Charlottesville mayor responds to questions of illegal spending

Charlottesville mayor responds to questions of illegal spending

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker posted a four-page document on Facebook on Sunday. She says the memo from Acting City Attorney Lisa Robertson indicates that city hall is looking into whether Walker misspent public money.

“I have recently received two referrals reporting possible unauthorized public expenditures,” Robertson wrote in the memo, which was sent to all councilors.

“I didn’t know how the investigation went because nobody interviewed me about me,” said Walker at the beginning of a Sunday Facebook Live video.

Walker described what the referrals were about.

“What I did do? Speakers come and speak, typically about how to infuse equity in the conversation. And I pay them,” Walker said. “Community members come up with solutions that people who are making $60, $70, $80, $90, $100, $200,000 can’t come up with. And I give them $25 gift cards for every hour that they spend and devote to helping us heal this community.”

In the memo, sent on February 3, Robertson says she was asked for a legal opinion.

“Is it lawful for a city councilor to purchase and offer gift cards, paid for from City Council funds, and distribute the cards to individuals who participated in group meetings convened by an individual councilor?” the memo read.

The answer, as the memo goes on to say: “Even a small unauthorized purchase can have serious legal consequences.”

It cites a Virginia code saying individual councilors are not authorized to “make gifts to private individuals payable from city funds.”

“Misusing funds, a conversation that by the time I found out had been going on for two months and had already involved the prosecutor Joe Platania in deciding whether he will prosecute me,” said Walker.

NBC29 reached out to Platania. He sent us a statement, saying “our office will never confirm or deny the existence of a criminal investigation.”

“If you thought I was doing something wrong, why didn’t you just tell me?” said Walker. “Helpful would have been: ‘Hey, we don’t think you should do this and this is why.’ Helpful doesn’t mean that you are talking to the top cop.”

Walker says she has a different perspective of this.

“Bring in the people who can be a part of the solution instead of keeping some of the same people who are perpetuating the current state that we’re in. That’s what I’m guilty of,” she said.

The memo concludes by saying there is one way a purchase could be authorized: that is if the purchase is for a reimbursable expense.

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