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Wilder Move Illegal, Judge Says

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On Sunday, Mayor L. Douglas Wilder's weekly newsletter issued a bold challenge to critics who have claimed his administration has acted lawlessly: "I call on all government officials to either cease and desist on making reckless charges or produce evidence of the criminality so we may root it out and prosecute it. In other words, put up or shut up."

Last Tuesday, Judge Margaret Spencer beat his critics to the punch.

In a ruling filed March 11, Spencer declared illegal the Wilder administration's refusal to enter into a City Council mandated $10-per-year lease with schools administration. That lease allows schools administrative offices to remain indefinitely at City Hall. The judge ordered the Wilder administration to sign a lease with the School Board by April 10.

The council edict was signed in July 2007, well in advance of the Wilder administration's ill-fated Sept. 21 attempt to evict schools from City Hall. Spencer's midnight order on Sept. 21 stopped Wilder's eviction attempt. Her temporary injunction ordered Wilder to return everything to the building.

Had Wilder obeyed council's lease order, his office would have had no reason to enter into a lease for 3600 W. Broad St., where city administration officials planned to relocate the School Board. That lease and other circumstances of the aborted eviction currently are the subject of a City Council investigative committee, which is contemplating turning over its findings to the Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney's office.

The council ordinance "has the force and effect of law and is legally binding upon the Respondents Wilder and [then-acting chief administrative officer Harry] Black and those acting in concert with them with respect to the subject matter of the ordinance," Spencer writes. "Finally, the Court declares that Respondents did not act in accordance with the requirements of the Ordinance."

Spencer also warned Black and Wilder not to plan any more moves for the city's School Board, which occupies the top six floors of City Hall, and refused his request for a stay during his planned Virginia Supreme Court appeal.

Calls to Wilder for comment were not returned by press time.

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