Candidates wrong in using city property for political purposesPolitical signs in city trailer Also used TV news telephone

City Council candidates Richard Maddox and Peter Schmidt wrongfully used city property - the 17th Street Park and city trailer - for their political sign operation.

Maddox who said Sunday he used the property like it was his own said he had a 'gentlemen's agreement' to do so.

Schmidt and Maddox's signs sit illegally in city trailer with Beach St. USA

Steve Thompson, the city's chief financial officer who was detailed by the city manager's office to investigate a story that appeared on Virginia New Source's web site Monday, acknowledged there was a 'loose' agreement that allowed Maddox to use the trailer to store his lawn equipment for maintaining the park.  Maddox, he said, is responsible for cutting the grass.

"But that use didn't include storing political material," he said.  He said photos taken by VNS staff clearly showed Maddox was not using the trailer as intended under the agreement.

He said Maddox's use of the property will have to 'be revisited' and unlimited use restricted.  "We need to discuss future use," Thompson said.

Maddox also stores his own trailer on the property routinely.  He keeps the lawn equipment in his personal trailer which he pulls from one Dairy Queen to another to do lawn work.  Thompson said if the personal trailer is used at other Dairy Queen stores, Maddox may not be allowed to keep it on the property in the future.

Maddox who owned the property gave it up as a public park in a  rare sweetheart deal with City Council in 1994 in exchange for a zoning reclassification allowing him to build, a Dairy Queen ice cream store, on the east side of Atlantic Avenue.

Zoning prohibits stand alone restaurants on the east side of Atlantic Avenue, but the city made an unusual exception in Maddox's case.  As part of the deal he was also required to build a performance stage, operate public restrooms at the 17th Street location and maintain the park.

He also was $115,000 in tax debt at the time and the city made him pay the back taxes as part of the deal.  But the city then turned around and spent $130,000 to demolish the old restrooms at 17th Street.

Those responsible for overseeing the use of city property, Henry Ruiz, resort area manager,  and Robert Melatti, of Beach Events, who uses the trailer during the summer, knew nothing about Maddox and Schmidt's misappropriation of the property for political purposes, according to Thompson.

Melatti said Monday that while he didn't know about the misuse of public property, he fully supports Maddox and Schmitt as candidates for council.

Melatti who runs the summer entertainment at the beach under contract for the city has been meeting with Bruce Thompson,  and Jimmy Capps at the Ramada Inn interviewing council candidates to determine who'll get their support.   Thompson one of a pair of  federal convicts are the city's partners in a plan to build a 4-star hotel at 31st Street and Oceanfront.

One official Monday said he finds Melatti's behavior questionable in playing politics with a couple candidates who are caught using his Beach Events trailer for politics while depending on the city for his livelihood and then denying any knowledge of what is going on.

WTKR-TV news has a bureau across the hall from Maddox's office in the Dairy Queen.  Maddox's wife was a former WTKR-TV employee.  Maddox campaign has been making political calls on WTKR's telephone.  Maddox said he found nothing wrong with using the phone, but that it wasn't done intentionally and it was part of a 5-line rollover system.

Monday, however, Susan Maddox told John Wesling, news director of WTKR, that Maddox would change the telephone system so the new bureau phone wouldn't be used. 

It is ironic that WTKR has not covered the beach council race in which Maddox is involved.  Negative coverage of their landlord's political race could create uncomfortable working conditions. Wesling, however, said he didn't foresee any problems.

Virginia News Source, however, had been monitoring it since March 31 and found it obvious and blatant.  Thompson said there were no laws broken, but 'the use was inappropriate.'

See also:  Candidates use city's property for personal political purposes