Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Prevarication or fiscal shenanigans?

Prior to his term as mayor of Richmond, L. Douglas Wilder’s strong suit was said to have been his “fiscally conservative” approach to running a government. He was supposed to have been good with money matters. In no small part, he was elected to put Richmond’s fiscal house in order.

Since Wilder’s election he has disappointed some who voted for him, precisely because he has not lived up to the reputation of being good with money matters. Now comes the most recent problem over money.

Richmond Times-Dispatch writer Michael Paul Williams cuts Mayor Wilder no slack in his most recent column, “Double standard at City Hall.”
Ben Johnson, the city's director of emergency management, accepted a $500-a-month car allowance for 34 months while driving a city vehicle. This cost him his job.

In the meantime, Mayor L. Douglas Wilder received an even larger car stipend -- $700 a month -- while being provided with a vehicle by a city police security unit.

The mayor will apparently avoid any penalty, based on his pledge to reimburse the city. Johnson was afforded no such opportunity.
So far, Wilder’s explanation of how he could receive an improper $700-a-month payment from the City of Richmond for over three years has been that he didn’t notice it.

Well, some people don’t believe that could be possible. But isn’t this story one of those that is damning either way?

Either his explanation is less than the truth, or it means that Mayor Wilder, his accountant and his staff could all overlook some $25,000 in payments to him that he was never entitled to receive. Are we really expected to believe Wilder never looked at one of his paycheck's stub, or his income tax forms?

It seems to me, either it’s a lie, or it’s surely something other than fiscal responsibility.

-- Words and art by F.T. Rea

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