X-Councilmen to be feted tonight @ Contemporary Arts Center by mayor, friends
X-Vice Mayor Will Sessoms, X-councilmen Billy Harrison, and Linwood Branch are being feted tonight by Mayor Meyera Oberndorf 'in a special evening recognizing their "tremendous accomplishments" during their tenure on the Virginia Beach City Council.'
None of them sought re-election last year. Two other veteran council members, Nancy Parker (16 years) and Barbara Henley (20 years) were snubbed by organizers of the white male admiration club that put tonight's event together. This despite the fact that the honored trio used Henley to carry some of the heavy water for some of their less than publicly acceptable projects/votes.
Parker received an invitation to attend, but Henley wasn't even shown that courtesy.
Attempts to reach participants and organizers Sunday were unsuccessful. An automated machine answered the RSVP telephone number.
We say this is a Dubious Achievement Event because as one X-council member snorted, "what they hell did they do but get in bed with a couple of convicts (on the 31st Street Hotel project) and run the city into debt through deals with their friends in public private partnerships?" Asked about the event, another x-council member said, What did they do that was so great for the city?'
Before Harrison went off council last year, VNS reported that he had paid $28,000 to settle a claim by a former employee who said that she'd been sexually assaulted.
Branch had planned to seek re-election, but just before the filing deadline and only hours after VNS sent him an email requesting an interview to discuss his relationship with a friend who was convicted of murdering a West Coast drug dealer in a local doctor's home and other questions involving the 1980s drug scene, Branch announced he was withdrawing from the race. He also refused numerous requests to talk with VNS.
VNS had earlier reported Branch admitted a business/financial relationship with developers of the 31st St. hotel project. This was another story where, after agreeing to talk to VNS, Branch ran for the hills and refused all requests for interviews.
Both Branch and Harrison had close ties with convicts Edmund C. Ruffin and Bruce Thompson who were given a sweetheart city deal, mostly through the efforts of Branch, Harrison, and with the support of Sessoms, to build a 4-star hotel on city property @ 31st St. and Oceanfront. (See: The Big Lie: How city officials lied to the council and public to cover up the deal for the 31st hotel). Sessoms still today unabashedly supports the convict/hotel deal.
Sessoms and Harrison spearheaded a move, shortly before leaving council, to stack the city's Economic Development Authority with like-minded cronies by appointing failed city council candidate Page Lea to assure a favorable vote of approval for the 31st St. hotel project. To his credit, Sessoms steered clear of scandals during his time on council and has always made himself available to talk with reporters, including those at VNS. While seeking election to council, Lea used city property as headquarters for his political sign operation at the oceanfront (see link below).
Tonight's event will feature a special presentation and tribute by current council members Jim Wood, Peter Schmidt, and Richard Maddox and a special 'documentary made in their honor as well as a reception immediately following." During their campaigns for council, Schmidt, Maddox and Lea were caught using a city-owned trailer on city property to run their campaign sign operation. After this was exposed by VNS, the city ordered candidates to stop the practice.
Branch was elected to council in 1992; Harrison in 1994; and Sessoms went on in the '80s.
All we ask is that you read the stories linked above and make up your own mind as to what kind of mayor it takes to honor such achievements.