Mayor L. Douglas Wilder has repeatedly said that he was unaware that a $700-a-month bonus -- $8,000 a year was being added to his paycheck for wear and tear on his personal car, even though he is routinely chauffeured by a police detail in a city-owned Grand Marquis.
His claim has rested on the fact that his checks are directly deposited to the bank, and he was therefore unaware of the auto allowance.
But city employees who receive the auto allowance and are paid through direct deposit are issued pay stubs with the auto allowance listed separately. The pay receipts are not mailed home but distributed at City Hall. Sources tell Style Weekly that Wilder receives his pay stub at his office in City Hall.
"I haven't received a check since I've been here, to put in my hand. My checks are all deposited," Wilder told the Richmond Times-Dispatch April 7. Ten days later he repeated the claim to Channel 6, saying the checks are "directly deposited, so I don't have any idea as to my having received any car allowance."
Former Emergency Services Coordinator Ben Johnson resigned April 14 after City Auditor Umesh Dalal informed city officials that Johnson, too, was driving a city car while drawing an auto allowance.
Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney Mike Herring, who receives an auto allowance of $490 a month, says he plans to sit down with the city auditor to review his findings before deciding whether to launch a criminal investigation.
One central question in determining if either Wilder or Johnson committed a crime will be whether they knew they were receiving auto allowances.
"I look at my pay stubs," Herring says, "and I suspect most people do."