Richmond auditor says city broke procurement rules

By Rachel DePompa - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The city is responding to a report that says it broke the rules under the Wilder administration. A top city official has resigned and Thursday night we're asking questions about why taxpayer money was unfairly spent.

Mayor Dwight Jones says the allegations are serious. This all stems from a report just released from the city auditor. It says city leaders violated their own rules when buying new cruisers for the Richmond Police Department. One council member says it's a black mark on the city's reputation.

Crown Victoria - it's the police cruiser of choice for 80 percent of police departments around the country. In 2007 Richmond needed to buy 40 more cars. It spent just under a million dollars of your money. They got them from Sheehy Ford.

But City Auditor Umesh Dalal says that deal broke all of the city's procurement rules. After a tip into the city's fraud and abuse line, Dalal's investigators took a closer look. He says a contract like this should have been open to all of the Ford dealers in the city and even the nation.

"To do something like this is appalling," said Charles Samuels.

City council member Charles Samuels is angry about the report. He says taxpayers deserve better.

"When you act as a part of the administration of the city you should do anything except be incredibly mindful that this is not your money to play with. This is the people's money and that you're asked to be good stewards with those funds," he said.

This all happened under Mayor Doug Wilder's watch. Richmond's Director of Procurement services, Eric Mens, actually authorized the deal. He gave notice on June 30 he was resigning from office on August 30. We tried, but were unable to reach him.

Mayor Jones administration says it did not ask for his resignation and the auditor's report is currently being reviewed by senior staff.

Sheehy Ford Vice President Skip Jabbar says quote: "Sheehy was asked to give a bid, we gave it and we have no idea what the city did or how it awarded this contract."

Mayor Jones has contacted the city's top prosecutor and says the city will fully cooperate with any investigation. He goes on to say, quote: "We want to ensure a procurement process that is fair, competitive, transparent, cost efficient, impartial and above all ethical,"

No word Thursday night if criminal charges are possible.

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