RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Officials pointed fingers at Richmond City Hall Monday after allegations of special treatment and misuse of taxpayer money came to light. NBC12 was first to uncover an inspector general's report saying a former top executive in the mayor's administration was allowed more than $400,000 in benefits at the city's expense.
City leaders say the findings raise "very serious concerns." The commonwealth's attorney tells us it is too soon to predict if the issue will go to a grand jury for criminal charges.
The alleged special treatment reaches the highest levels of city government. It was reportedly given to Sharon Judkins by the mayor's "number 2," Chief Administrative Officer Byron Marshall.
The allegations of wrongdoing came into City Auditor Umesh Dalal as Sharon Judkins' sick leave had been "suspiciously restored at a suspicious time." Dalal concluded this was a "unique transaction" that violates the city's code of ethics.
We asked City Council President Charles Samuels if Judkins received special treatment. He responded, "It's unclear at this time if there was any special treatment given, but we have to look into it."
Dalal says Judkins and Marshall were negotiating her leave package. Marshall decided to return her an additional 800 hours of sick leave she had accrued during a previous city job twelve years ago, according to the report.
The auditor explains Marshall went as far as putting an addendum to Judkins' original offer of employment letter two years after it was drafted and just before the deputy chief administrative officer for finance and administration went on leave.
That would allow Judkins to retire at a higher salary level, leading to a loss of about $400,000, according to the report.
In his response, Byron Marshall says he checked with the city's human resources department and was given flawed advice. The city explains since then, Marshall was directed to rescind the sick leave offer.
"If we didn't take that step as recommended by the inspector general how can we look at the taxpayers and say 'we're watching out for your money,'" Samuels asked.
City leaders say with a budget picture like Richmond's it's important to get to the bottom of this.
"Earlier this year we were told by the administration that there was no more meat left on the bone, that any cuts this year would be cutting bone," Samuels added. "Then you see something like this occur then you wonder well, is there anymore meat or fat left on the bone."
Byron Marshall did not respond to our email request for comment Monday. Sources say he is out of town.
The commonwealth's attorney explains his office is currently digesting both the report and Marshall's response.
Judkins position was posted on the City's employment website on Sunday. Sources had previously told NBC12 that Judkins was no longer working for the City, but as recently as last week, the mayor's press secretary said Judkins was still on the job and out on leave.
Judkins had come under fire during her employment with the City for issues implementing crucial financial city software. Her salary was more than $166,000 per year.