He couldn't get through a minute-long interview without swearing, thinks I might work for the NSA, and absolutely hates semicolons. Meet Style Weekly's wonderfully outspoken copy editor, Gordon Poindexter.
[CBS 6 took down the interview.]
Richmond’s new finance director Dominic Ochei had been on the job less than two months when CBS 6 reporter Catie Beck cornered him with a camera in an elevator at City Hall.
After the exchange that followed, City Spokeswoman Tammy Hawley says “it was agreed that it was best we part ways with Mr. Ochei.” Hawley cites "information was brought to [Chief Administrative Officer Byron Marshall's] attention that he was unaware of."
Ochei's last day was yesterday, she says.
In the priceless but painfully awkward interview embedded above, Ochei claimed to have no idea what Beck is talking about when she asks him about a document she describes as relating to fraud charges in South Africa. When she brings up his personal bankruptcy filings he tells her to talk to the people who did his background check.
Beck: “We were doing some research and we found some questionable allegations about fraud charges, do you know what I’m talking about?”
Ochei: “Um, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Beck: “You recognize this document here? It’s from the South African Police and it says you were held in contempt of court. Do you know what that’s about?”
[Ochei doesn’t respond.]
Beck: “Were you not held in contempt of court?”
Ochei: “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
It goes on like that, with Beck producing his bankruptcy filings and Ochei refusing to engage. (Court records confirm: Ochei, 52, and his wife filed for bankruptcy in 1992.)
Ochei started working for the city on May 13. Previously he has worked for the city of Atlanta as a deputy chief financial officer. He’s also been employed internationally, according to his resume.
The position had been unfilled for 21 months when Ochei was hired.
Beck’s story runs tonight at 11 on CBS6. Here's a link to the tease they posted on their website this afternoon.
Update: CBS 6 ran the whole story, and what Beck found is a lot less impressive than she made it out to be in her elevator interview, which the station removed from its website.
Her story hangs entirely on the bankruptcy filing mentioned above and a random document that shows up if you Google Ochei. And reading the document, it turns out Ochei could honestly respond that he had no idea what Beck was talking about when she told him "it's from the South African Police and it shows you were held in contempt of court."
It's actually a letter written to South African police by a municipality's "Ratepayers Association" -- a civic group that could be a bunch of grumpy nutcases for all we know. And it only alleges that Ochei and other city employees were in contempt of court because the association disagreed with payments the city had authorized.
Beck didn't include comment from the association at the center of her story. I can tell you that when I attempted to contact the group last month they never got back to me. Their website hasn't been updated since 2011 and notes a "lack of interest."
Ochei told the Times-Dispatch he was an advisor to the municipality with no actual authority. He says he's asked to have his name removed from the document.
In his interview with Beck, Marshall says the city was aware of the whole South African thing. The city's bigger concern, he says, was that the 1992 bankruptcy filing wasn't disclosed.
Ochei told the T-D the filing is "no longer relevant to his life." But if it's something the city would still consider relevant then there are legitimate questions about why the background check they conducted didn't turn it up. Those kinds of court records are like the easiest thing in the world to find.
When I wrote the above post, Beck's story hadn't aired (only the interview as a tease) and the station hadn't yet reported Ochei had been let go ("tune in at 11 to see how the city responds). And based on what Beck said in her interview I assumed -- bad move -- that she'd actually followed up on the South African document and found what she told the guy she had in her hands. That she didn't makes the whole thing seem way less, um, good. But I still love Catie Beck for getting in the elevator with the guy.
Richmond's No BS Brass Band recently played three songs for NPR Music's Tiny Desk concert series. The network published a video of the set yesterday. Watch above and check out NPR's write up below:
Just southeast of the Virginia Commonwealth University campus in Richmond, Va., lies a compact neighborhood called Oregon Hill. Historically, it's been a (white) working-class part of town, affordable for students and various bohemian types. Recording engineer Lance Koehler was drawn to the place... more
Add Europe to the list of continents that can officially hate Richmond.
Frederick “Toots” Hibbert had already cancelled his tour dates in North America after a local moron hit him in the head with a vodka bottle while he played a show on Brown’s Island in May. Yesterday Hibbert went ahead and cancelled all future performances, including a six-week European summer tour.
The cancellation is blamed on lingering medical issues, according to a press release put out by the band.
“This unavoidable decision was made by Toots’ medical team as it has been determined that any performances at this time could seriously compromise the artiste’s health and well being,” the release says.
William Connor Lewis is charged with felony assault. Hibbert has lodged a $21 million lawsuit against the 19-year-old.
A proposal to give bicycles priority on Floyd Avenue in the Museum District and the Fan advanced last week when the city won $40,000 to study the project.
The plan, however, is still far from a sure thing.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports today that federal funds have been awarded to begin designing the project, estimate its cost, and “talk to neighbors that would be affected.”
That last one’s important; if the blissful, bike-haven that is proposed ever materializes -- it’s only going to be after the concerns of nearby homeowners are placated.
On national bike to work day last month we asked Mayor Dwight Jones about the plan, which is included in this year’s capitol improvement plan. You can watch the video here.
Jones acknowledged infrastructure changes like the one proposed for Floyd are the next step for making Richmond a more bicycle friendly city. Sharrows, the shared lane markings that have been painted on some roads, are limited in their effectiveness, he says. It’s position many cycling advocates share.
The capital improvement plan says Floyd would be converted into a “bike boulevard” that will “give priority to bicycles through the installation of” traffic circles, speed bumps and other traffic-slowing measures. Cars would be allowed but diverted to parallel streets every few blocks. It would stretch from Monroe Park to Thompson Street.
At this point, the biggest unknown may be whether residents on Floyd will stand for it. Projects like this tend to inspire opposition, and the response so far from the relevant neighborhood associations has been to hedge.
The T-D reports “presidents of the Fan District Association and Musuem District Assocation say they don’t know enough about the project to take a position,” but a member of the Museum District Association’s board of directors, noting that he’s “pretty curious,” expresses concern:
“The big issue in my mind is visitors and emergency vehicles getting turned around or delayed or lost and the aggravation that might cause.”
Does your toddler bear a striking resemblance to a Kennedy?
Uncanny. OK, now ask if they want to be cast in a film version of Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly’s book, “Killing Kennedy.”
The National Geographic, made-for-television production is filming in Richmond beginning next week. And as with “Lincoln,” they’re looking for extras. It stars Rob Lowe.
Charlottesville-based Erica Arvold Casting is looking for three-year-old children to stand in for Kennedy's daughter, Caroline, and son, John Jr. They're also looking for infants of five and 18 months to stand in for John Jr. There are details and pictures on the agency's website.
Richmond BizSense, which has more details about the film, reports the agency also looking for extras of “all shapes and sizes, including many Caucasian males as well as Hispanic males and females."
Non-union extras will be paid $75 a day, BizSense reports.
Amid allegations that Geronimo Aguilar sexually assaulted two girls in Texas, he and three other pastors at the Richmond Outreach Center resigned earlier tonight, according to a statement released by the church’s board of directors.
The four resignations leave the ROC, which says on its website that it serves 11,000 people weekly, with a single pastor: Fernando Kittrell, according to a listing on the ROC’s website.
Aguilar’s attorney, David Carlson, who’s been handling press inquiries for the church, didn’t immediately return a call for comment. The press release released by the board notes only that the terms of the resignations were “mutually agreeable.”
Meanwhile, three of the four pastors who resigned actually sit on the board of 12 that accepted and presumably negotiated those mutually agreeable terms.
In addition to Aguilar, who is listed as president of the organization in the church’s latest tax filings, newly resigned ROC pastors Andrew Delgado and Jason Helmlinger are listed as board members as of the end of 2011.
The other pastor who resigned, Matthew Aguilar, is Geronimo Aguilar’s brother and testified as a witness at a recent bond hearing in Manchester District Court before Geronimo Aguilar was extradited to Texas.
For a list of the 12 board members and their compensation, click the image to the right.
Aguilar is charged with sexually assaulting two girls under the age of 14 when he was serving as a youth pastor at a church in Fort Worth, Texas.
Helmlinger, a former Henrico County police officer, is facing a misdemeanor charge of making a threatening phone call following an alleged exchange with a man who made critical comments about Aguilar on a TV news broadcast.
Here’s the full statement released by the board on Wednesday night:
Dear ROC Family and Friends, The Richmond Outreach Center held a Board meeting this evening, June 5, 2013. Upon mutually agreeable terms, we hereby announce that we have accepted the resignations of Pastor Geronimo Aguilar, Pastor Jason Helmlinger, Pastor Andrew Delgado and Pastor Matthew Aguilar. We wish the best for the pastors and their families. The Richmond Outreach Center remains focused on serving those in need and we will never stray from this mission. Sincerely, The Richmond Outreach Center Board of Directors
Last week we posted the above video of a Richmond Police cruiser driving over a tall bike as its rider dismounts. (The impact is at the 1:45 mark. The video comes to YouTube courtesy of F.T. Rea.) The collision took place May 25 in Carytown during a protest against Monsanto. Protester report the cyclist was cited for riding against traffic.
This weekend police were involved in a second collision with a cyclist, this time in the East End. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports "a preliminary investigation by the department’s crash team indicates a Richmond officer was driving on North 23rd Street at Fairfield Avenue when the bicyclist passed a stopped vehicle at the intersection and his bicycle slid partially under the cruiser." The paper, citing a police spokeswoman, says the cyclist was taken to the hospital for treatment of minor injuries.
We've reached out to the department for comment on the two collisions.
Update: Department spokeswoman Dionne Waugh says in an email investigators aren't releasing more details at this time. She didn't identify the cyclist or the officer. She says the department's crash team believe the officer was the victim in the incident and charges are pending against the cyclists.The headline on this story has been changed to reflect the fact that police say the officer in the most recent incident wasn't at fault.