‘Read it and weep:’ mayor drops letter finding no merit in accusations against him
on November 16, 2021
In an e-forum blast Tuesday, Richmond Mayor Tom Butt said a nearly two-year investigation into allegations against him has concluded after finding no evidence of wrongdoing.
“Read it and weep,” Butt said when introducing the letter, which was addressed to him and the City Council, from the city attorney. Marked “confidential,” it outlines the investigation’s origins and findings.
Multiple complaints were filed by a city employee, according to the letter, accusing Butt of abuse of power and conflict of interest. It said that in early 2020, the city manager, at the council’s direction, retained two law firms to investigate the complaints. The investigation concluded that “each of the complaints was without merit.”
The announcement comes on the heels of the City Council terminating City Manager Laura Snideman, which came about a week after City Attorney Teresa Stricker resigned. Snideman oversaw the investigation, which was “staunchly defended” by Stricker, according to Butt.
The city has not publicly acknowledged the investigation, which Butt previously revealed in his e-forum newsletter. He has accused Stricker and Snideman of misusing city funds for the investigation and unsuccessfully called on the council to fire them during a June meeting.
“The city attorney and city manager are (almost) gone, and I’m still here,” Butt said in his newsletter.
Stricker will remain in her position until January.
Richmond Confidential tried to verify the letter with the Stricker’s office, which redirected the reporter to the city manager’s office. That office eventually transferred the reporter to the city attorney’s voicemail. Stricker has yet to respond.
The letter said the investigation was justified to ensure that the approval of a lease deal involving the Richmond Multi-Modal Transit Station was legally sound.
The investigation was started at the request of City Council, according to the letter, though Butt said “there is no record of this.”
Councilmember Nathaniel Bates, Butt’s only consistent ally on the council, told Richmond Confidential Tuesday that he had no recollection of the council requesting the investigation.
“The city attorney, what they should have done, in my opinion, is refer it to the district attorney,” Bates said. “Just like we have sent everything with a police shooting, anything like that, to the district attorney for an unbiased opinion. I don’t know how the city manager took it upon themselves, or the city attorney, to all of a sudden spend taxpayers dollars investigating the case.”
Councilmember Claudia Jimenez, who is often at odds with Butt, said the investigation had a positive outcome in finding no wrongdoing. But she criticized the mayor for sharing a confidential document.
“There is some confidential attorney-client communication that he has published and continues to do so,“ she said. “And in doing so, he can potentially put the city in some liability.”
Butt acknowledged that the disclosure of the letter could spark a fresh investigation.
The City Council on Nov. 9 asked for the district attorney and a grand jury to investigate a separate allegation that the mayor shared a confidential city document with the public about an ongoing lawsuit connected to Point Molate.
Jimenez said this latest disclosure adds more “evidence” to the referral.
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