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City attorney: Mayor didn’t have authority to authorize $1.9 million in bonuses

Posted at 10:28 PM, Dec 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-22 06:58:58-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Last week, Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones granted bonuses for full and part-time employees that totaled nearly $2 million.

He called it an “end of year, end of term thank you” that went into last Friday’s paychecks.

The move initially had some council members asking questions.

“After an entire year of crying poor, we need money for police, the schools need all this money and we can’t give it to them because we, the administration don’t know where to find it, to at the end of a year that’s only half way through a fiscal year to say we’ve got this money is preposterous,” outgoing City Councilman Charles Samuels said.

Samuels and others have even more concerns now after City Attorney Allen Jackson emailed a memo to City Council members stating that Mayor Jones did not have legal authority to give department heads authority to provide bonuses.

Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones

Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones

In the email, Jackson stated only City Council may authorize bonuses.

“That makes sense,” said Samuels. “That was the intent of our framers of our charter, they wanted the check and balance system that there could be unilateral action ignoring what was right for the city.”

Councilwoman Reva Trammell also expressed concern. She said this sent the wrong message to city residents.

“He’s sending out the message that he doesn’t care, that he can do anything he wants and nobody can touch him,” said Trammell.

CBS 6 reached out to the Mayor’s office about the memo.

Spokeswoman Tammy Hawley said “the administration has the authority to provide bonuses per the day ordinance.”

Still, Samuels has serious concerns.

“It’s not teamwork, it’s not transparent, it’s not open government, and it’s a disgrace,” he said.

In the email, Jackson also mentioned two possible remedies such as seeking to recover the payments from the employees who received the money, or recover the payments from those who authorized them.