“I’m looking into whether or not it’s legal,” City Council President Charles Samuels.
Every year the city puts together a parks and recreation program guide. Every year that guide is unburdened with advertising, except this year. This year there is a full page ad (seen above) touting the virtues of the Shockoe Economic Development plan and directing readers to a pro-plan website. Needless to say, more than a few people realized that this ad was out of place and now some, including City Council members are questioning whether it was even legal.
The following is from Style Weekly.
“I’m looking into whether or not it’s legal,” City Council President Charles Samuels said. “It’s not right.”
The advertisement directs readers of the parks department’s winter and spring publication to LovingRVA.com, a pro-stadium campaign sponsored by Venture Richmond, a downtown booster group that’s been working with Jones to build support for his controversial proposal to locate a new ballpark in Shockoe Bottom.
Jones’ press secretary, Tammy Hawley, said in an email that she personally placed that advertisement on a page that would have otherwise been left blank when an ad promoting the city’s partnership with Bon Secours on the Redskins training camp fell through.
“I thought it [was a] good use to help inform the public of where they could go for more information on the plan,” Hawley said. “We have directed the public to LovingRVA.com at all of our public meetings and in all of our presentation as well.”
But like Samuels, 5th District Councilman Parker Agelasto said he’s concerned the ad appears to constitute a use of taxpayer resources to promote one side of the stadium debate.
Jack Berry, executive director of Venture Richmond, said Monday that he had not heard about the ad and that his organization had no role in placing it in the program guide.
The city printed 10,000 of the guides at a cost of $7,903.37, officials said. The 24-page guides are available in all city community centers, libraries and government buildings, as well as Kroger and Martin’s grocery stores.
City Auditor/Inspector General Umesh Dalal confirmed that his office is looking into the issue.