Antoinette Essa, the former face of "12 About Town," NBC 12's local arts and activities calendar, is now the face of disaster.
Essa left Channel 12 after years of helping Richmonders plan their weekends.
City spokesman Linwood Norman confirms that she recently assumed the desk and duties vacated by Britt Drewes, former public information officer for the city's Department of Public Works and emergency management coordination efforts.
Channel 12 declined to confirm Essa's dates of service, saying only that she left the station several years ago.
"She's been hired on a provisional basis as a public information officer," says Norman, who oversees a department and staff that costs taxpayers more than a half million dollars annually.
The cost to keep Norman's shop in business is beginning to get under the skin of City Council President Bill Pantele, who sees the hiring of Essa as indication of spending gone wild in a department that did not exist before Mayor L. Douglas Wilder took office.
"The amount of money being spent on public relations and media relations is just unbelievable," says Pantele, who says he was recently informed that Essa had been hired as an "image consultant" for the mayor.
"The irony is that considering the reform theme and [Wilder's] criticism of the [former City Manager Calvin] Jamison administration for promoting certain things, that those were a drop in the bucket compared to [spending] that's going on now," says Pantele. Click here for more News and Features