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“Idiot” Lawsuit Reaches Back to Doug Wilder



Echoes of former Mayor L. Douglas Wilder's litigious administration can be heard in Roy Eidem's $1.2 million lawsuit against his former boss, the city's planning director. According to internal city documents filed with the suit, the sour relationship between Rachel Flynn and Eidem is in part the lingering effect of a Wilder-era power struggle between Flynn and a former city official.

In a lawsuit he filed May 13, Eidem accuses Flynn of, among other things, calling him an “idiot” in front of co-workers. Apparently Eidem tried other avenues to address the problem first. He submitted a grievance to the city's Human Resources Department on Aug. 26, 2009. According to a Jan. 21 report, the investigation concluded that “a disconnect” between Eidem and Flynn was the result of “internal departmental struggles between the director and the former building commissioner, Mr. Art Dahlberg. Since Mr. Dahlberg's resignation in February 2008, the disconnect has continued.”

Before coming to Richmond, Eidem and Dahlberg worked together in Northern Virginia. “I had hired Roy when he came to the city,” Dahlberg says, now serving as the commissioner of neighborhood services for Milwaukee.

Part of the cause for the rift between Flynn and Dahlberg can be found in the Aug. 11, 2008, Mayor's Visions Newsletter, Wilder's bimonthly municipal rumination. In that edition he outlined plans to remove the city's code enforcement from Flynn's control to a newly created bureau of permits and inspections.

The plan was to move the team to the 3600 Building on Broad Street. Six months later, Dahlberg accepted the job in Milwaukee. He says he left the city not because he was disgruntled, but because Milwaukee made him an attractive offer. Code enforcement remains under the Planning Department's purview and in its old home on the first floor of City Hall.

City Council never acted on the plan to remove code enforcement from the Planning Department. When Mayor Dwight Jones took office, he withdrew the proposal and instead amputated a different part of Flynn's department, moving the community-development workers from planning to the newly consolidated Community and Economic Development Department now at Main Street Station.

The internal investigation into the original “idiot” incident between Flynn and Eidem concluded that she had violated the administrative regulation for business conduct: “Treat every individual with respect and courtesy.”

Lawyer Sandra Robinson, who worked as Wilder's chief of staff, represents Eidem.