Beach Politicians Want Personal Assistants

by Kerry Dougherty

Keep an eye on Virginia Beach City Council. They have a habit of shoving aside controversial matters only to bring them back when they think no one’s looking.

This week, the conscience of the council, John Moss, embarrassed his colleagues by shaming them for wanting “personal assistants.”

They put off the vote on a plan to hire personal help until some vague point in the future. You know, when the public’s attention is elsewhere.

These self-important little potentates — who refused to reduce the real estate tax rate to help struggling residents this spring — now want to use tax dollars to hire personal aides to lighten their work loads.


Not to worry, they say, the loot wouldn’t come from the general fund, it would be drawn from the council’s favorite slush fund. The one made up of ghost city positions that exist on paper but are never filled.

When I talked to Moss yesterday, he said the city keeps at least 800 jobs vacant at all times. If you do the math – multiply 800 by $65,000 – that comes to a fat $52 million a year in play money for city council.

That artificially bloated fund should not be used to pay for unpopular or pet projects of city council that wouldn’t be approved any other way. Every cent came from taxpayers. They need to give the money back.

Here’s an idea: Any city job that’s unfilled for more than 90 days ought to be automatically abolished. To resurrect that position the department head should be hauled in front of the public to justify its necessity.

Under the preposterous plan for personal assistants, the city would use $460,000 of its ghost employee fund to hire assistants for all council members at a rate of 20 bucks an hour, for 20 hours of work a week. Best of all, these wouldn’t be city employees, they’d be contract workers.

“The city charter doesn’t allow council members to have employees,” Moss told me, so the contract provision would be a sneaky work-around.

The chicanery never stops with this crew.

“If we think it’s right to have personal assistants we should begin the process of changing our charter,” Moss said. “Take it to the General Assembly and then put it to the voters to see if they want the change.”

Good luck with that.

Moss, who was first elected to city council in 1986, points out that every member of that body begged voters to give them a job knowing that they would have to do the work themselves. Moss reckons that since he retired from his full-time job with the Navy he spends about 70 hours a week on council business.

He’s not complaining. Or asking for help. And Moss is hands-down the most thorough member of city council. The only member who has a clue about budgeting.

Memo to those whining about the work load: It’s called public service for a reason. If you can’t keep up, step aside.

On top of that, with a move to a ward system, most council members now represent about 46,000 voters instead of the entire city of 460,000.

“That’s a 90% reduction,” Moss laughs. “Yet just as their work load drops they want personal assistants.”

Of course they do. It makes them feel important.

But why stop at personal assistants. Why not chauffeurs and cars? Surely these elites could get more work done if they didn’t waste so much time driving themselves around town like peasants.

While we’re making life easier for politicians, how about personal stylists?

Lord knows, most of the members of Virginia Beach City Council could use those.

This column has been republished with permission from Kerry: Unemployed & Unedited.

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15 responses to “Beach Politicians Want Personal Assistants”

  1. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    All for it! Gives ’em an opportunity to hire someone smarter than they. (of course it’s more likely to be a source of nepotism)

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      They will swap off. Councilman A will hire the kid or cousin of Councilwoman B, and so forth. Donor last names will also proliferate.

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        Oh, alright! Technically not nepotism, it’s cronyism. Could also be bipartisan cronyism. Local politics is the laboratory of graft.

  2. vicnicholls Avatar

    John Moss is an incredible public servant.

    1. John Harvie Avatar
      John Harvie

      Best comment on the thread.

  3. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll

    Most important (for Kerry) were any of them wearing masks…?!

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      More importantly for them, was she? Burkas have reason.

  4. Scott McPhail Avatar
    Scott McPhail

    A few points . .
    A) Do they actually need one- what is the average workload of a City Councilman?
    B) Congress has over 10,000 staffers- is 11 part-timers outlandish for a city of a half million?
    C) If conservatives really want less big government than they need to stop treating every increase in local government as the same as an increase of Federal power. Local government already suffers vis a vis the Federal in funding, manpower, and in that big intangible, public attention. Unaddressed local issues don’t disappear these days they just get a transfer of venue to the state or national capital.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      The free-lunch, something-for-nothing crowd very much includes taxes and services in that “want”.

      i.e. – ‘why do schools need employees other than teachers” and some such.

    2. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      State legislators have an allowance for aides, and most hire one or two, often year-round. Good gig with a pension, health care, per diem for the main ones. Then during session they have secretaries — most that work in offices other times of the year also have their work secretary. Then in session interns often fill out the office.

      Kidding aside, one asst/aide to deal with correspondence, schedules, keeping track of papers, makes some sense for local government. The Richmond city council members have such folks — not sure of their employment status. The times of my working life when I had such a person it was usually a blessing.

      The real job of course is to be the gatekeeper and to keep the gate….shut. 🙂

  5. Scott McPhail Avatar
    Scott McPhail

    This week
    “My local guys don’t need that pay/manpower/funding!”

    2 years later
    “I am tired of the decisions affecting me being made far off in Washington by people I don’t!”

  6. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    Having a personal assistant, as described by Steve, would probably increase the amount of attention constituents could get for their problems.

    Kerry is somewhat disingenuous in describing the source of funding for these positions. She call them “ghost city positions that exist on paper but are never filled.” Is that really accurate that none of these positions are never filled? I suspect that John Moss’s description is more apt–“at least 800 jobs vacant at all times.” That is called turnover and vacancy. It happens in all large organizations–public and private. I don’t know how many people work for Virginia Beach, but I suspect that an average of 800 positions being vacant at any one time is not unreasonable.

    As I explained in an earlier article, state agencies use their turnover and vacancy “savings” to cover inflation in their procurement process, as well as to fund unexpected problems that arise during the year. Undoubtedly, agencies in Virginia Beach, police department, fire department, etc, do the same.

    That being said, responsible budgeting would not use the turnover and vacancy savings for recurring, ongoing expenses, such as paying for personal aides to council members. They should be included in the budget item for council expenses.

  7. Paul Sweet Avatar
    Paul Sweet

    “Here’s an idea: Any city job that’s unfilled for more than 90 days ought to be automatically abolished.”

    I agree that banking 800 unfilled positions is ridiculous. However, if city hiring policies are as convoluted as state policies they would be lucky to be able to advertise for a position within 90 days. It probably takes another 90 days to receive and evaluate applications, interview and select an applicant. Sometimes the applicant takes another position they applied for at the same time, or changes their mind. If the applicant tells his employer that he or she is leaving, the employer may offer more to keep him or her. Then you have to go back a couple steps and take still more time.

    1. WayneS Avatar

      Good point. Perhaps something like: “Any vacant city job for which is no significant effort towards filling the position has been made within 180 days of it becoming vacant…”.

  8. WayneS Avatar

    These people can always resign from the Council if the work is too much for them.

    PS – Ms. Dougherty, I think your article would have more effectively highlighted the issue at hand without the personal insults contained in the last two sentences.

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