Open and transparent government: that was the motto of Charlottesville’s elected Democrats for many years during the regime of former City Manager Gary O’Connell.
It was a marketing scheme at best, as O’Connell held tightly the city hall dossier, frequently depriving elected councilors of critical decision-making information that might lead to conclusions which O’Connell himself disfavored.
But if Charlottesville’s government transparency was relentlessly inadequate under O’Connell, currently, it has deteriorated to a state of atrocity unfathomed in previous years.
And now, in this veiled metropolis, the former City Manager’s retirement salary-and-benefits package has become a donnybrook—a secret shrouded in mystery and indomitably shielded by self-appointed government guardians.
As no official city disclosure was proffered, following O’Connell’s announced relinquishment, an inquiry was made of Charlottesville spokesman Ric Barrick regarding the soon-to-be-former City Manager’s retirement remuneration:
From: Rob Schilling
Date: February 21, 2010 07:45:47 PM EST
To: Ric Barrick <BARRICK@charlottesville.org>
Cc: Craig Brown <Brownc@charlottesville.org>
Subject: Information Request: City Manager
Can you please send me complete information on the City Manager’s retirement benefits upon his departure from city employment? In other words, a delineation of each benefit and the annual dollar value of that benefit.
A cone of silence immediately was erected as Barrick sought refuge in city’s legal department, which refused to divulge any detail of Gary’s golden parachute:
From: “Barrick, Ric” <BARRICK@charlottesville.org>
Date: March 1, 2010 09:35:16 AM EST
To: “Rob Schilling”
Cc: “Brown, Craig” <Brownc@charlottesville.org>
Subject: FW: Information Request: City Manager
In response to your request…from Human Resources (attached) and the City Attorney’s Office (below)
“Under FOIA we are required to produce an employee’s salary, his or her written contract of employment (if any), and any ordinances or City policies that describe employee retirement benefits. In our opinion we are not required to disclose the specific dollar amount of an employee’s retirement benefits.” [Emphasis added.]
Shortly after O’Connell’s final departure, a subsequent FOIA request was issued, seeking information on actual pension payouts that had been made since his retirement date:
From: Rob Schilling
Date: July 27, 2010 07:26:27 AM EDT
To: Craig Brown <Brownc@charlottesville.org>
Subject: Gary O’Connell Pension Payouts FOIA
Some time ago, I asked for information regarding the value of Gary’s retirement package. The City was not able to provide me with that information directly.
Can you please provide for me internal accounting records or any related records regarding any monthly payments or direct deposits Gary has received from the City of Charlottesville as a result of his previous employment there? The effective dates for this request would be from his final day on the job through the fulfillment date of this request.
Please let me know if you need further clarification.
Deputy City Attorney, Richard “the Protector” Harris, (who seemingly delights in “protecting” public eyes from viewing “sensitive” government information) responded coldly:
From: “Harris, Richard” <HARRISRM@charlottesville.org>
Date: August 2, 2010 05:56:12 PM EDT
To: “Rob Schilling” <email@example.com>
Subject: FOIA request dated July 27, 2010
This e-mail is sent in response to your Virginia Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request received by Craig Brown on July 27, 2010, seeking records regarding any monthly payments or direct deposits made to Gary O’Connell subsequent to his employment with the City of Charlottesville. The documents that you seek are personnel records containing information concerning an identifiable individual. As such, any responsive records are excluded from the provisions of the FOIA pursuant to Virginia Code section 2.2-3705.1(1). Therefore, the records you have requested will not be provided to you.
For further information, I refer you to Article IV of the Charlottesville City Code (specifically section 19-96), as well as Gary O’Connell’s city employment contract, which were supplied to you in response to your previous FOIA request this past February. I have attached copies of these documents to this e-mail.
If you require any further information, do not hesitate to contact me.
Richard M. Harris
Deputy City Attorney
605 East Main Street
P.O. Box 911
Charlottesville, Virginia 22902
Q: So, what’s the big secret? Why won’t Charlottesville City Government release the dollar-value of former City Manager O’Connell’s taxpayer-funded retirement package?
A: Because in this post– Bell, California world it would be highly embarrassing—not only to the city, which negotiated and authorized the ginormous payout, but also to O’Connell himself, who left his city position in order to accept a $125,000 per year job with the Albemarle County Service Authority. Can you say double dipping? And, ultimately, because the arrogant Charlottesville City government doesn’t have to disclose—it won’t.
So much for “open and transparent” government…
But, the battle is not lost. In the spirit of WikiLeaks, The Schilling Show Blog and News has tapped clandestine sources deep inside the bowels of Charlottesville City Hall, and now, there’s a clear motive for the establishment’s attempted suppression: the annual outlay is simply astounding.
Institutional insiders reveal that—through masterful manipulation of the system, including the purchasing of “prior service” and naming himself the “Director of Public Safety,” among other chicanery—former Charlottesville City Manager Gary O’Connell has retired with a benefits package “in the range of” [sic] $145,000 per year.
If that figure is accurate, public servant O’Connell is milking (or perhaps more accurately, bleeding) Albemarle County and Charlottesville City taxpayers for a cumulative total of at least $270,000 annually. Nice work if you can get it!
True public service can be a wonderful calling. But there are too many instances where “service” has been perverted into a get-rich-quick scheme. Such is the case in Charlottesville, Virginia, where government has become “god,” and the public servant has become the public’s master.
[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Rob Schilling, Hawes Spencer. Hawes Spencer said: Rob Schilling, trying to get scoop on former city mgr. Gary O'Connell's current pay, estimates it could be high as $270K: http://ow.ly/3sh3T […]
It is a tragic travesty that anyone can be comfortable with shafting his fellow citizens like this, but alas, history and prophecy, tells us that not only should we not be surprised at such selfishness, but rather, to expect it. If Gary O’Connell can look his fellow citizens in the eye with a clean conscience, then the lack there of is self-evident.
This leads me to not only fully support the budget cuts as are currently proposed by the governor, but to further suggest, that instead of providing an increase to the employees, all of which are making more than their private industry counterparts, simply implement the required retirement funding, AT THE CURRENT RATES OF PAYMENT! Our government was created by the people for the service of the people. Is it not ridiculous to think, that just because one is SERVING his fellow citizen through THE SERVICE of government, that he should automatically be absolved from the consequences that WE THE PEOPLE are experiencing. Somehow, we have been led to believe that government workers are supposed to be immune from the economic turbulence that is impacting everyone else. Just as the hand cannot claim more importance than the foot, the mouth more important than the ear; a teacher should not assume to be of greater importance than a bus driver, or a DMV clerk more important that a Wal-Mart employee. We have all been impacted by this economic downturn, and it is not within the realm of reality, to anticipate not only to not have to fear for a job, but to continue to grow prosperous as well.
For those who disagree with the governor, quit and take your chances in the private sector with the rest of us. Come on in, the water is cold and unforgiving. If not, then quiet yourself and give thanks to God that you even have a job with benefits and retirement with which to gripe about. There are many who would gladly trade places with you. Indeed, perhaps that would be best. Energetic and grateful workers would be a tremendously refreshing relief to the apathetic and taken for granted attitude so rampant in local, state and federal government these days.
Would his employment contract not cover the details of his retirement package? And would such a contract not be obtainable through a FOIA request?
Mr. O’connell’s apparent fleecing of local taxpayers may or may not be supported by employment contracts and agreements. If so, perhaps some heads should roll?
Do two wrongs make a right? My mom and dad taught me — consistently — no. So it is a bit unnerving that the solution for a lack of transparency, and hiding behind the law, is for untrustworthy employees (as Rob refers to them on radio, “our moles”) — perhaps with an ax to grind — allegedly divulge privelged data.
In my profession, one would be summarily hung out to dry and publically flogged. In Rob’s, you are deemed a “hero”. I’d like to think our values, however, are worn by us not as a function of the rules we work under, but by the core within. I’d like to thank my mom and dad.
since when does shinning a light of truth qualifiy as being a wrong? If I am to understand the consistent teachings of your parents, as you so proudly state above, instead of praising those who hid the Jews and worked against the Nazi’s, we should hang them out to dry and publically flog them. God help your profession, it must be tyrannical. O’connel is a legal thief, worthy of a rail and the tar and feathers. Rob is our Paul Revere, Sam Adams, and Patrick Henry all in one, and if he happens to attract the actions of those still possessing a conscience within the bowels of the city beast, so much the better.
Wait a minute…the City only has money if it confiscates it from the citizens, no? So, the money being paid is the People’s money, no? And the City won’t tell one of its citizens how much of his money they’re spending for this guy’s retirement benefits? Can a judge tell the City to disclose how public funds are being spent? Hmmm…interesting. I wonder if there is a local organization that might be so inclined to take up such a case?
[…] Although he does not cite it, Jones derives his authority to override law enforcement through his designation as “Director of Public Safety,” a title fraudulently obtained by former Charlottesville City Manager, Gary O’Connell, in a successful attempt to pad his retirement pension. […]