Charlottesville city manager and firefighter exchange heated emails over budget

After weeks of budgeting back and forth between firefighters and Charlottesville City Hall over requests for more funding for emergency responders...
Updated: Mar. 5, 2020 at 8:29 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - After weeks of budgeting back and forth between firefighters and Charlottesville City Hall over requests for more funding for emergency responders, the process boiled over in an email exchange.

The heated email exchange is between Charlottesville City Manager Tarron Richardson and Greg Wright, a firefighter and the head of the Charlottesville Professional Firefighters Association.

The tone of Dr. Richardson’s response, which includes calling the union rep ignorant, is raising eyebrows.

Here’s how it started. On Tuesday Firefighter Greg Wright emailed City Council, asking for a meeting with Richardson and others to further discuss their concerns. In it he said:

“These are our two highest priorities that Dr. Richardson seems willfully ignorant about. The complete lack of a basic understanding by the city’s executive cannot be tolerated as we move forward in this budgetary process.”

“I know I use some cutting verbiage. I specifically felt as though the city manager was willfully ignorant, therefore choosing not to educate himself on our request, and had a lack of a basic understanding that I feel should be a mastery level skill for somebody that is the executive of the city,” Wright said.

But it’s Richardson’s response that same day that Wright says has firefighters up in arms. That email back to the union rep includes this from the Richardson:

“You are a firefighter who oversees a limited number of employees on a daily basis. Your educational achievements and certifications, as well as your limited work experience as a supervisor, will never be a match to any of my qualifications or credentials.” It continues, “let’s be clear about who is ignorant and overwhelmingly shallow as a professional in the field of public administration.”

RELATED LINK: Full email exchange between Wright and Richardson

“It was insulting from the highest level, from our administrator, from Chief Baxter, on down to our newest firefighters. It’s a group of highly intelligent, highly motivated workforce, and to have something like this happen is insulting. It sent a shock throughout the department.” Wright stated.

NBC29 asked Richardson for a comment or clarification Thursday evening. He would not talk on camera, but off camera said that he’s sticking by his remarks in the email.

"My biggest concern is he was willing to put that in writing. I can only imagine what he’s saying about our employees, our staff, and our citizens behind closed doors. When we were looking for a new city manager, we were promised some transformational leadership, and this is far from it,” Wright said.

We also reached out to Charlottesville Spokesperson Brian Wheeler about the tone of the email, but we have not heard back.

Wright says firefighters will attend every budget work session, public forum and council meeting until they get their point across.

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