RICHMOND, PETERSBURG No severance
Richmond does not resemble Petersburg. Although it confronts financial stress, it does not stand at the precipice. Former Richmond officials have signed up to help Petersburg right itself. There is little indication that Richmond is recruiting in its sister city to the south. In one of his departing gestures, former Mayor Dwight Jones left new Mayor Levar Stoney with a symbolic ticket that listed Petersburg as its destination.
Jones awarded generous severance packages to four senior appointees. The $166,000 total will come out of city funds; according to Ned Oliver’s news story, “Stoney said the payments, which will come out of his office’s budget for the remaining six months of the fiscal year, have hampered his ability to hire staff in the near term.” The mayor’s office says it lacks the standing to stop them. “Our hands are tied,” spokesman Jim Nolan says.
Former Mayor Douglas Wilder does not like the situation. His aides did not receive severance. “Hell no,” Oliver’s story reported Wilder as saying. “Because they were not severed. When did we become so rich as a city that we could just throw money away publicly?”
Wilder asks a good question. And he called on Stoney and the City Council to ensure that the extravagance does not set a precedent.
Severance does not apply to government service. Employees who serve in political positions know their jobs end when their chief’s term closes. Permanent employees hired under civil service might qualify for severance but that’s a different story and needs further review. Severance in the public sector mimics one of the least reputable practices in the private. Golden parachutes have no place in government or business. The Wall Street Journal’s defense of corporate perks invite scorn. They flourish among capitalism’s imperfections. The public realm need not adopt them.
Wilder is right. Stoney ought to take his advice.