Byron Marshall, Richmond's chief administrative officer, resigned Friday after five and a half years working for Mayor Dwight Jones.
Publicly, Jones presents the departure as amicable. In a curt statement, he thanks Marshall for his service and wishes him well in "his future endeavors." But City Hall sources say the resignation is unusual and sudden -- and that a new job doesn't seem to be lined up.
If Marshall was forced out, it wouldn't be entirely unexpected. He's had a troubled year. If you're betting on what might have gone wrong, here are some odds:
Theory: The Sharon Judkins scandal never went away. After meeting Judkins through a professional organization, Marshall hired her as a deputy administrator in 2012. Two years later, she had a reputation for missing deadlines with a handful of bungled projects under her belt. At the behest of the mayor, Marshall asked Judkins to resign in May. But before she left the city, Marshall attempted to restore unused sick time. That move would have improperly boosted her pension by upwards of $400,000, according to a report by the city auditor, Umesh Dalal, who called for Commonwealth's Attorney Michael Herring to investigate. Herring found no legal wrongdoing. That doesn't mean Marshall's actions sat well with the mayor. And that Jones' staff, rather than Marshall, chose Judkins' replacement, suggests depleted confidence in Marshall's administrative ability.
The odds: 2-1
Theory: City officials are haunted by the Bob McDonnell verdict. This might sound farfetched, but it helps explain the timing. And don't underestimate the extent to which the former governor's conviction has spooked local politicians. Whether or not the concern is real, it's there -- a feeling that the feds could swoop in with a broad investigation at the first whiff of impropriety. This theory dovetails nicely with the Judkins scandal, and includes some of the same players. To defend himself against the auditor's allegations, Marshall hired Anthony Troy, the same lawyer the state initially hired to represent McDonnell. And as he was asked to do in the McDonnell case, Richmond's commonwealth's attorney investigated.
The odds: 5-1
Theory: Jones blames Marshall for bungling the ballpark deal. That or he wants to be able to shift political blame to Marshall for bungling the ballpark deal if it never comes to fruition. Marshall had taken the lead in negotiations with landowners, developers and City Council on the mayor's ill-fated proposal to build a stadium in Shockoe Bottom. Among the reasons City Council members gave for opposing the plan was the "slow drip" of information from Marshall, which they said made it impossible to judge. Meanwhile, supporters of the plan at City Hall swear that the deal, announced in November, could have been successful if it hadn't taken so damned long to complete. Though Jones has promised to reintroduce the plan, it's unclear whether Marshall ever came up with a finalized deal to present to council.
The odds: 5-1
Theory: Marshall's decision to publicly attack the city auditor didn't go over well. Marshall's lawyer sent a nasty letter to Dalal after Herring determined there was no criminal wrongdoing. To be sure, the auditor has been a frequent critic of the administration, and there's no love lost between Dalal and Jones. But the administration doesn't typically go for public airings of grievances, and Marshall's decision to go that route with a letter provided to news outlets might have rubbed Jones the wrong way.
The odds: 7-1
Theory: All of the above. It doesn't have to be one thing -- mix and match. And Marshall's tenure had its rocky moments before the past year. The scandal that's the city's Social Services Department is going on three years. And it's always possible Jones wanted to rid himself of Marshall sooner, but only recently felt like he had an amalgamation of reasons strong enough to justify it to his supporters in the business community, which reportedly likes Marshall.
The odds: 2-1