Oh Look. An Indictment
UPDATE: From the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office on Tuesday morning 11/13: Brian Scott Hall turned himself in this weekend. He was granted a bond by the magistrate. He has a determination of counsel (attorney appointment hearing) on Weds, 11/14, at 9:30 am. If he retains an attorney and notifies the Circuit Court and Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office of this, then he does not need to appear on 11/14 and his trial date will be selected on 11/28. If he does not hire an attorney before 11/14, it will be set out another few weeks for an attorney appointment hearing.
Sniff, sniff, sniff. What’s that smell?
It seems to be coming from the direction of 4525 Main Street, Suite 700 in Virginia Beach’s Town Center, where the Virginia Beach Development Authority and the Economic Development Department have their office.
There’s so much that could be contributing to the aroma.
The 11-member Virginia Beach Development Authority is comprised of political appointees. The members are appointed by the City Council to staggered four-year terms and meet monthly.
The Virginia Beach Economic Development employees are city staffers.
Their mission is simple: To expand the city’s tax base by luring businesses to the city.
Yet with little apparent oversight, both seem ripe for unsavory shenanigans.
Award-winning investigative reporter John Holland spent two months this summer looking at every VBDA vote since Jan. 1, 2010. What he found was an astonishing brew of conflicts and connections.
On August 17th we published Holland’s first expose on the VBDA where he detailed how members were doing lucrative deals with each other.
On September 7th we published another hard-hitting Holland report, this one on VBDA member Linwood Branch’s conflicts. His term expired in August.
Unrelated to those reports, on Oct. 8th, Warren Harris, the long-time director of the Economic Development Department earning about $170,000 a year, suddenly resigned.
And on Friday some of us learned that a former high-ranking Economic Development staffer, Brian Scott Hall, was indicted on embezzlement charges. More about that in a minute.
At the time of Harris’ unexplained October departure The Pilot reported that the city’s auditor was “reviewing credit card purchases by Harris and Economic Development staff.”
Now this. An indictment.
Hall, the former business development coordinator for the Economic Development Department, was charged Nov. 5th with three felony counts of embezzlement against the City of Virginia Beach.
And since the city has no money unless the taxpayers provide it, let’s be clear: Mr. Hall is charged with stealing from you and me.
Details are sketchy but The Pilot noted that Hall “worked for the city for more than nine years. He left his job on June 28 after he had been interviewed about his spending. The city declined to say under what circumstance Hall left.
“Hall is now the vice president of Economic Development for Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce in Kentucky, according to the organization’s website,” The Pilot reported.
Not for long, I suspect.
In the midst of all this, on August 21, Councilman Jim Wood voted to reappoint his own mother to the VBDA. A move so audacious that even The Pilot’s editorial board harrumphed about it.
Enough already. It shouldn’t take felony indictments to tell us that something’s off at the free-wheeling Town Center offices.
Backscratching, profiteering, nepotism. Now alleged criminal activity by city staff.
Frankly, none of this passes the smell test.