City attorney: Richmond mayor’s bonus payments to city workers was illegal

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — With less than two weeks left in office, Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones is under fire for single-handedly authorizing $1.9 million dollars in bonuses for all city employees. The payments were announced December 13 as an “end-of-term thank you.”

Now, City Attorney Allen Jackson says the mayor did not have the authority to sign off on the end-of-term gifts.

“I’d like to know how he can get by with this,” questioned 8th district Councilwoman Reva Trammell, one of Mayor Jones’ toughest critics. “Did he bypass council? Yes he did.”

Full-time city workers received an extra $500 on their December 16 paychecks, while part-time workers got $250. In a memo to council members on December 20, Jackson said the payments were illegal.

“Does the Mayor have the legal authority to grant department heads the authority to provide bonuses? No, only the City Council may authorize bonuses, and it may only do so by ordinance,” Jackson wrote. “The conclusion remains true regardless of whether one speaks about departments within “the Administration” or departments overseen by appointees of the City Council.”

“(The mayor) is sending out the message that he doesn’t care,” Trammell told 8News. “That he can do anything he wants to do, and nobody can touch him.”

In an email to 8News, the mayor’s press secretary defended his singled-handed sign-off, saying the mayor’s office does have the power to give bonuses under a 1993 ordinance.

22457c32ea6c480aa64947f82a3181beNow the question is, would workers have to repay the money, or would the city try to recover the payments from those who signed off on them?

“I want those employees to have the money,” Trammell said. “Is he going to take the money back from them?”

The councilwoman also said she believes the mayor should personally pay back the money himself.

Two council members have recommended a special meeting to discuss the payments while Mayor Jones is still in office. There has been no word yet on whether that will happen.

This is a developing story. Stay with 8News online and on air for the latest updates.

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