Good grief! While digging around to find out the value of the DPVA building in Richmond, I ran across this little gem in Style Weekly, published a year ago:
The expensive trips, mounting overtime and clean cars behind the mayor’s full-time security detail.
Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones is eating lunch at M Bistro and Wine Bar for the third day in a row. And like the days before, the black, tinted SUV that his full-time security detail uses to drive him across the city is idling in front of the restaurant in a fire lane.
When Jones exits the restaurant with his dining companion on this sunny day in August, the police officer reading in the vehicle hops out and opens the passenger door for the mayor’s guest before taking off.
Jones’ three-person, two-car security detail has been a recurring topic of discussion — usually around City Council’s budget season — since he took office in 2009. While council members were finalizing the fiscal year’s budget in May, the $400,000 expense narrowly avoided being reduced by 25 percent.
Some on Richmond city council have been raising questions about his honors security detail:
As City Council begins preparing for the next budget, it’s uncertain what role the detail will play in the debate. Some council members have made it clear that if Jones wants to keep a security team, the police department must do more to justify the expense.
“Does he need to take [the security detail] while he’s in a restaurant or in a bar eating and drinking, whatever, or smoking cigars or whatever,” City Councilwoman Reva Trammell asked earlier this summer. “Does he need those officers out there in a police car? That’s what people are asking me.”
But of course, when Jones was asked about these mounting costs being footed by taxpayers, Jones does what Jones does best, and punts the issue to someone else:
When asked about the detail, Jones has referred questions to the police chief that he appointed in February, Ray Tarasovic. The chief says the security is important and will continue.
The mission of the executive protection unit, which was established in 2005, is to “provide security and protection services to the mayor of the City of Richmond … and to protect against any harm or danger to the mayor in the facilitation of duties, travel and daily movement,” according to the unit’s manual.
That means Jones is rarely without an officer nearby when he’s in public. In May, when Jones led about 100 bicyclists on a morning ride to City Hall to mark National Bike to Work Day, two officers on bicycles flanked him. The SUV trailed close behind.
The unit also accompanies Jones on trips outside of Richmond. When the mayor attended President Barack Obama’s second inauguration in Washington, D.C., three officers accompanied him, according to receipts and documentation obtained by Style through a Freedom of Information Act request.
The trip cost city taxpayers $13,000 in travel expenses and overtime, the records show. Jones’ travel receipts show that he personally paid for his lodging, but the three officers who traveled with him billed the police department for three nights and three rooms at the Embassy Suites, and accrued $5,000 in overtime hours. A second trip this year to Meeting Place, Pa., accrued $1,000 in travel expenses billed to the city.
But of course, the police department wouldn’t release these records – Style Weekly, in stunning fashion did this:
The police department released the documents only after Style Weekly filed suit in Richmond Circuit Court after the department had failed to provide records requested within the time period required by Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act. Style sought documents of travel, meals and other expenses, as well as records relating to the maintenance of the two vehicles typically used by the detail. Shortly after the department was formally served with the lawsuit, the department complied with Style’s request and agreed to pay Style’s attorney fees.
Altogether, the city is set to pay at total of $288,000 in salaries and benefits to the lieutenant and two detectives attached to the detail. The amount will go up when the 2-percent raise City Council approved for city employees goes into effect. As of Oct. 11, the unit racked up an additional $60,000 in overtime, according to documents provided by the police department.
The officers earned the same salary in 2012, along with an additional $70,000 in overtime pay. That includes $7,000 in overtime hours the officers put in when they accompanied Jones on a five-night trip to Charlotte, N.C., for the 2012 Democratic National Convention. Travel expenses for that trip cost the city an additional $6,000, according to the documents.
Clearly, the police department did everything they could not to produce the documents – but Style Weekly was having none of it and sued their asses, forcing them to turn over the records.
But of course, a lot of rank and file within the city police department are quite upset over the high costs of the mayor’s security detail:
Within the police department, some officers question the necessity of the detail as it’s structured. In the department, it’s unusual for a lieutenant to supervise only two employees, as is the case with the security detail, they say.
“In patrol, a lieutenant would oversee 20 people,” says one officer, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “When you work for a locality and they say there’s no money in the budget and you haven’t had a raise in five years, and you finally get a raise, but they can frivolously spend money on some things — it kind of makes you wonder.”
The officer says it’s demoralizing to see one unit funded so well when many other officers drive around in cars with faded decals and badly peeling paint. He said most officers are lucky if they can get authorized to take their patrol cars through a car wash once a month. By contrast, the two vehicles assigned to the mayor’s detail spent $450 on car washes in the first half of this year, according to an accounting of receipts provided by the department.
The officer says some security is justifiable, but notes that not a single armed guard protects City Hall. Instead, unarmed security guards sit in a booth that faces one of the building’s four street-facing entrances.
What a farce – does a mayor of a small city like Richmond really need this much security?
Well, it will be interesting to see, once Hillary announces for president, when Jones starts running around the state campaigning for Hillary, if the City of Richmond taxpayers have to foot the bill for that as well.
You can read the entire article here: