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  Richmond Planning Director Aims Vitriol at Butt
March 5, 2005

In an email dated March 3, 2005, to City Manager Bill Lindsay, Richmond Planning Director Barry Cromartie launched a fusillade of vitriol at me, accusing me of a long list of transgressions, including, but not limited to:

  1. “Misrepresenting facts.”
  2. “Slandering,”
  3. “Demonstrated this behavior to previous persons who held the Planning Director position.”
  4. “Otherwise making statements which are abusive and/or libelous in the record.”
  5. “Negatively labeled, slandered, and characterized some staff and other ‘protected’ classes or otherwise ‘painted’ staff in the most negative light possible.”
  6. “Undermine the reputation, authority, and effectiveness of staff.”
  7. “Destroy staff moral and well-being.”
  8. “Actions are deliberately taken in order to undermine staff's effectiveness and authority.”
  9. “Push through his political agenda without gaining consensus among other Council members.”
  10. “Attacks on me intensified.”
  11. “Economic and political conflict of interest.”
  12. “Using his elected office to gain political and economic advantage.”
  13. “Most flagrant cases of conflict of interest which I have ever experienced in over 25 years of municipal service.”
  14. “Criticize staff for being incompetent and ineffective.”
  15. “’Intimidate’ and ‘micro-manage’ staff.”
  16. “Disrespectful to staff.”
  17. “False accusations related to City staff's use of credit cards.”
  18. “Violates the City Manager/ Council form of government.”
  19. “Pattern of abuse and slander.”
  20. “Create and foster a ‘hostile work environment.’"
  21. “Consistently undermine a professional work environment and professional decision making.” 
  22. “Called for my ‘resignation’.”
  23. “Deliberate pattern of animus, disrespect, slander, and in some instances, highly unethical behavior.”

Cromartie concluded by saying, “Given the extremely serious nature of these issues, I therefore repeat my request to have these and other acts fully and completely investigated. I would greatly appreciate some acknowledgment when this investigation will be commenced and completed.” 

Admittedly, I have never been much of a Cromartie fan, as we have been on opposite sides of many public policy debates over the last couple years since he was hired by Isiah Turner to run the Richmond Planning Department. 

Somehow the prevailing wisdom in City Council Land is exactly what my mother told me: “If you can’t say something nice about somebody, don’t say anything at all.”  My mother was right about a lot of things, but I have not always been able to heed her advice on everything. The frustrations of being a Richmond City Council member in the midst of the struggles and travails over budget train wrecks, environmental disasters, crumbling infrastructure, bad development projects, credit card scandals and a few underperforming staff members is almost more than I can bear. It is immeasurably difficult to keep one’s mouth shut or to sing false praises under such circumstances. If offering opinions that are critical of or contradict staff from time to time is a Federal offense or a character flaw, I have to plead guilty.

Criticism of the executive branch, however, appears alive and well at higher levels. Today’s headlines shouted out “Nevada senator calls Greenspan a 'hack,’” and the story went on to say, “Thursday he [Greenspan] got a brickbat from Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who blasted Greenspan as "one of the biggest political hacks we have here in Washington."

Maybe they can get away with it in Washington because that’s where the Constitution with the First Amendment is stored. Out here in Richmond, the First Amendment apparently glows a little more dimly.