CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker’s spending of city funds is not under criminal investigation, according to the city’s Commonwealth’s Attorney. However, he says the policy does need a desperate overhaul.
In a three-page letter hand-delivered to new City Manager Chip Boyles Monday, February 22, Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney Joseph Platania confirms there will be no prosecutions for what had been identified as potential credit card misuse because changes to city credit card policies have not been implemented.
Platania reiterates in the letter that his office will not pursue prosecutions for potential policy violations until the policy is updated. While he does not mention Walker by name, Platania seems sympathetic to the mayor’s claims that the policy is being unevenly leveraged against her.
“If on one day card use or an expenditure is approved and on the next, without any notice or training, that same usage is considered potentially criminal, individuals will rightfully complain the policy is being unfairly monitored and enforced,” Platania writes.
He says that oversight issues with the credit card policy came to light in 2019, when a city employee pled guilty to embezzlement charges. During the investigation, several questionable purchases came to light, but had all been properly filed and approved. Platania says he declined to charge the employee for those, and explained at the time his office would not prosecute credit card policy violations until the policy was changed to provide more oversight.
In late 2020, when Mayor Walker’s use of public funds first came into question, City Attorney Lisa Robertson penned a memo about potential violations of the credit card policy. Platania explains the memo was meant to start an internal conversation about the need for an updated policy. Instead, it sparked a public debate when it was widely released.
City Spokesperson Brian Wheeler says the letter has been shared with Charlottesville City Council, and Boyles is reviewing the credit card policy, but agrees: an update is overdue. The City Manager is also preparing best practices for the council moving forward, which will be unveiled at the council’s work session scheduled for March 23.
STATEMENT FROM CHARLOTTESVILE SPOKESPERSON BRIAN WHEEER -- 2/22/2021
The City Manager has shared Mr. Platania’s letter dated February 22, 2021 with Charlottesville City Council. Mr. Boyles and the City Attorney will continue to work with City Council to prepare recommendations for best practices for City Council itself, to be discussed at Council’s March 23, 2021 work session. Separately, Mr. Boyles is in the process of conducting a review of the current credit card policy for City employees and the proposed updates that have been recommended by the City Attorney’s Office, and concurs with the Commonwealth’s and City Attorneys that these updates are overdue and a matter of priority for his administration.