Category Archives: Government workers and pensions

City of Norfolk Allowed Its Animal Shelter Manager to Work Remotely. From Florida.

by Kerry Dougherty

To those who argue that remote work is lovely and only Luddites believe people should actually show up in their workplace every day, I offer THIS as an extreme example of what can happen.

The Virginian-Pilot reports that earlier this year some bonehead in the city of Norfolk gave the manager of the city’s animal shelter permission to move to Florida and work remotely until her replacement could be hired.

But guess what the long-distance manager did? According to The Pilot, in July she took a second job at another shelter in St. Petersburg.

There are all sorts of ethical questions about the actions of this city worker who continued to draw a fat Norfolk salary — courtesy of taxpayers — of $85,500 while living almost 1,000 miles away.

My real beef is with HER manager who okayed this insane arrangement. Continue reading

Bacon Bits: Your Tax Dollars at Work

The Big Dig ain’t got nothing on us. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) board has approved $250 million in additional funding to pay for cost overruns on Phase II of the Silver Line rail project, which, incidentally, was supposed to begin service in 2018, and Metro officials now hope will begin this fall. Fairfax County will have to cough up $40 million more, Loudoun County $12 million more, and MWAA $10 million more, reports The Washington Post. The balance will be foisted on the motorists using the Dulles Toll Road. By way of comparison, Phase I of the Silver Line was only $220 million over budget and only six months late.

That’s a lot of laptops. Two Fairfax County school employees and a third man have been charged with stealing as many as 35,000 laptops stored in a county warehouse and scheduled to be auctioned. The losses were estimated at $2 million. The laptops were loaded onto a box truck that arrived at the warehouse without the necessary paperwork. Police charged Fadi Atiyeh, owner of Attyah Computer Recycling, as well as Franque Minor II and Mario Jones Jr. who were employees at the warehouse, reports The Washington Post. The Fairfax County HR website says the county has 12,000 workers. That’s three laptops per employee, unless the county is handling the school system’s used laptops as well. The schools have more than 17,000 employees.

Fewer police, more violent crime. The City of Roanoke has seen an explosion in violent crimes this year. The number of firearm-related woundings and killings has surged: nine homicides so far this year compared to six during the same period in 2021, and 25 aggravated assaults compared to 19. Police Chief Sam Roman says the department’s priority is interrupting “the cycle of gun violence.” In addressing City Council, he pointed to more counseling and mentoring services for at-risk youth and the Groceries Not Guns program, which exchanges unwanted firearms for supermarket gift cards. Continue reading

Help Wanted: 300 Full-Time Jobs. Must Be Willing to Go to Work every Day

by Kerry Dougherty

Big headlines last week. Virginia state workers began an “exodus” when Governor Glenn Youngkin forced them to come back to work.

Youngkin announced on May 5th that he expected state employees to return to the offices they vacated when COVID struck in March of 2020.

The nerve!

You could hear the howling from Richmond all the way to Virginia Beach. Especially from Democrats, still indignant that voters booted them from the top three offices and eager to gin up dissatisfaction with the amiable new governor.

How dare the governor require workers who draw public paychecks to show up for work!

How dare the boss tell employees what to do!

How dare anyone tell state workers to take off their PJs! Continue reading

A Letter to an Old Friend

by James C. Sherlock

This article is rendered as a letter responding to an old friend and mentor, the University of Virginia, my alma mater.

I can imagine the University’s response to my last article on its culture:

The changes we have experienced in the culture of the University, its pervasive progressivism, which some may see as toxic to a public university, are not unique to the University of Virginia, have been decades in the making and will be very difficult to change from within.

I note the pessimism, but do not share the conclusion. Change it must, and we must not shelter in place and hope it blows over.

I firmly believe that the University will not survive as a public institution, and will not deserve to survive, with a leadership structure monitored by a political Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) commissariat that tolerates no dissent from progressive orthodoxy.

I don’t believe it will survive hiring practices that render the faculty politically single-minded.

I don’t believe it will survive a student experience that has driven large majorities of students to respond to surveys that they feel afraid to engage in debate on topics related to progressive dogma.

How can we honestly say we promote diversity, but not diversity of thought?
Continue reading

Hey, Virginia State Workers, Take Off Your PJs

by Kerry Dougherty

Hey, Virginia state employees, it’s time.

Time to close those laptops, take off your pajamas and head back to work.

I know, I know, it’s been fun sitting home with your cats since early 2020, when Gov. Ralph Northam shut down the commonwealth to slow the spread of COVID-19.

And we all know how successful THAT was. In fact, we’ll never know just how many lives were saved by prohibiting loud music on the beach and volleyball.

The fun is over. Time to get into the 9-to-5 routine again. Governor Glenn Youngkin is graciously giving you until July 5th to ease yourselves back into the office. Those with legitimate health needs or other concerns can apply to continue to telecommute, but the expectation is that state government will soon be functioning as it did prior to the pandemic: in-person and five days a week.

Is that too much to ask? Continue reading

Deja Vu, All Over Again

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

As reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Governor Youngkin “wants state employees back in their offices under a new telework policy that will take effect July 5 to guide executive branch agencies out of workplace restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

To that effect, he has announced a policy that will let state agencies determine which jobs will be eligible for remote work and how often employees will be allowed to perform their duties outside of their government offices.

That is a reasonable-sounding approach.  In fact, it is so reasonable that it was the state’s policy before COVID-19 resulted in most state employees working from home.

The big difference now, of course, is that so many state employees have experienced working from home and many of them like it. The pressure will be on agency heads and supervisors to determine which jobs are suitable for remote work and to deal with those employees who will be unhappy that they will not be allowed to continue to work from home as often as they would like.

Statewide Teacher Shortage: 2,500 Vacancies and Counting

by James A. Bacon

Virginia’s public schools had 2,500 teacher vacancies in October 2021, according to Virginia Department of Education data, reports Capital News Service.

That number is likely higher today, as burned-out teachers quit their jobs in the middle of the school year in unprecedented numbers.

Despite hiring 700 to 900 teachers per year on average, Prince William County has 453 vacant positions. Richmond City Public Schools lists 90 open teacher vacancies. Fairfax County Public Schools has about 200 vacancies, although because it is so large, the county is only 1% shy of being fully staffed.

Schools are filling open positions by hiring teachers with provisional licenses, which means they have not yet completed teacher preparation programs. “Recruiting pools of people and making it easier for them to enter doesn’t actually solve the crisis. I equate it to filling a leaky bucket,” Adria Hoffman, president of the Virginia Association of Colleges and Teacher Educators, tells Capital News Service. Continue reading

FOIA Council Response on Open Meeting Requirements in Discussions of Local Government Contracts with Public Unions

Courtesy collectivebargaining.com

by  James C. Sherlock

I submitted questions to the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council concerning FOIA open meetings requirements applicable to local government sessions discussing contracts with unions.

I received a very prompt and thorough reply.  

The following is the response of Alan Gernhart, Esq., Executive Director. Continue reading

Negotiating with Public Sector Unions in Virginia

Courtesy negotiations.com

by James C. Sherlock

Some Virginia local governments will be negotiating this year for the first time with public sector unions.

There is a lot of experience and recommendations documented in other states upon which those governments can draw.

Recommendation #1 is that cities, counties and towns hire:

  • law firms with proven experience representing municipal governments in negotiations with public unions; and
  • an independent auditor with experience in contract negotiations to assess the fiscal impacts of proffered terms and conditions.

The unions will show up with seasoned contract negotiators. It is not a game that favors rookies.

Always remembering recommendation #1, we’ll take a look at Virginia law and then at what the professional literature suggests are some of the ways for governments to prepare for first-time union negotiations. Continue reading

Richmond, Its Unions and Taxes

by James C. Sherlock

Richmond residents should note that:

The number of employees at City of Richmond in year 2020 was 4,140.

Average annual salary was $56,410 and median salary was $50,001. City of Richmond average salary is 20 percent higher than USA average and median salary is 15 percent higher than USA median.

Median per capita income in Richmond in 2020 dollars was $35,862. Median household income was $51,421. Approximately 21% of Richmond citizens live below the poverty level.

The City of Richmond’s FY 2023 total General Fund budget is estimated to be $836,015,828, an 8.18% increase when compared to the FY 2022.

The increases in spending represent a projected balanced budget based on estimated increases in revenues. Those in turn are driven by a projected increase in General Property Taxes – notably a 13.13% increase in real estate tax collections; increases in Sales Tax (9.27%); and increases in Prepared Meals Taxes (15.95%).

Those increases in tax collections are largely from Richmond taxpayers. How many got double-digit increases in income in 2022? Just asking.

Now the Richmond City Council is about to approve negotiations with its unions on pay and benefits. The RPS, of course has gone much further than the City Council in putting everything on the table.

Those costs are not in the budget. Continue reading

Richmond Parents and Taxpayers, Welcome to Chicago Public Schools

by James C. Sherlock

The gulf between what the City of Richmond School Board (RSB) and the Richmond City Council (RCC) on what will be negotiated with their public unions is actually an ocean.

The RSB has authorized the negotiation of virtually everything about how the schools are run. It leaves nothing off the table except the right to strike and the right to negotiate a closed shop (Virginia is still a right to work state), both of which state law still prohibits. But the unions can negotiate what are essentially the work rules of a closed shop.

In contrast, the City Council is poised to pass an ordinance on May 5th from two candidate drafts, one from Mayor Stoney and the other from three Council members. The Mayor’s version states what will be negotiated — pay and benefits. The other states what will not be negotiated with an eleven-point description of the City’s Rights and Authorities.

The City Council drafts, especially the Mayor’s, have it right. They note the City Council’s duties under the laws of Virginia and to the citizens of their city.

Not so the school board. The RSB resolution acknowledges only one stakeholder: its unions.

Unmentioned in the RSB resolution is exactly who is going to represent the city in its negotiations with its unions. Ideally it will be a team composed of City Council (finance) and School Board subject-matter experts. If so the city reps will be operating under two sets of negotiating rules in direct opposition to one another.

I’d buy a ticket, but maybe under the sunshine laws negotiations will be on TV. Continue reading

Know the Terms of Surrender in Negotiating With Teachers Unions

Courtesy of Show Me Institute

by James C. Sherlock

Franklin Roosevelt thought collective bargaining agreements incompatible with public sector work.

Today’s left, unburdened by the public interest, finds FDR’s principles at best quaint.

Since May of last year collective bargaining is legal in Virginia for local government employees by local option, but for not state employees.

The issues most people think of being negotiated by unions are pay and benefits and, in blue collar unions, on-the-job safety. For teachers unions, we need to be sure negotiations are limited to pay and benefits, or they will take over the running of the schools.

Such a takeover is now policy in Richmond Public Schools. Continue reading

Causes of the School Funding “Crisis”

Courtesy Wise County Public Schools

by James C. Sherlock

Read the story, “House and Senate lay out dueling visions for education funding in Virginia,” in the Virginia Mercury this morning by the reliably thorough Kate Masters.

If you follow it, you, like everyone else in Virginia, can pick a side or pick provisions from both houses that you prefer.

What you won’t find in either budget version is an attempt to tackle the massive amounts of money that are wasted in plain sight. Much of the waste is attributable to faulty or non-existent assessments of need and misplaced local priorities.

The rest is traceable to the self-serving inputs of the schools of education, which have owned and operated the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) for years. Continue reading

“Frozen” Property Taxes

by James C. Sherlock

I admit my fascination with how newspapers present various issues. It is an important window into the information their readers are getting.

City manager and county executive proclamations that property tax rates are “frozen” are meant to sound like fiscal constraint. Consider this headline from The Washington Post:

“Fairfax County executive proposes budget with tax-rate freeze, less pandemic austerity”

First paragraph:

“Fairfax County Executive Bryan Hill proposed a budget Tuesday that would freeze the residential property tax rate while spending more on county services — part of a push to end fiscal austerity in Northern Virginia amid signs of economic stability”

End “fiscal austerity” in Fairfax County. Seriously?

“Hill was able to present a $4.85 billion spending plan that focuses on some key areas of growth for Virginia’s most populous jurisdiction while keeping the residential property tax rate at $1.14 per $100 of assessed value.”

Where do we get such men? Everybody wins, right? Continue reading

Bacon Bits: Public Servants in Action

Robert Bobb to the rescue. Robert C. Bobb, a former Richmond city manager turned public-sector turnaround artist, pulled the City of Petersburg back from the brink of bankruptcy. Now he will endeavor to manage the City of Charlottesville, which has been hobbled by racial tensions and interpersonal conflicts. After debilitating turnover in the administration — seven executive-level positions are vacant or filled by acting supervisors — City Council has hired the Robert Bobb Group to provide city manager services for the next six months, according to Virginia Public Radio.

Bobb salvaged Petersburg, but can he save Charlottesville? Petersburg suffered from simple incompetence. But the People’s Republic of Charlottesville is prone to militancy, ideological fracture, absolutist judgments and cancel culture. Bobb, who stabilized Detroit public schools, is an administrative superman. Will Charlottesville be his kryptonite? 

Faking DNA results to fake out suspects. The Virginia Beach Police Department used forged documents linking peoples’ DNA to crimes on at least five occasions to get them to confess, the Attorney General’s Office has found. The fake documents bore a seal and letterhead from the Virginia Department of Forensic Science and the signature of a fictitious employee, reports CBS NewsIn one instance, a forged report was presented to a court as evidence. After its own investigation, the VB police ended the practice earlier this year. “This was an extremely troubling and potentially unconstitutional tactic that abused the name of the Commonwealth to try to coerce confessions,” said AG Mark Herring. Continue reading