Four public employee unions ask city council to punish City Manager Spore as a scofflaw for repeatedly disregarding state law
City Manager James K. Spore, growing more and more notable for his total out of control behavior and repeated disregard of state law, should be reprimanded by the Virginia Beach City Council.
Four (4) public safety unions, pointing to Spore's track record for disregarding privacy and freedom of information laws, have sent a resolution to council asking that Spore be 'sanctioned' for his behavior.
Spore is coming more and more under control of a new council and his agitation at losing control is beginning to show, indicated by his growing interest in leaving the job.
Spore's arrogance in violating the state's Freedom of Information Law (FOIA) has already cost the city's taxpayers $12,500 awarded to one plaintiff. He has repeatedly been cited for violating the FOIA, most recently by denying the public and media access to a Hampton Roads Planning District Commission meeting that was to discuss the public's future road needs.
"No man is above the law, and that includes Mr. Spore," said Ray Bach, president of the Virginia Beach Police Benevolent Association, and an employee that Spore tried to intimidate. "Mr. Spore," he continued, " reminds public safety employees that we are held to a higher standard. Should the chief executive of the city expect the same of himself.?"
Bill Bailey, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters (Local 2924), said, "This is now in the hands of council. We want the members to go on record. Either they expect the manager to obey the law or not. And the voters need to know the answer. This cannot be swept under the rug."
It is high time that someone called Mr. Spore to the carpet," said Chip Condon, president of the Virginia Beach Police Supervisors' Association, "and made him answer for his illegal behavior. This is way overdue. It will be interesting to see whether Mr. Spore admits to the obvious, or tries to wiggle out of the mess he has made for himself."
Spore commissioned a survey in 2000 of citizen opinions of what the taxpayers felt were the highest priority issues in the city. Costing thousands of dollars, the results revealed that what Spore felt was important issues, the citizens ranked at the bottom or not at all. Citizens' needs and desires where 180-degrees out from Spore. That report was never publicly distributed and some members of council said they were never privy to it.
Spore's out of control behavior is well-documented. In 2000, during a council race and a referendum on whether the voters approved the 31st Street Hotel deal with two convicts supported by Spore, he went berserk, stopped near a demonstration on First Colonial Road and violently ripped down anti-hotel signs.
He stuffed them in the back of his little red Corvette sports car and sped off. He tried to excuse his behavior, first as being his legal duty, and later as the result of stress because his daughter was suffering from cancer. It was recommended he be required to get anger management training.
Next, in collusion with the police chief, Virginia Beach Marine Science Director Mack Rawls and renegade members of council, including Mayor Meyera Oberndorf, he had the police put 'undercover spies' in meetings of common, ordinary and upstanding citizens who were opposed to his plan to build a $55 MILLION fish tank for captive dolphins. This also blew up in his face, but the guilty among council allowed him to slide without reprimand for using police for political purposes.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), after repeatedly failing to get accurate and full information about city plans for financing, building and stocking a $55 MILLION fish tank addition at the Virginia Beach Marine Science Museum, filed suit to make Spore and Museum Director Mack Rawls comply with the law.
A circuit court judge found them guilty of thwarting the court orders and eventually awarded PETA $12,500 in damages. Some of the records, it was found, were destroyed to keep them from being presented to the court. Rawls and Spore never denied charges they conspired to withhold or destroy the offensive records.
This failed effort, twice in Circuit Court, and once in the Court of Appeals, could the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. Circuit Court Judge Patricia West during one of the trials told the city blatantly it was 'acting in violation' of the Constitution.
Chairing a committee of the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission (HRPDC), the leadership behind a 22% sales tax hike transportation referendum last November, Spore closed the meeting to the media and public to consider what public road projects it would ask the public to finance.
His action came after a similarly out of control, arrogant bureaucrat, HRPDC Director Art Collins, responded in Gestapo fashion to a reporter telling him the meeting was in "his building" "he'd paid for" and he'd do anything he wanted and if the reporter didn't like it, "sue me." Of course the building wasn't owned by Collins, but was built at taxpayers' expense and the public owns it.
Spore and Collins were strongly rebuked by the state FOIA agency that oversees the FOIA.
Speaking to the Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance Saturday, Maddox who has stopped Spore's 'business as usual way' of running the council praised Spore as 'a great city manager.' He added however that Spore has lost sight of the fact that he's the employee and the council is his board of directors.
Spore's recent conflicts with Maddox, Jim Reeve, and other newcomers to the council have caused him to start looking around for an alternative to continuing as Virginia Beach's city manager.
He has a history of difficulty in taking orders and has left previous jobs because he refused to accede that his position was subservient to that of the people who hired him. A career for one in Spore's position is usually about 5-6 years. Spore has been in Virginia Beach, primarily because of a weak, ineffective council, for 12 years and is nearing 60-years of age.
One person said that if Spore can be in control, he will pick up his toys and leave. "He only plays Jim Spore games," he said.