Petersburg mayor says he recorded political threats from Sen. Rosalyn Dance

Posted at 5:19 PM, Apr 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-12 00:18:22-04

PETERSBURG, Va. -- State Senator Rosalyn Dance, in a recorded phone conversation with Petersburg mayor Howard Myers, advised, scolded, and threatened him over recent utility and city management debacles. In the notarized transcript and recording, obtained by multiple CBS 6 reporters, Dance promised to make sure Myers lost federal and state funding for Petersburg if he did not fall in line with her suggestions.

The conversation dates back to February 13, 2016, two days after Myers delivered the state of the city address, in which he did not mention the city’s three million dollar budget shortfall.

Myers told CBS 6 reporter Melissa Hipolit that he recorded Dance because she had made similar threats in the past about pulling funding and dispatching of him if he didn't do what she wanted, and he wanted proof of her threats.

The conversation between Dance and Myers took place just days before hundreds of residents pressured City Council to fire city manager William Johnson and Brian Telfair, the city attorney. Dozens of people, frustrated with city mismanagement, were forced to wait outside as the city's historic Union Station filled to capacity. 

“To put demands on me was scary, it was very threatening,” Mayor Meyers said in an interview Monday.

“All I can say is she set the tone that this was what was going to happen if I did not follow her demands period,” Myers said.

As CBS 6 first reported in late 2015, many city residents have not received water bills for months, and in some cases they received exorbitant bills. Janie Wyatt grappled with a $9,000 water bill for a year that was not resolved until CBS Problem Solvers helped.

Even Dance said in the phone conversation that she had not received a bill.

“And I know because I'm still waiting for a bill,” she said. “That is crazy. That is ludicrous, downright crazy.”

Dance gave Myers specific advice multiples times throughout the conversation, regarding his notes, public appearances and overall message.

“Then the Number 3, following what you got here would be that you -- okay. I offer -- you don't offer. You move that following transitioning team of interim city manager and interim city attorney serve for a period up to six months, and that that period can be reviewed at that time by the majority of council, at the will of council. It can be during that term of six months with monthly reports. They've got to give you monthly reports. You don't just let them function. You get monthly feedback on their progress.”

The two bickered back and forth, each stating they felt their intelligence was being insulted.

“What I know now, the millions, not thousands, not hundreds, the millions of dollars that have not been paid. I don’t know how to say it. You cannot put your head in the sand,” Dance said.

“Ms. Dance, I have not put my head in the sand. What I'm hearing, you're insulting my intelligence because all I asked you to do, I have not made a decision, just like you,” Myers said.

Then Dance threatens federal and state funding:

“On Tuesday I'm going to make my statement of what I'm doing and why I'm doing what I'm doing. We're on the line for money and everything else. We're like the laughing stock. We asked them to give you money and you haven't showed that you can handle what you got. So there's no project that you've got out there that the state will support unless Lashrecse and I say, Governor, yes, we want you to support this. You will get no state money. You will get no federal money. You will not because my reputation is out there.”

Near the end of the conversation, Dance said she is “just talking” to Myers and not telling him what to do.

“I'm just talking to you,” Dance said. “You can use it for what it's worth or what it's not, but I would not try to hurt you."

A closed door meeting at Petersburg City Hall is set for 5:30 p.m. Monday, reportedly to address the ongoing situation with the mayor. Myers told CBS 6 that council does not have the authority to remove him through a motion.

CBS 6 reporter Melissa Hipolit emailed, texted, and called Senator Dance for comment, but she has yet to hear back.

Dance told the Richmond Times Dispatch the release of the recording is an attempt to distract from Myer’s own troubles.

Depend on CBS 6 for complete coverage of this developing news story.