Category Archives: Scandals

Virginia Emergency Management During COVID – A Well-Documented Scandal

By James C. Sherlock

The National Incident Management System Preparedness Cycle

We could see it wasn’t right as it unfolded.

Virginia’s flawed response to COVID was slow for all Virginians.

Fatal for some.

But the public just saw the broad stroke external effects.

  • We saw executive orders that seemed sudden, sweeping, and disconnected from the information we had. It turns out that often the governor himself was operating in an information vacuum.
  • In the pandemic’s early phases, the Commonwealth finished last or next to last among states in crucial responses like testing and vaccination program rollouts.  Everything seemed to be invented ad hoc rather than from a plan.  It turns out that was true.
  • There was a prescient and well-drawn pandemic operations plan that had been produced by a contractor, but virtually no one in the administration knew what it required, and certainly had never practiced it in any meaningful way or fine-tuned it based on realistic exercises.  When BR found and reported on that plan in 2020, it was pulled from public view.

It is important to make sure that doesn’t happen again, whether in another pandemic or in a cyber attack, hurricane, flood, mass shooting, kinetic terrorist attack, nuclear plant emergency, or something else.

In response to my request, a very cooperative Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) FOIA official has provided a remarkable and profoundly disturbing two-volume series detailing a running history and operations analysis of what happened inside the government.

It is titled “COVID-19 Pandemic History and After Action ReportVol. 1 (covers 2020) and Vol. 2. (covers 2021) hereafter referred to as the HAAR.

It was compiled and written under contract by CNA, a highly regarded federal contractor, who had people on site in Richmond during the COVID response.

The HAAR describes and assesses a series of widespread and seemingly endless internal and external government breakdowns that compromised the health and lives of Virginia’s citizens.

Management turmoil in the state government during COVID was so extensive as to be almost indescribable by any group with less talent than the CNA team.

The HAAR documents that Virginia’s COVID response was hamstrung by a lack of operations management experience in the leadership.

I understand that with authority comes responsibility.

But the governor, his Secretary of Health and Human Resources, and his Health Commissioner were effectively the chain of decision makers during COVID.  All three were physicians.

But that is one reason we have a civil service.

Virginia’s civil service failed to prepare for its roles in emergency response long before Ralph Northam was governor.  HAAR documents the complete inability of the bureaucracy to plan, organize and equip, train for, exercise and execute emergency plans.

It is clear to me that without capable civil service support, no administration would have fared well.  I hope, by exposing this deadly failure, to prevent the same thing from happening again tomorrow.

I will make strategic recommendations here in this first part of what will be a series on this issue.

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Not a Good Look, Virginia

Not to give our friend Don the Ripper more ammo in his assertion that Virginia is the most corrupt state in the country, but… These numbers regarding federal public corruption convictions in Virginia’s Eastern District, published in a 2022 University of Illinois at Chicago study, “Anti-Corruption Report #14,” speak for themselves.

I’d like to see the figures broken down per capita. Who knows, maybe Virginia really is the most corrupt. Even if it’s not, just being in the same league as New York, New Jersey, and Louisiana is a badge of shame.

Hat tip: How_It_Works


Mysterious Laptop May Hold Clues To Virginia Beach Mass Shooting

by Kerry Dougherty

Most of the country is focused on the chaos taking place in Congress.

That’s nothing compared to the slice of crazy unfolding in Virginia Beach.

As best we can stitch together from Facebook and stories in The Virginian-Pilot, a member of the House of Delegates has been sitting on what could be a key piece of evidence in the mass shooting at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center in May of 2019.

Del. Kelly Convirs-Fowler, a Democrat, claims to have a laptop belonging to Dewayne Craddock , the city employee who murdered 12 people in a gruesome bloodbath in Building 2 on May 31, 2019 before he was finally killed by police.

According to a Facebook post Wednesday, Convirs-Fowler no longer has possession of the mysterious laptop, but has entrusted it to her lawyer.

The delegate refused to turn the computer over to Virginia Beach police who wanted to authenticate it as belonging to Craddock and examine it to see what’s on it.

According to The Pilot, Convirs-Fowler is also refusing to return the laptop to the woman who allegedly possessed it after the shootings. Convirs-Fowler was given the laptop by a third party.

Confused yet?
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Indictments For Loudoun County School Officials

by Kerry Dougherty

Looks like Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares just turned up the heat on Loudoun County.

When he was elected, Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed an executive order calling for an investigation into what happened in Loudoun County Public Schools, where an alleged predator in a skirt reportedly got a pass for raping one girl in a girls’ bathroom and was then shuffled off to another school where he allegedly assaulted a second victim.

On Monday a special grand jury convened by Miyares unsealed indictments against both Loudoun County School Superintendent Scott Ziegler — who was fired last week after the release of the grand jury report that called him “incompetent” and a “liar” — and LCPS spokesperson Wayde Byard who was suspended from his job yesterday.

They face criminal charges for allegedly making false statements. There are other charges against Ziegler.

Investigative reporter Luke Rosiak, who broke the Loudoun County story when most of the corporate media ignored it, claims that the alleged victims have been ignored by school officials.

The father of the first victim, Scott Smith, was thrust into the limelight after he was arrested at a June 22, 2021 school board meeting where Ziegler denied awareness of any bathroom rapes, despite having intimate knowledge of the attack on Smith’s daughter a month prior. But the second girl, who was dragged into an empty classroom, choked, and sexually assaulted in October 2021 at Broad Run High School, has remained silent publicly except for remarks at the assailant’s sentencing in court.

On Monday, her family issued a searing statement through their lawyer, Patrick Regan, saying that no school board members or officials had ever reached out to their daughter to ask how she was doing or express sympathy.

“With the release of the Grand Jury report, the public now knows what we have suspected since the start of this tragic event – that what happened to her on October 6, 2021 could have and should have been prevented,” the statement read.

“Over the last 14 months since our daughter was assaulted, not one member of the school board, LCPS administration, or even our local high school leadership has reached out to check on how she is doing, lend any type of support or even apologize for what we are going through as a family. That alone speaks volumes to what we have endured throughout this ordeal.”
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RVA 5X5: Enrichmond and the City’s Radio Silence

Photo credit: Flickr

by Jon Baliles

I won’t do a “Top Stories of 2022” list for this newsletter, but if I did, one of them would surely be the collapse of the Enrichmond Foundation and the radio silence on all fronts concerning its finances, the groups that depended on it, their assets, and the two historic Black cemeteries in its portfolio — Evergreen and East End Cemetery.

The important question is not so much what happened in 2022 (although that is important); the critical next steps — should anyone decide to take them — are what will happen in 2023?

A brief recap from the October 14 newsletter: “The Enrichmond Foundation was founded in the early 1990s and had grown to support more than 80 small, local, all-volunteer groups that worked to help Richmond in various ways, many of which focused on keeping the City green and clean. Enrichmond allowed the groups to use their insurance coverage and raise tax-free donations, served as a fiduciary for the funds each group raised, and distributed those funds as directed by the groups.

Suddenly in June, the Foundation announced a cessation of operations, leaving no transition plan. The Board voted to dissolve the Foundation but left no accounting of the funds it had in its accounts, and then within weeks the lawyer representing the Board stepped away from his role as counsel.

None of the “leaders” at City Hall has said anything about this. Not. A. Word.

The City’s Parks & Recreation Department has been able to assist some of the organizations, but there are so many they can’t do it all themselves. That’s why the Foundation existed. It is known that the amount of money held in trust for the various “Friends Of” groups is anywhere from $300,000 to $3 million, though I have been told recently that it is closer to the lower estimate.

While the City dawdles, how are these small “Friends Of” groups to do the important work they do (much of it is environmental) if they can’t access their donations? How can they raise money if they have no place to put it? The more this drags out, it is a safe bet those groups will lose volunteers, who will put their time toward other causes. Continue reading

Great Investigative Reporting of a Heartbreaking Story

Courtesy Asra Investigates

by James C. Sherlock

For a story that will simultaneously make you angry and break your heart, read Fathering While Black, by Asra Nomani and Debra Tisler.

It is the story of a guardian ad litem (GAL), Karen Keys-Gamarra, who is reported here to have systematically abused her position to pursue a Black father and his parents for the crime of loving and caring for his daughter while male.

The child’s mother was a junkie who exposed her baby to cocaine. The father is a gainfully employed paramedic in Stafford County with a clean record and clean drug tests. His own mother is a registered nurse and his father a retiree.

The GAL got an order from an Arlington J&D judge to take the child from the home of her father and grandparents last night.

The authors have practiced world-class investigative journalism in describing the case and the system — Arlington J&D judge, GAL and Child Protective Services — that worked together to seize the little girl. And put a gag order on her father and his parents.

If ethics violations were a crime, based on this reporting this case would be a Class 1 felony.

Now nobody in the system will comment.

Ms. Nomani and Ms. Tisler comment for them.  Thoroughly and compellingly.

Dysfunction Junction

It’s a close call, but I’d say that Portsmouth now has edged out Charlottesville as the most dysfunctional city in Virginia. The latest news: former Portsmouth City Manager Angel Jones is threatening to file a lawsuit against the city. Not only does she allege wrongful termination, Jones cites “major crimes involving public corruption” among city officials, reports the Virginian-Pilot.

While Charlottesville’s turnstile in senior administrative posts seems to be driven by the gap between insane wokeism and reality, I don’t recall any charges of personal corruption. If Jones can back up her allegations, it would appear that Portsmouth combines insane wokeism with widespread corruption. That’s a terrifying combination.

We’ll update with details if they come available. — JAB 

Embarrassing Non-Action

Word from the City of Richmond? Crickets

by John Baliles

The EnRichmond saga continues and it’s not a good read. In fact, it’s pretty awful.

To recap, the EnRichmond Foundation was founded in the early 1990s and had grown to support more than 80 small, local, all-volunteer groups that worked to help Richmond in various ways, many of which focused on keeping the City green and clean. EnRichmond allowed the groups to use their insurance coverage and raise tax-free donations, served as a fiduciary for the funds each group raised, and distributed those funds as directed by the groups.

Suddenly in June, they announced a cessation of operations, and left no transition plan. The Board voted to dissolve the Foundation but left no accounting of the funds it had in its accounts, and then within weeks, the lawyer representing the Board stepped away from their role as counsel.

Here are some headlines (and links) to stories that have appeared since this summer. They are in order both chronologically and from bad to worse: Continue reading

Complete and Total Incompetence & Negligence

Fox Elementary School after the fire. Photo credit: WTVR

by Jon Baliles

There can be no more fitting title for this post than this jaw-dropping, migraine-inducing story from Tyler Lane at CBS6 about the repeated warning signs about fire safety that were not only missed — but flat out ignored — by Richmond Public Schools (RPS) officials in 2020 and 2021, which culminated in the destruction by fire of Fox Elementary School and the school bus maintenance facility a few months later.

If it’s not criminal to so blatantly put thousands of kids’ lives at risk, it certainly should be a fireable offense. But what happened to the Director of Facilities who ignored all the warnings and repeated pleas by Fire officials to do something —anything — about the clear and present dangers to our schools and the kids inside them? RPS gave him a $30,000 raise?

Before the fire that destroyed Fox Elementary School in February 2022, a Richmond Fire Department captain pleaded with leaders of RPS that Fox was in violation of eight fire codes (including a faulty alarm panel) since August of 2021 and warned them “of ‘extreme neglect’ to fire safety and accused the district of a “complete lack of effort” ensuring schools were safe for occupancy.” Those violations were supposedly fixed but no re-inspection ever took place. Continue reading

Irish-Americans in Northern Virginia Caught in COVID Fraud

National Flag of Ireland

by James C. Sherlock

I am of Irish heritage. Grandparents and great grandparents on both sides immigrated to America in the 19th century.

Imagine my shame when I read a recent news release from the Department of Justice.

My people have taken entrepreneurialism a step too far. Continue reading

Racist Rant Results in Resignation

by Kerry Dougherty

When a shockingly racist 2021 Facebook post from Hampton Electoral Board Chair David Dietrich surfaced late last week the reaction from his fellow Republicans — from Gov. Glenn Youngkin to the Hampton GOP chief — was swift and unequivocal.

Resign, they said, or we will remove you from the board.

“As governor, I serve all Virginians,” Tweeted Youngkin on Saturday. “I won’t accept racism in our Commonwealth or our party. The abhorrent words of a Hampton Roads official are beyond unacceptable and have no place in Virginia. It’s time to resign.”

Dietrich reportedly resigned within the hour.

13NewsNow reported that the Hampton GOP, “shared a screenshot of the post, in which Dietrich used racist language to criticize the U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and retired Army Lieutenant General Russel L. Honoré.” Continue reading

The AG Should Investigate Portsmouth Political Corruption

by Ken Reid

Philosopher David Hume once said: “The corruption of the best things gives rise to the worst.” That may be the fate of the Portsmouth, population of 93,000, in the absence of outside oversight.

In the wave of protests over George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police in 2020, Portsmouth activists called for tearing down a 127-year-old monument to Confederate war dead. City Council deferred a decision to remove the two statues, as  required by law. In June a mob proceeded to topple one and behead the other. Portsmouth city police pressed charges against several high-profile participants. Although the charges were withdrawn, the subjects turned around and sued the city.

Rather than litigate the suits, the city awarded $300,000 earlier this year to state Senator Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, who is the Senate Pro Tempore and de facto Democrat political boss of Portsmouth. The remaining $150,000 was divided between 10 influential demonstrators, whom columnist Kerry Dougherty called the “Portsmouth 10.”

These include Portsmouth School Board Vice Chair LaKeesha Atkinson, an employee in the public defender’s office, and several city NAACP leaders. Among 19 arrested in the protest was the public defender, Brenda Spry. She was later confirmed by the General Assembly to be a judge — a decision that was decried by then-Delegate Jason Miyares before he was elected Attorney General. Continue reading

Warren Harris: From Economic Development Director To Embezzler

by Kerry Dougherty

Does anyone believe that if they stole almost $80,000 from the city of Virginia Beach, they’d be able to walk? Not spend a day in jail? Get a slap on the wrist?

Of course not. But the rules are different for crooked city officials.

Yesterday, the former head of Virginia Beach Department of Economic Development — Warren Harris, a liar and thief — was sentenced on four felony counts of Embezzlement by a Public Official. Despite a plea from prosecutors for jail time, Circuit Court Judge Steven C. Frucci gave him an eight-year prison sentence, every single day of it suspended.

The sentencing guidelines suggest just probation. Of course, there’s nothing to prevent a judge from going above the guidelines.

If ever a case cried out for jail time, this is it. Stealing from your neighbors, from the folks who pay your salary, is a particularly despicable act and a violation of public trust. 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

Northam Solves Mystery of the Man in Blackface

by Kerry Dougherty

Let’s just call it a missed opportunity.

Yesterday, with just three days remaining in his term as governor, Ralph Northam unveiled the official portrait of himself.

Surely some practical joker behind the scenes was tempted to replace the commissioned painting with that well-known portrait of Northam in blackface standing beside a friend or date in a Klan hood.

Imagine the gasps when the assembled crowd might have seen an enlargement of the notorious black and white snapshot instead of the painting that truly is destined to hang somewhere in the Capitol beside images of Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson.

Alas, no pranksters on the scene, so it appears that everyone politely applauded at the likeness painted by Stanley Rayfield, a gifted 34-year-old Virginia portrait artist. His painting features a tieless Northam beside two newspapers with the headlines “Virginia Repeals Death Penalty” and “The Country’s Biggest Remaining Confederate Statue Comes Down in Virginia.” On the bookshelf behind the governor is a photo of Pam Northam and a leather-bound book titled, “Covid-19 Pandemic Response.” Continue reading