NBC12 Investigates: Why is Dr. Graham getting severance?

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Letting go of the woman at the center of a scandal dealing with the city's department of social services will cost the taxpayers money. Dr. Carolyn Graham will get almost $60,000 in severance pay and compensation after stepping down.

The deputy chief administrative officer will get $40,000 in severance and more than $18,000 for unused vacation time. The formula is spelled out in a city ordinance NBC12 dug up from 2004. Still, considering the allegations being investigated, the news isn't sitting well with some.

City leaders, appalled by accusations children are being left in dangerous homes to keep foster care numbers down, have some strong words.

"At some point, the folks who are in charge of this organization have to be held accountable for what happened on their watch," Councilman Charles Samuels has said.

The watch of Dr. Carolyn Graham was supposed to include change. In fact last year, after a scathing audit of the foster care system, Press Secretary Tammy Hawley told us the mayor pointed out the issues in need of attention when hiring the new leaders.

"We asked both of those leaders of that department and that agency to get this department in order," she said in 2011.

But that's not what happened. The agencies under Dr. Graham have been troubled during her tenure. The mayor was forced to close the juvenile detention center after the state learned of possible criminal and unethical activity by staff. An audit of parks, recreation and community services showed issues with background check policies. And now, there's another allegation about foster care.

So, the question for many has become: Why is Graham collecting $60,000 in city money after leaving the job under intense scrutiny?

The 2004 ordinance says employees like Dr. Graham are entitled to severance as long as they're terminated "for any reason other than malfeasance."

Legal experts tell NBC12 "malfeasance" is the doing of any wrongful or unlawful act and is difficult to prove. By paying her this money, it doesn't mean that she did anything wrong, but it also doesn't mean that she did not do anything wrong. This could just be a deal to expedite the process and move the city forward.

If someone wanted to publicly say they don't want Graham to get the check, it could be city council. It could pass a resolution either saying they don't believe she's entitled to the money or that they want to wait to pay her until the investigation is complete.

It is unclear at this point if the city attorney has received any inquiries regarding severance packages.

We are also still waiting for confirmation on what outside authority the city has asked to investigate the foster care and social services issues.

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