Legislative Staffer Files Retirement Mid-Meeting

By Steve Haner

I am no longer with the Division of Legislative Services. If you need assistance, please contact…”

That is the message you get back if you send an email today to one of the key players in all the energy debates down at the General Assembly, perhaps the key player during the actual session.  That would be former senior staff attorney Frank Munyan, who calmly stood up and walked out of a House of Delegates committee meeting, went upstairs and filed his retirement papers.

As the staff person for both the House and Senate committees and the author or editor of most energy-related bills, Munyan has been considered an honest craftsman and adviser by all the various contestants for years.  As far as I know, everybody trusted him. He certainly kept all the legislators’ various secrets well, but if I asked him “do this bill do what I think it do?” he would answer.  He was also helpful with amendments.

He is a shining example of the uncounted cheerful professionals around that building in various jobs who keep the rest of us looking a bit less dumb.  If he comes back, many will cheer. Perhaps his Vontae Davis moment was enough and some apologies will come his way. 

I was in the committee meeting as this played out, and probably saw him leave without knowing what was up. As the story was being emailed and texted around Thursday evening, I assumed it had happened later, after I’d left. But it happens at about 1:17:20 p.m. in the video of Labor and Commerce’s Thursday afternoon session. It was during discussion of a Delegate Lee Carter (D-Manassas) bill on tips and wages, and apparently Frank had done his job and added a new definition of “tip” to the bill for clarification. The provision was later deleted.

As that language was debated by Carter and Del. Mike Mullin, D-Newport News, questions and comments were directed to Munyan and he was referred to as “staff.” Now that I’ve listened closely, there was a bit of a dismissive tone to their voices. But if, as rumored, those exchanges were the trigger, my guess is they were the final straw dropped into a full basket. Perhaps there have been other issues, and no question the 2020 workload on Munyan on energy issues was enormous already. There is another specialist on those issues, whom I know less well, and his workload just doubled.

Former delegate Chris Saxman, now head of the business group Virginia FREE, said to his members that during the bill discussion Munyan “closed his bill book and quietly said to committee Chair Del. Jeion Ward, “You’ll have my resignation tomorrow.” Mr. Munyan proceeded to go to his office, sign his Virginia Retirement System paperwork and then promptly left the Pocahontas Building.” 

We’ve all had those “take this job and shove it” moments, and long years of service under the older, more generous state pension plan makes them harder to resist.  If indeed there were legislators who wanted this to happen, who are glad he is gone, that just damaged the institution to satisfy their pique. They didn’t appreciate what they had. If they confused fairness and honesty to their opponents as a sign of favoritism, they need therapy.

This marks a bad start to a year which may be the most significant ever for bills on energy regulation and workplace law. It will be even worse news for Virginia if the partisan wars have invaded the halls of Legislative Services.

Update:  House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert mentioned the incident on the House floor during the Morning Hour, citing it as a sign of general morale issues with a staff dealing with the deep crush of legislation.  Apparently the effort is just now being made to find a new Director of Legislative Services, to replace the previous director who is now in the House Clerk’s staff.  The House members (so far) have beaten the previous bill number record by 40 percent.

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9 responses to “Legislative Staffer Files Retirement Mid-Meeting

  1. I started my career in state government in the Division of Legislative Services. I left many years ago for other pursuits and do not know the staff members there now nor have had any contact with that agency in recent years. During my years and for many years after, when I was generally around the Capitol, the DLS staff treated all legislators alike. A Delegate was a Delegate, not a Democratic or Republican delegate.

    One just does got suddenly “sign retirement papers”. It takes awhile to get your application for retirement processed by VRS and ready for signing. Unless “sign his retirement papers” was just a euphemism, and not a literal description of action, Mr. Munyan must have been contemplating this action for awhile, at least.

    It sounds as if the motivations behind this development were personal and drastic. It is unprecedented for a DLS staff member to quit in the middle of the Session. I hope that partisan complaints were not at the root of this action.

    • I indicated it had probably been building, and since writing this have gained additional indications it had been. House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert was also up on the floor a while ago talking about growing concerns of low staff morale. But all of us on the energy front know and like Frank and will miss him.

    • Nobody has threatened me directly and I’m not going anywhere near Capitol Square Monday. And my favorite Finance subcommittees are meeting.

      • Don’t get me wrong, I too have no intention of being anywhere near the Capitol on Monday, but then again, I am neither an elected member of the legislature nor a member of staff. I do however find it ironic that a “Marine” would skip the session as a result of “threats”. I guess he doesn’t live by my credo, “Lo though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for I am the meanest son of a bitch in the valley”.

  2. Here’s to the professional, forthright, discreet, staffers of so many administrative agencies that do their unappreciated jobs year after year, anonymous to the public. But even they take pride in what they do, and react to those who work with them directly yet take them for granted.

  3. Frank Munyan was about as straight a shooter as could possibly exist on the HIll over there. Sad to see him go.

  4. I am sickened to read this. Have always highly respected Frank. I don’t think he’d leave without good reason and I expect the pressure was unbearable with so many new legislators and all, especially D’s, putting in more legislation for short turn around. The newly in charge also won’t know the rules as well, also slowing things down. I often worry about these staff members during this time of year. They don’t get the respect they deserve for their expertise and experience. We’re lucky Frank hung there as long as he did and he will be long missed. Eventually the camel’s back breaks. I’m sorry it came to that.

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