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Caught Double Dipping, City Director Resigns; Wilder Stays Put

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The free ride couldn't go on forever.

Amid growing concern over double-dipping -- receiving both a city-owned car and a hefty vehicle allowance -- Benjamin Johnson, Richmond's director of emergency management, has stepped down.

"I am proud of the strides the City of Richmond has made in public safety since I arrived as emergency manager in 2004, including being named the most prepared city in Virginia by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security just a year later," Johnson wrote in a statement. "I was offered and I accepted a compensation package and tools to perform the job to the best of my ability."

In an after-hours press release from the mayor's office on Monday, Mayor L. Douglas Wilder announced he would return his own vehicle allowance money, which the mayor has been receiving since 2005.

The release does not indicate whether Johnson will return the roughly $17,000 he's received since July 2005. Wilder's own allowance amounts to $8,400 a year.

Johnson and Wilder were the only city officials known to have been receiving both vehicle allowances and city cars.

Style Weekly first reported the double dips on April 11.

Asked why Johnson had been asked to step down when his violation was the same as the mayor's, Wilder spokesman Linwood Norman declined to comment further and referred questions to the press release.

Richmond Chief Administrative Officer Sheila Hill-Christian asked Johnson to return the car April 8, but declined to comment on Johnson's resignation Monday afternoon.

Johnson will be replaced by his department's deputy director, Anthony McLean.

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