Cronyism, Favoritism and Nepotism
If you live in Virginia Beach and you’re OK with the way the Virginia Beach Development Authority does business, you’re part of the problem.
If you’re a candidate for city council and you believe the practices of the VBDA are shining examples of good government, you’re promising to prolong the problem. And you need to lose.
What problem am I talking about?
The city is lousy with it. Has been for decades.
Cronyism is what good government candidates are really talking about when they choose their words carefully and say the city appears to be “closed for business.” That there needs to be a “level playing field."
They may be afraid to call it cronyism. I’m not.
Think about it. In a city with a population of about 453,602 people, the city council appoints exactly 11 residents to the city’s development authority.
One is the MOTHER of a city council member.
One works for TowneBank, the bank former Mayor Will Sessoms worked for when he got caught voting on items that benefited borrowers of that bank. The bank he’s gone back to work for after quitting his job at City Hall this spring. A bank that funds many local development projects.
And freelance investigative reporter John Holland says three other VBDA members have asbstained from votes due to their connections to the same bank.
Another is a former city council member who was so friendly to developers when he was on that body, that former Virginian-Pilot columnist Dave Addis referred to him in print as a "goat boy" for the developers. He was also the mayor’s handpicked successor who suddenly dropped out of the race for the top job earlier this summer.
Another works for Gold Key/PHR, which has struck multiple public/private partnerships with the city.
Another, of course, is the man we wrote about Friday, whose companies were involved in the short-lived Green Flash Brewery and other projects.
“(Jerry) Miller is founder and CEO of the Miller Group” wrote John Holland on this website Friday, “a major real estate development and construction company that has ties to several companies doing business with the VBDA. Records show Miller dutifully recuses himself from all votes in which he has a financial interest,”
But why the heck are members of this authority doing business with it at all?
Is it asking too much for city council to appoint folks to the VBDA with nothing to gain from VBDA-supported projects?
It’s time - long past time, really - for the city to demand strict ethical guidelines for the VBDA. (And for themselves, too, while they're at it.)
It starts with appointments.
No one should be appointed to the VBDA who’s done business with the authority in the past five years.
Furthermore, VBDA members - and companies they work for - should be prohibited from doing business with the authority for another five years after their terms end.
That should weed out the profiteers.
And for the love of God, no one who’s related to a member of the city council should EVER be appointed.
Cronyism, favoritism and nepotism have created a stench of dead fish in an otherwise splendid city.
New appointments are coming. Time to start cleaning up this embarrassing mess.