Investigation shows misuse of taxpayer dollars in Richmond

J.R. Pope, Jr.
J.R. Pope, Jr.

By Tara Morgan - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A big shake up at city hall after an investigation reveals misuse of your tax dollars. That includes the construction of a desk at a cost of $12,000 and it's not even finished.

The City Parks and Recreation Director, J.R. Pope, Jr. has resigned amid the accusations.

The investigative report shows two parks employees charged the city overtime to work on a desk that wasn't even necessary. A replacement reception desk for the Pine Camp Community Center.

In what should have taken no more than 40 hours -- according to City Auditor Umesh Dalal's report -- instead took two months at a cost of nearly $12,000. The city auditor said there could be even more fallout.

But, the report shows the Director of Parks and Recreation, J.R. Pope, Jr. and two others in management approved 135 hours of overtime for the two parks employees who disregarded a request to refurbish the existing desk and constructed a new one, which had been deemed unnecessary.

The reception center is supposed to go right at the entrance of the Pine Camp Community Center. But Dalal said it's not even finished and it's not built to specifications so they're going to have to spend even more money to fix it.

The report also shows an untrained equipment operator was hurt when he mishandled a saw that led to a nearly $25,000 medical bill.

Mayor Dwight Jones released this statement: "The findings of the investigative reports are of great concern. We hate to see these kinds of problems take place and we want to act quickly to correct and improve operations."

Pope, who resigned, has overseen important projects in Richmond including the recent restoration of Forest Hill Park's lake.

Some Richmonders we spoke with are glad city leaders are taking this seriously.

"We always pay a lot of taxes if they're misusing it it's definitely something needs to be addressed," said Bobbie Wilson.

The mayor also said disciplinary hearings have been ordered for the employees involved and a national search is underway for a new Parks and Recreation Director.

The city auditor said his office is committed to identifying fraud risk and abuse and to call this hotline at 646-5697 to report such activity.

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