E-Mail Forum
Whining Firefighters Intimidate Top City Officials - Call For Investigation of Butt
December 1, 2001

In an unbelievable Richmondesque twilight zone turn of events, a letter dated November 13, 2001, Dan Colvig, Business Agent for Richmond Firefighters Local 188, requested that City Attorney Malcolm Hunter investigate Tom Butt for:
  • Distributing via email quotes from a memo from City Manager Isiah Turner and Fire Chief Joe Robinson to Local 188 President Jim Russey reminding him that he had broken the law by appearing on a campaign mailer in uniform (See TOM BUTT E-FORUM October 27, 2001, "CITY MANAGER BURNS FIRE CAPTAIN FOR CAMPAIGN VIOLATION," and October 29, 2001, "STRIKE THREE FOR FIRE CAPTAIN IN CAMPAIGN UNIFORM VIOLATION"). Colvig maintains that the memo was a confidential personnel matter and that Russey's right to privacy was violated. Huh?
  • Using the city's email system to solicit City of Richmond employees for campaign assistance. Colvig claims that, by addressing emails to city employees using their workplace email addresses, Butt violated the law.

The entire letter from Colvig is attached as a PDF file.

Let's look at the facts:

  • The memo from City Manager Isiah Turner and Fire Chief Joe Robinson to Local 188 President Jim Russey was sent to me in my City Council packet along with agendas, staff reports, newspapers and magazines. It was not marked "confidential," nor was there any other indication on it that is was restricted or privileged. Colvig is dead wrong in maintaining that the memo was marked "personal and confidential."
  • The TOM BUTT E-FORUM is by subscription only. It is only sent to those who request it or by those who request it be sent to other specific individuals. If someone wants to be taken off the list, all they have to do is reply "unsubscribe," I don't even enter the addresses; they are placed on the distribution list by a third party. I believe that many City employees have requested to have it sent to them, including the city manager. If City employees shouldn't be reading the E-FORUM, perhaps it should be censored by City Hall.

The Firefighters, being what they are, apparently understand the concept of fighting fire with fire and have used these specious claims to effectively intimidate the City's top management, who have subsequently declined to pursue any disciplinary action against Russey for his many appearances in uniform on various campaign mailers and posters. What they recommend is yet another warning. Local 188 now says that it is considering a lawsuit against the City of Richmond and me.

Only in Richmond could a chronic violator of campaign-related laws (Local 188) find a way to not only skate on its latest violation but at the same time turn it into an investigation of the victim. Discretion bars me from committing to writing my true feelings about this pitiful situation.