The Virginian-Pilot Roger Chesley column

2018-06-14 | The Virginian-Pilot

June 14--Dave Hansen survived a new challenge this week to his continued employment as Virginia Beach city manager. But instead of basking in the glow of victory, he should be updating his résumé, LinkedIn entry and list of contacts.

Just in case. Six-figure salaries with perks aren't easy to come by, after all.

Hansen must know his hold on the top municipal job remains a slippery one. City Council members have been a forgiving lot, but their patience must be wearing thin.

Besides, they're wary about a voter backlash come November, in part because of their support of Hansen. Beach residents can't fathom they'd keep their own jobs following similar controversies.

It's only because they wouldn't.

You have to wonder why council members keep going to bat for a guy whose allegiance to them -- and residents -- has come into question. Council members also gave him a pass a few months ago, after The Pilot revealed Hansen threatened to punch the former state transportation secretary over rejection of funding for a Beach road project.

The council discussed Hansen's performance in a closed session Tuesday evening. Council members ultimately spared him.

Councilman John Moss said Hansen has gone overboard in keeping developers in the loop on certain projects, The Pilot's Alissa Skelton reported. His sharing of such details can be at cross-purposes with the council's goals.

His actions buttress claims the Beach plays favorites on development projects. Most people think so anyway, but the emails provide some justification.

Moss said he discovered recently the city manager forwarded fair-haired developer Bruce Thompson an email that Moss had sent in December, regarding an upcoming council executive session. Thompson had been in long-running negotiations with the city to build a new concrete pier.

Councilwoman Jessica Abbott said she learned Hansen sent a text to Lou Haddad, president of developer Armada Hoffler, saying Hansen had tried to provoke concern among council members about the current City Hall building. Hansen had been advocating to hire Armada Hoffler to build a new City Hall at Town Center, but the council later rejected that idea.

Moss and Abbott say Hansen should be fired. In an odd coincidence, both council members missed the meeting Tuesday; Moss was traveling on business, and Abbott was ill.

I tried to call several of the remaining members. The two I reached declined to talk about the personnel matters that took place behind closed doors. More broadly, though, they listed several factors that are contributing to the recent turmoil roiling the council and Hansen.

They cited the fall election in which eight of 11 seats are up for grabs; there's never been that many before, council veteran Barbara Henley told me Wednesday. The midterm resignation of Mayor Will Sessoms contributed to this scenario.

Henley said Moss, a fiscal hawk, is seeking a like-minded majority on council. "We're trying to do the best we can for the city ... during a very contentious council campaign," she added.

For his part, Hansen released a 1 1/2 -page statement Wednesday challenging Moss' claims. He said, for example, that Moss' public postings and videos mischaracterized the email exchange "as if it occurred after the executive session -- which it did not." (The Facebook video I viewed from Moss clearly said it was before the executive session.)

"It is important to preserve credibility in the process of fairly negotiating public/private partnership projects with our business community," he said. "My transmission was an 'FYI' only, with no editorial comments."

Well, why did Thompson deserve to know anything about the council's executive session? Does Hansen afford such insight to any other developer -- or resident, for that matter -- on issues pertaining to them?

I wanted to interview Hansen on Wednesday, but, through a city spokeswoman, he declined comment outside of his statement.

Maybe he's got a trip lined up to an office supply store. A piece of advice: Colored paper really makes résumés pop.