy Chief Administrative Officer of Finance Sharon Judkins from Richmond City Hall found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing. Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney Michael Herring announced the result of his weeks-long investigation early Thursday morning.
Richmond City Auditor Umesh Dalal said the investigation was necessary to determine whether there was any wrongdoing surrounding changes made prior to Judkins leaving city government. Those changes, he argued, would increase Judkins' retirement benefits and cost the city upwards of $400,000.
Dalal said his investigation uncovered Richmond Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Byron Marshall allowed Judkins to get credit for more than 800 hours of unused sick time she collected during a previous 19-year career in the city of Richmond. In addition to the unused sick time, Dalal found Judkins was credited for an additional 147.2 hours of vacation time on a single day, February 28, 2014.
"We found absolutely no evidence of criminal wrongdoing," Herring concluded in his five-page report. "We identified no evidence of collusion, conspiracy or fraud by or between Marshall and Judkins. Likewise, there was no effort to conceal the details of Judkins’ separation, beyond measures normally taken to ensure the confidentiality of personnel matters."
Herring said he reached that conclusion after he interviewed Marshall and witnesses from Richmond's Human Relations Department and Richmond Retirement System (RSS).
"The Auditor determined that the vacation leave increase was the result of human clerical error and not limited to Ms. Judkins’ account," Herring wrote in his report. "There was no evidence that Ms. Judkins manipulated her account or caused the clerical error."
Marshall did not influence nor cause the error with Judkins' vacation leave balance either, Herring said.
Herring called the circumstances around Judkins' sick leave balance "significantly more complicated" and worthy of a "detailed discussion."
"Dalal’s investigation concluded that the sick leave restoration [the restoration of 807 hours of unused sick leave from Judkins’ prior employment with the City] was part of an effort to enhance Ms. Judkins’ retirement benefits," Herring wrote. "The auditor determined that the large sick leave restoration would accrue two significant benefits to Ms. Judkins. First, it would have allowed her to take an extended period of paid sick leave immediately prior to her retirement (while accruing benefits such as compensable vacation leave). He further concluded that the restored leave would have extended her term of creditable service with the City and thereby increased her average final compensation for purposes of calculating her annual retirement benefit."
Herring concluded Marshall wanted to restore Judkins’ sick leave balance in an effort to reach an “amicable separation.”
However, after Marshall learned the Director of the Human Relations did not agree with advice Marshall received from a senior Human Resources Department employee, Marshall decided to rescind the 807 hours. Marshall said he made that decision by May 8, but was preoccupied with other matters, including the City budget, to act on that decision.
This is a developing story.