Bad News at Richmond’s City Hall

Selena Cuffee-Glenn

Back in 2015, the City of Richmond was a managerial mess. Accusations flew of incompetence, conflicts of interest and revolving chair style management. One big problem was the deeply flawed installation of a financial computer system crucial to keeping the municipality functioning.

Then-Mayor Dwight Jones’s solution was to hire a ringer, Selena Cuffee-Glenn, who had earned a reputation for efficiency and competence as Suffolk’s city manager. She had a pair of degrees from the University of Virginia and a personable manner. When Levar Stoney succeeded Jones as mayor in 2017, he kept Cuffee-Glenn as the city’s chief administrative officer.

Then, reports circulated that relatives of Cuffee-Glenn seemed to be getting prize positions. Her daughter got a job at the city’s human resources department. A niece didn’t even have to formally apply for her $70,000 a year position.

An Inspector General’s report showed that as many as six Cuffee-Glenn relatives were working in some city capacity. On Sept. 18, Stoney fired her.

She says that her hiring policies did not violate any rules. She says she had no role in helping relatives get jobs. Her husband, for example, works for the city Sheriff’s Department, which she does not oversee. On the other hand, one relative got a Public Utilities job at a higher than average hourly rate.

Cuffee-Glenn may be innocent but the hiring of six relatives seems unusual. The truly sad news for Richmond is that it can’t seem to shake its reputation for malfeasance. While parts of the city, such as Scott’s Addition and Manchester, are undergoing a renaissance, the city is still stuck with under-performing schools and a poverty rate of more than 25 percent, twice the national average.

Stoney has been seen as an up-and-coming African-American politician with a strong political future. He has survived battles over city tax rate increases and a controversial, $1.5 billion plan to build a new coliseum along with offices, apartments, stores and restaurants north of downtown Broad Street. One of Cuffee-Glenn’s biggest assignments was overseeing the city’s role in that project.

Richmond’s problems, however,  may be too deep for Stoney or anyone else to solve anytime soon.

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14 responses to “Bad News at Richmond’s City Hall

  1. To paraphrase Auric Goldfinger — “One relative in city hall is happenstance. Two relatives in city government is coincidence. Six relatives in city hall is nepotism in action.”

  2. Please identify the portions of Richmond City government where you see bright signs of renaissance….we city taxpayers could use some good news. They can’t even get the mailing address right on the city business license I’m looking at above this laptop screen….

  3. Steve. I may have worded that badly. I did not mean city government but development in places like scott’s addition and manchester. Will try tp edit it

  4. Try having one high level manager with over 85% of employees of one nationality and ethnic background, with 3 women coming in that are wives of managers, and none had a job in the area before. Oh, and one of the relatives of a manager works there. All of a certain nationality have been chased off, but one, under said manager.

    It gets better. This is the working for the state, in an agency who talks about their diversity.

  5. “On Sept. 19, Stoney fired her.”

    You mean she was fired today. And it took four years, since 2015, to reach this point? If so, why?

    Does the city’s manager and/or chief administrative officer play any roll at all in the city’s school system and claim that its awful performance is due primarily to white racism? Or is that the doings and claim of an altogether different group of managers and system, the one that cannot even maintain its building, so it tears them down frequently, long before their otherwise useful life, in lieu of simpy maintaining them.

  6. Reed, She was actually fired on Sept. 18. My fault. I fixed it. My understanding was that she actually did good work in some areas. The city was notoriously late in fling required comprehensive annual financial reports with the state. That changed. For more info, here’s a story I did for Style Weekly on the city’s issues back in late 2015. I admit I haven’t kept up much with it since:

    https://www.styleweekly.com/richmond/the-frustrating-embarrassing-story-behind-richmond-city-halls-mind-numbing-financial-mayhem/Content?oid=2265997

    • Thanks for the information Peter. Maybe we should institute old civics courses in high school and at UVa. where she got two degrees in learning how to be “great and good.” The most inhumane medical specialist (vascular disease) I ever encountered (and I have encountered far more than my share of horrible specialists on my our account and on account of others), got his medical degree at UVA too. Something is rotten in the water there at UVA.

      • The water has always been rotten, the current problem is UVA preventing the students from adding bourbon to said rotten water.

        • Sage observation. All self righteous ideologues in the end turn into narrow minded bigoted puritans. Bourbon always thus becomes a target of these great and good people who otherwise are busily at work renovating their houses for $10,000,ooo.oo a pop on down, all this good work done using other people’s money, with the puritans hiding that fact while they preach to everyone else how great and good they, the puritans, are. Witness UVA today, for starters.

          • Call me impolitic or even Neanderthal but I would suggest the quality of the UVA graduate has diminished in direct correlation with the increased restrictions on alcohol.

            Part of the UVA “experience” was heavily dependent upon alcohol and in my view that experience (and the consequences of the occasional or not so occasional episode of over imbibing) prepared generations of undergraduates for life in the real, post Rugby Road world.

            As a result of those restrictions, more recent graduates are far less likely to suffer criticism or insults without running to their safe place, largely incapable of properly handling a corporate cocktail party (such that they still exist) and significantly more likely to file an HR complaint or civil action alleging their civil rights have in some fashion been violated by a boorish/bigoted/insensitive supervisor, thus making it much more difficult to climb the corporate ladder.

            I would also suggest that the current networking connections that come as a result of their hand holding/hand wringing social sessions are far less robust than say the connections previous generations had with those they imbibed with for four (or more) and occasionally bailed out of the Albemarle County lockup.

          • What? Bourbon isn’t allowed in ‘safe places’ at UVa?

        • As a UVA bourbon swilling Rugby wing-man (till injured), I can attest that those rigorous games and festivities at UVA and indeed up and down the East Coast, were the critical keys to my ability to not only survive, but to thrive, amid my elders, the Greatest Generation swilling down three martini lunches starting in 1970, until the puritans gained total control of those lunches in the early 1990s. That was the day the music died. Although, I continued heavily lifting on many fronts and campaigns for a time thereafter on behalf a well known Bourbon distiller earlier favored among Wahoos of earlier generations. The loss at UVA is beyond calculation.

          • They only supply the “safe places” with orange slices and participation trophies. If they allowed a little bit of vodka in I guess you could fashion a screwdriver and drink it out of the trophy but that would probably offend someone.

          • Reed Fawell 3rd

            Well, too, now at UVA safe spaces do not include offices running the UVA hospital as she, the hospital administrator, was just relieved of duty for allegedly trying to drive patients into bankruptcy to collect hospital bills said to be due and unpaid.

            Meanwhile, the UVA police chief is reported by the Daily Regress to be on paid administrative leave for reasons nobody at UVA will talk about.

            And, of course, downtown C’ville continues to Virginia’s headquarters for vandalism of public spaces thanks in large part to the leadership of UVA’s professors. This time the Daily Regress reports that:

            “Monument Fund to be granted access to Jackson statue following vandalism

            According to the Monument Fund, the allegorical figures of Faith and Valor on the base of the Jackson monument have suffered serious damage

            On Sunday, the statues of Jackson and fellow Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee were tagged with “1619” in a presumed reference to the first year enslaved Africans were transported to what is now the United States.

            Though Charlottesville Parks and Recreation cleaned off the graffiti Monday, the Monument Fund says the statue of Jackson experienced further damage. In a Facebook post attributed to the group, photos of the Jackson monument show apparent damage to the statue’s base.

            “The Monument Fund will meet with its attorneys to discuss how to initiate a criminal investigation, as the damage done to the Jackson Monument falls under a class 6 felony,” the post reads. “The Monument Fund is also contacting a company to inquire about whether the damage can be repaired and at what cost.”

            A spokesman for the Monument Fund could not be reached Thursday.

            In response to a request, the city provided a copy of a correspondence between the Monument Fund and City Manager Tarron Richardson.

            Jock Yellott, executive director of the Monument Fund, sent a letter to Richardson on Tuesday, requesting to install cameras in the statues’ respective parks at the group’s own expense.

            “The Monument Fund, Inc. previously offered to assist the City in mounting cameras in the parks. The City failed to respond,” Yellott wrote. “We will mount the cameras, and bear any risk of their loss.”

            Yellott also requested that the Monument Fund be allowed access to the statues past the orange fencing into the no-trespassing zone so that a granite expert can assess the damage and determine the cost of repairs.

            In a letter Thursday, Richardson denied the group’s request to install cameras but wrote that he will allow access to the Jackson statue. However, access will be limited to two individuals who must be approved for a specific date and time period prior to access. Written approval will be granted by the director of the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation.

            In a Facebook post Wednesday, the Monument Fund criticized the city’s response to the vandalism and wrote that it had contacted two experts in granite sculpture to assess the damage.

            “Charlottesville’s elected officials appear to be turning a blind eye to the criminality that has occurred in these parks,” the post reads. “Their position on the monuments is very clear as is ours: The Monument Fund is committed to seeing that justice is done.”

            The Charlottesville Police Department is investigating the incidents, spokesman Tyler Hawn confirmed Thursday. Because the incidents are under investigation, he could not confirm whether the damage alleged by the Monument Fund to the Jackson statue was new.

            This past week’s vandalism is not the first time the statues have been vandalized. The Lee statue was tagged with a political message in July. In February, someone spray-painted the word “fredom” on the base. Taggers also marked the statue with “Native Land” in July 2017 and “Black Lives Matter” in 2015.

            The latest instance comes after the end of a three-day trial over the City Council’s 2017 vote to take down the statues. Judge Richard E. Moore ordered that they must stay in place.” End Quote from Daily Progress, err Regress.

            Well, for sure, the grand legacy of former UVA President Teresa Sullivan continues on its rampage. Perhaps she ought to be asked to get off UVA’s payroll and leave town for good, as well as for everyone’s sake, sanity, well being and health.

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