The Corruption Scandal You Haven’t Read About

Alexandria's new police headquarters. We're talking about real graft and corruption here, not just the appearance of it.
Alexandria’s new police headquarters. Nothing to see here, move along now.

by James A. Bacon

Virginia political news this summer has been dominated by the GiftGate scandal, as well it should have been — citizens need to hold state elected officials to the highest standards of ethical behavior. “I abode by the letter of the law,” is not a defense. Some things are wrong, even if they are technically legal.

Now, if only the media would apply those lofty ethical standards across the board. A newsworthy case of seeming corruption in Alexandria has gone entirely unnoticed by the mainstream media, including the Washington Post, which campaigned so diligently to expose the sins of Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen. The story came to my attention only because Virginia Lawyers Weekly covered the  lawsuit against the City of Alexandria in the first case of the state whistle-blower law passed in 2011. That story was picked up by OldTown Alexandria Patch, and then by PJMedia blogger J. Christian Adams, whose post was linked to by a blog aggregator that I frequently read.

Henry Lewis, a City of Alexandria architect, was project manager for an $80 million police-headquarters construction project. The project was unfolding without incident until Lewis’ boss in the Department of Government Services, Jeremy McPike, got involved. Writes Adams:

Lewis started to notice that  Whiting-Turner, the contractor, began submitting suspect invoices for materials stored off-site which hadn’t been verified to actually exist.  They started to bill extra for work that should have been covered by the original contract. McPike  became actively involved in approving these invoices for phantom materials—totaling over $2 million—which Lewis could not even verify were actually in the City’s possession.

Lewis started raising hell and — to make a long story short — McPike got him fired. An Alexandria jury found that Lewis had been wrongfully terminated, according to the anti-retaliation provisions of the Virginia Fraud against Taxpayers Act, and awarded him $104,000 in back pay. The city is appealing the case.

Adams asks some pointed questions:

Has there been any outrage about McPike by elected officials in Alexandria?  Has the dishonest government official been fired?  Do the citizens of Alexandria even know or care?

No, no  and no.

Has the paper of record for Alexandria, the Washington Post, covered the story of millions do dollars of waste?  No, again.

The Washington Post was too busy covering the tight space for animals at a local shelter and seeking pubic input on “building the most insane cheeseburger.”

The wrong-doings of some seem to elicit a lot more outrage than the wrong-doing of others.

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20 responses to “The Corruption Scandal You Haven’t Read About”

  1. Breckinridge Avatar

    1) Well it IS known as the People’s Republic of Alexandria and 2) why do you still confuse the Washington Post with a local newspaper? Please.

  2. reed fawell III Avatar
    reed fawell III

    I suspect this story tells of the tip of an iceberg.

    Our loose and irresponsible ways in the spending of public monies, a horrible habit turbo charged by high government officials of both political parties in the execution of their public duties, has now metastasized. It’s a rot now spreading downward and outward throughout all levels of our government and those professionals who now feed off of our government. I am referring to the contractors, lawyers, accountants, consultants, special interests, unions, educators, non profits, you name it, given the ever growing list of pigs feeding at the overflowing trough of public monies.

    So the Alexandria city police station is another iteration of the Arlington County’s million dollar bus stop. This Public Private Corruption is business as usual in most societies and nations. It arises from a pervasive disrespect and flaunting of law and morality in public service that is most always hijacked for private gain and aggrandizement.

    Our nations strength grew from and is dependent upon our ability to dig out, upend, and bring down into shame this scourge of public corruption. It’s a constant threat, a corruption long ago and even since built into the human heart.

    1. reed fawell III Avatar
      reed fawell III

      It’s a constant threat, a corruption long ago and EVER since built into the human heart.

    2. reed fawell III Avatar
      reed fawell III

      The fact that this public corruption now apparently built the new police station in one of the oldest colonial towns if Virginia is surely a fit metaphor for the state of the Commonwealth. And indeed of much of the Republic.

  3. I just did a quick search of the Washington Examiner for this story only to find it dropped local news coverage in June. It seems the Washington Times doesn’t cover local politics either (at least I couldn’t find a “local” category). The WaPo is the only paper in the greater DC area that does cover local news, in print and its on-line edition. I’ve read the WaPo most of my life (DC native, raised in PG County), to include my time here in Richmond, and could easily tell you it’s virtually an arm of the Democratic Party (yes, I know they carry George Will and Krauthammer, but we all know they are the conservative tokens). So why would WaPo bother covering something like this? Especially when this McPike character is running for the VA House of Delegates as a Dem. (He should fit right in, if elected.)

    1. Now, isn’t that interesting?, Mr. McPike is running as a Democrat for the House of Delegates. I didn’t realize that when I wrote the story. But that does add to the Post’s unwillingness to cover the lawsuit.

      I’m not saying that the Post won’t cover scandals regarding Demo politicians. The newspaper has published stories about Terry McAuliffe, GreenTech and his visa business. But, unlike GiftGate, it has mostly trailed others such as the Associated Press and New York Times, or simply reported on campaigns and press releases made on the campaign trail. It certainly has NOT been running front-page stories day after day, and it has NOT invested significant resources to expand the story.

  4. ahhh.. I can see that it’s been raining in Litchfield Beach also, eh? 😉

    so we now have this narrative: ” If you think our Gov is crooked, let me tell you about NoVa corruption… the MWAA.. the bus stop.. and now the police station”.

    but get this … it’s WaPo’s fault for not reporting it! well heckfire, just call Wapo the RTD of NoVa… eh? I’d say that if WaPO can dig up dirt in Richmond why not RTD or the Examiner in Washington.

    you guys are ALWAYS whining.. I SWEAR!

    The Gov of Va just slimed the citizens of the Commonwealth and ya’ll are worried about some police station… geeze…

    1. Larry, your double standards are absolutely breathtaking!

  5. Jim, Larry is correct, unless pointing out corruption or malfeasance at the state level, it doesn’t count (well maybe, if it’s another Republican, conservative, or one of those “Christian GOP’ers” (they are the best ones!), then it would be ok). No matter that it’s basically your blog and you can publish what you want. You’d better check with Larry before you go forward with your next article.

    Regardless, I think we’ve given our governor a pretty good going over, for the moment. Time to move on until the next shoe drops.

    BTW, the WaPo is the RTD of NoVa (I bet they’d love that comparison).

    I thought it was a good article Jim. I think it’s someone else that’s the whiner.

  6. Viper – Oh I think it SHOULD COUNT – but it’s not a statewide issue – it’s a local/regional issue and neither WaPO nor RTD seem too keen on some local/regional issues sometimes… I’m sure you have noticed.

    It’s not my blog but we’re all invite to comment and I do and I tend to be contrarian as well as an observe of hypocritical behaviors.. including my own.

    one needs to be consistent in their views… in my view…

    but no.. we have not given our Gov a “good going over”. The guy is a slimeball and needs to leave… period. He’s crapped on the citizens who elected him much, much worse than some inside baseball issue on a municipal contract (though I’m all for nailing the bad guys).

    I’d fire in a heartbeat the guy on the police station issue – as well as the Gov.

    both are scum and no .. I’m not a “boys will be boys, let’s move on” type.

    After putting up with his hard right politics for the last 4-5 years.. vaginal ultrasounds.. Confederate holidays, and selling the ABC stores.. etc. .. that was par for the course for the hard right… but we’ve been told that hard right folks have deeply held beliefs that involve religion and love of country, blah, blah , blah.. and then we find out the guy has no scruples.

    Bacon has been a very reluctant observer. For a while there he was saying it was okay to take the money as long as there was no proven quid-pro-quo.

    good lord.

    what do you think. 😉

  7. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    This relatively small potatoes deal in Alex is on the same level as Giftgate? Give me a break!

    1. “Relatively small potatoes.”

      Who did Bob McDonnell try to fire in order to benefit Jonnie Williams?

      How much did Jonnie Williams run up the tab at taxpayer expense?

      Wow, Peter, you’re really amazing. If there’s a drop of blood in the water for a Republican, you’re like a shark homing in from a mile away. But throw in a bucket of chum for a Democrat, and you show no interest at all.

  8. they’re desperate Peter… it’s downright pathetic!

    1. Desperate? Not at all. Republicans and R-leaning independents like myself have deserted McDonnell in droves. But we do get the sense that while you’re eager to apply the highest ethical standards to Republican politicians, you’re perfectly happy to look the other way when Dems are involved. Your comments on this blog simply confirm the suspicion.

  9. reed fawell III Avatar
    reed fawell III

    “General Services Administration: Better Data and Oversight Needed to
    Improve Construction Management (Letter Report, 06/27/94,

    The General Services Administration’s (GSA) construction program
    continues to be plagued by major problems. Construction contracts
    experience substantial cost growth; many contract changes that
    contribute to cost growth are authorized to overcome design and planning
    problems; and incomplete and inaccurate data–combined with a lack of
    criteria for measuring and evaluating cost-growth–impede effective
    program oversight. These problems are not new. In fact, GSA has been
    criticized repeatedly for problems linked to the management and
    administration of contract modifications. GSA has tried to improve the
    management of the construction program and avoid some of the problems
    that have contributed to contract modifications. Without sustained
    attention to better design and planning and improved data, however, GSA
    can expect to continue to experience huge cost increases on its
    contracts and will not be in a good position to head off problems before
    they occur.”

    “It said that 32 of 33 federal courthouses finished since 2000 had 3.56 million unnecessary square feet, or nine average-size courthouses worth, jacking up costs by $835 million in 2010 dollars.” … “In 1991, Congress provided $30 million for the purchase of the Eagleton site, as well as design and engineering work. Former U.S. Sen. Thomas Eagleton, D-Mo., for whom it was named, helped break ground for the structure in 1994. It was scheduled to be finished in 1998, but the first tenant, the U.S. Secret Service, did not move in until mid-2000.”

    Huge cost over runs and time delays to completion measured in years are often the rule, not the exceptions, in GSA managed construction.

  10. DJRippert Avatar

    Alexandria has been corrupt for as long as I can remember. You’ve got a small group of families who have lived in the city for generations. They run the show. They install crazy people like Jim Moran as mayor. The deal is pretty simple – the ruling families let the politicians do whatever they want as long as the politicians let the ruling families take money out of the city by the wheelbarrow.

    In Moran’s case, he got to drag through Old Town bars getting hammered, starting fights and then having the Alexandria police act as his personal security guards. On another occasion he choked an eight year old boy who he accused of attempted carjacking. The attitude in Alexandria was simple:

    “Several Alexandria police officers have admitted privately that if Moran was an “ordinary citizen”, his behavior would have led to arrests. “The mayor was clearly guilty of assault on one occasion,” one officer said, speaking anonymously out of fear for his job. “But the word came down. The mayor was off limits. Ordinary citizens go to jail. But not the mayor.”

    Alexandria is as crooked as a country road. However, its political class must be losing its grip. Ghost invoices for $2M? The old politicos in Alexandria wouldn’t scratch their noses for under $5M!

  11. Richard Avatar

    Jim – more excuses on the level of a 10-year old: “But Mama, Mac did it too.”

    It’s legitimate to attack a story for being inaccurate, but there has been no inaccurate reporting by the Post on this low-level, but pervasive, corruption by the governor, and the would-be governor. Everything reported by the Post has been true, and we should be thankful that the Post is on the job.

    Look – you’re in Richmond and something of an insider; you saw the cozy relationship with Johnny and Star; why didn’t you say anything about it? That’s a ridiculous question, but no different than criticism of the Post for not reporting on corruption in Alexandria.

    We all get frustrated when the media reports something we don’t like, and we can elicit sympathy and change the subject by blaming the media, but it’s childish.

    1. Richard, Puh-lease, I am not defending McDonnell. Very few people are. Republicans have deserted him. Let’s see if Dems have the same moral integrity when it comes to judging one of their own.

  12. Agree. I haven’t read anyone commenting thus far who supports McDonnell. Let’s how much WaPo or the RTD digs into Mcauliffe’s background prior to the election.

  13. […] legislation is important to people like Henry Lewis, a former Alexandria architect who won his whistle-blower case against the city last year, after a jury decided his 2011 termination violated the Virginia Fraud […]

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