The political bureaucracies of Richmond and the District of Columbia are becoming kindred spirits — sister cities, perhaps.
First there was longtime Richmond City Manager Bob Bobb's hiring as Washington's city administrator in 2003. Then along came Mayor Doug Wilder's double-down — the hiring of former district cop Rodney Monroe as police chief in February 2005, and later that November the landing of Harry Black, a former budget director and procurement officer from the nation's capital.
They all paved the way for Mayor Dwight Jones' pick of Byron Marshall as chief administrative officer. He's former acting director of one of Washington's largest agencies — the 10,000-employee Department of Human Resources.
Marshall, in town for the past week meeting with City Council members, the business community and finally news media on Monday afternoon, has stirred up his share of controversy. Namely, there's an unfinished audit of the Texas agency he currently heads, the Austin Revitalization Authority, and his controversial moonlighting as a consultant while serving as Atlanta's chief operating officer in the mid-1990s.
His district days, however, have largely been glossed over. Such as his service under formerly crack-addicted Mayor Marion Barry in the '80s. After Barry's re-election he publicly expressed his hope to hire Marshall as city administrator in 1994. (He was serving as chief operating officer in Atlanta.)
Moreover, Marshall served as a foot soldier in a bureaucracy dubbed the worst city government in America by Washington Monthly in 1989. How much of a role Marshall had in the corruptible Barry regime is unclear. It's something that didn't really come up in the weekend meeting with City Council President Kathy Graziano and Councilman Bruce Tyler, who met with Marshall for about two hours on June 20.
“I felt that questions came up about him that he satisfactorily answered,” Graziano says, referring to the Austin audit and the Atlanta moonlighting. “We didn't really discuss D.C.”
“I think Mr. Marshall has the credentials to be CAO,” Tyler says. “He clearly has the management experience from Atlanta and Washington, D.C. … Let's be honest. One of the cautionary things I've seen is he was there when Marion Barry was there.”
This isn't the end of the discussion, of course. City Council is expected to take a week and vote July 1 on whether to confirm Jones' selection of Marshall as chief administrator.
Others, however, have tasted too much of federal indictments, bribery charges and former Mayor Doug Wilder to jump on the Marshall bandwagon.
Beverley “Booty” Armstrong, local businessman and regular on the local power circuit, says he didn't attend the Monday-morning meet-and-greet with Marshall and some members of the business community.
He says Marshall appears to be qualified, but he has reservations. “I am concerned about ethical issues,” he says. “I'm concerned that where there's smoke, there's fire.”