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.