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Wilder Defends Schools Assault at Press Luncheon



Mayor L. Douglas Wilder defended his apparently illegal attempt on Friday to move the School Board out of City Hall, along with the computer porn charges against City Council President William J. Pantele, during a luncheon Saturday for female journalists at the Richmond Marriott downtown.

Wilder, however, didn't address mounting charges of illegality on the part of his administration in the previous 24 hours. At midnight, Richmond Circuit Court Judge Margaret Spencer issued a restraining order against the Wilder administration, forcing the city-contracted movers to return six truckloads of office furniture and files to the School Board offices at City Hall early Saturday morning.

He cautioned that the courts had not issued a final ruling in the matter. A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

"If I don't have the authority, the courts will say [so]," Wilder said.

Wilder also says he was "unaware" that the School Board held a meeting at City Hall Friday, and that members of the media and at least one School Board member were denied entry into City Hall to attend the meeting. In a show of force, city police officers threatened to arrest news reporters, including Style's Chris Dovi, and School Board member Carol Wolf, as they attempted to enter City Hall.

The National Federation of Press Women invited Wilder to speak at their annual conference, which was held in Richmond this year.

The luncheon was a cinematic contrast to the previous evening's chaotic street scene. In response to a reporter's question asking why the press was not allowed inside City Hall for an open meeting of the School Board, Wilder says he was not informed of the media's exclusion when he was last updated at 2 a.m.

During his address he shared biographical anecdotes and frequently circled back to themes of doing the right thing. He wore his signature cowboy boots and a green suit for the occasion.

Members of next year's National Federation of Press Women's who are planning next year's conference were given name tags shaped like sheriff's badges. To open his talk, Wilder quipped that it was a great relief to know the tags did not indicate there was "a new sheriff in town. Some things that are happening around here would make one suspicious," he joked.


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