Category Archives: Scandals

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

What Is Going on in Portsmouth?

by Kerry Dougherty

Are there cities that are more dysfunctional than Portsmouth, Virginia?

Yes, of course there are.

There’s always San Francisco where you can get an app for your phone called “SnapCrap” to allow you to report piles of human feces to city sanitation workers.

There’s Chicago. The Windy City was recently designated the “rattiest” in America by Orkin. Lots of rodents there.

And there’s Seattle, which actually ceded city blocks to anarchists in the summer of 2020.

But you’ve got to hand it to Virginia’s “Old Port City,” which was once a bustling hub of commerce and charm. Now it’s competing for most boneheaded city in the U.S. where city and state officials trade lawsuits and accuse each other of vile motives. Continue reading

Masters of Hype and Puffery

Former President Clinton at the GreenTech “pilot plant” in July 2012.

This is the fifth in a series of articles about Terry McAuliffe and GreenTech.

by James A. Bacon and Carol J. Bova

On July 6, 2012, GreenTech Automotive launched the rollout of the “all-American” MyCar electric vehicle at a ceremony attended by former President Bill Clinton, the governor of Mississippi, the assistant secretary of Homeland Security and, as described by local media, “an overflow crowd.”

It was a festive occasion. Clinton lauded company chairman Terry McAuliffe and former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, a Republican, who was also in attendance, for overcoming their political rivalries and delivering a tremendous manufacturing project for the state of Mississippi. 

McAuliffe, too, was upbeat. “For too long, America has been inventing products here and sending the production jobs overseas,” he said. “But … we’re proud to bring manufacturing jobs back and prove that the U.S. is still the world leader in technological innovation and manufacturing.”

The day before, McAuliffe had told the New York Times that he thought the company could produce 10,000 cars in 2013. He quoted an $18,000 price tag for a top-of-the-line MyCar, with less capable versions selling for less, implying potential revenues in the realm of $150 million. During the ceremony itself, he announced big news: Domino’s Pizza Inc. would exclusively use the MyCar to deliver pizzas in 10,000 locations across the U.S.

Photographers snapped pictures of a grinning Clinton toodling around the cement floor of the pilot plant in a MyCar decked out with the Domino’s Pizza logo. Other photographs showed GreenTech employees industriously working on an assembly line of MyCars. Continue reading

Shearing the Sheep

This is the fourth in a series of posts about Terry McAuliffe and GreenTech Automotive.

by James A. Bacon and Carol J. Bova

The Chinese citizens who lost $500,000 each from investing in GreenTech Automotive were not happy with their setback. While they had ponied up their money as part of a scheme to get a U.S. visa under the EB-5 program, many thought they would get their money back. When they didn’t, they felt cheated. Twenty-seven of them banded together and filed suit against Xiaolin “Charles” Wang, Anthony Rodham and Terry McAuliffe, the principals of GreenTech and its allied fund-raising arm Gulf Coast Management.

The outcome of the case, Xia Bi vs. McAuliffe, hinged on matters of law. Boasting, exaggeration and hype regarding future events, referred to as “puffery,” which the defendants indisputably engaged in, do not constitute fraud. Although some of the Chinese plaintiffs’ allegations did describe misstatements of fact, said federal appeals court judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III in a 2009 ruling, they failed to show that they had based their investment decisions upon those misstatements. Accordingly, he upheld a lower court order to dismiss the case.

Nevertheless, Xia Bi vs. McAuliffe provides insight into how the GreenTech fund-raising operation worked. It is abundantly clear why the Chinese investors felt cheated, even if they could not win their case in court. As Wilkinson wrote, “There are no laurels in this case, no accolades to be bestowed.” Continue reading

Dreams from the Opium Den

This is the third article in a series about Terry McAuliffe and GreenTech.

by James A. Bacon and Carol J. Bova

When partners Xiaolin “Charlie” Wang, Anthony Rodham, and Terry McAuliffe banded together in 2009 to finance and build an electric vehicle enterprise known as GreenTech Automotive, they thought big. Very big. In a 2009 offering memorandum pitched to Chinese investors, they stated they aimed to grow their flimsily financed start-up into an automotive behemoth eventually capable of generating up to $33 billion in revenue.

“If full production of one million vehicles is realized,” elaborated the document, GreenTech’s manufacturing facility in Tunica County, Miss., would be “one of the largest automobile manufacturing plants in the world.”

In retrospect — after GreenTech went bankrupt having produced only a handful of cars, burned through more than $140 million, and left barely $6 million behind for investors and creditors in the bankruptcy settlement — such aspirations seem wildly disconnected from reality. Whether McAuliffe and his partners believed such targets were remotely realistic is a question only they can answer.

Looking at GreenTech from the outside, some described the business as a scheme to snooker millions of dollars from naive Chinese investors. A more charitable explanation is that the GreenTech partners genuinely believed their own hype, hoping they could bootstrap one fund-raising effort into enough progress in building the enterprise that they could make it to the next fund-raising round with a better story, raise some more money, make more progress, and hook the next round of investors. In other words, in such a view, their business plan was fake until you make it.

Whatever the thought process, it was an abject failure. Chinese investors lost almost everything, they felt cheated, and the three principals opened themselves to accusations of fraud. Continue reading

A Handshake Deal Gone Bad

This is the second in a series of articles about Terry McAuliffe and Greentech.

by James A. Bacon and Carol J. Bova

Fourteen  years ago, Benjamin Yeung was a Chinese entrepreneur whose companies manufactured and sold minibuses, passenger cars and business vehicles in China. In 2007 he launched a venture with the idea of building small hybrid cars in the United States. What made the plan unusual was the source of financing: Chinese investors willing to invest $500,000 in the U.S. in order to get a green card under a new U.S. initiative, the EB-5 Investor Pilot Program.

Although he needed an interpreter, Yeung was comfortable doing business in the United States. His wife, Rhea, was an American citizen, and he owned a residence in California. According to the account he gave in a court affidavit, he set up a holding company, Hybrid Kinetic Automotive Holdings, Inc. (HK Holdings), and an operating subsidiary, Hybrid Kinetic Automotive Corporation (HKAC).

Yeung said he made wife Rhea the sole shareholder of HK Automotive Holdings. But to run the venture in its start-up phase, he brought on a young Chinese man living in Northern Virginia, Xia0lin “Charlie” Wang. Wang was highly credentialed. He had earned an undergraduate law degree from Xiangtan University, an M.A. degree in development studies from Ohio University, and a degree in international law from Duke University. On his resume, he listed experience as a capital markets partner in the Washington, D.C., office of a prominent New York law firm. Continue reading

Where Did $140 Million in GreenTech Money Go?

This is the first in a series of articles about Terry McAuliffe and GreenTech Automotive.

by James A. Bacon and Carol J. Bova

In September 2016, the Office of the State Auditor (OSA) of the state of Mississippi began undertaking a review of the contracts signed by the state’s economic development authority. The goal was to see if the corporations benefiting from state incentive money had made good on the capital investment and job creation they had promised. Several companies were targeted for a closer look.

One of those was Greentech Automotive Inc., a Virginia company whose chairman in 2011 when the Memorandum of Understanding was signed was Terry McAuliffe.

GreenTech had announced ambitious plans for a multibillion-dollar business by designing and manufacturing hybrid and electric vehicles. Between 2009 and 2013 the company raised a total of $141.5 million from Chinese investors under the EB-5 program, which gave foreigners a U.S. green card in exchange for a $500,000 investment in the United States. Incentive financing from the state of Mississippi and Tunica County, Miss., amounted to another $6 million. All told, GreenTech raised at least $147.5 million in funding.

Despite a GreenTech commitment to invest $60 million in the manufacturing plant, very few cars ever rolled off the assembly line… assuming there even was an assembly line. The Mississippi auditor’s report could find documentation for only $3.4 million spent on automotive assembly equipment and parts. Further, despite promises to create 350 full-time jobs, the auditors determined that the company had never supported more than 94 active, full-time jobs in Mississippi at a time. GreenTech made only a single $150,000 payment to the state.

Despite having scrimped on manufacturing expenditures, the company listed minimal assets when it filed for bankruptcy in 2017. In a final settlement, agreed to last year, investors and creditors recovered only $6.6 million. Mississippi and Tunica County recovered only $575,000.

What happened to the other $140 million? Continue reading