Managing the weather may be beyond the official portfolio of Mayor-elect Dwight C. Jones, but when he takes office Jan. 1, he wants to usher in a little sunshine.
Jones will voluntarily disclose financial contributions he receives toward his inaugural events Jan. 10, which include a service at First Baptist Church of South Richmond where he remains pastor, a swearing-in ceremony and a $75-a-ticket ball at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. (Jones will officially be sworn in at City Hall on Wednesday, Dec. 31.)
State law requires governors, lieutenant governors and attorneys general to make public the names of contributors to the events, and their contibutions, that honor new officeholders. But no law requires local officeholders to do the same.
“Voluntary disclosure is always a good thing when it comes to money raised
by elected officials,” says David Poole, executive director of the Virginia
Public Access Project, a nonpartisan tracker of money in Virginia politics.
Democratic consultant Matt Felan, who oversaw Jones' fundraising operation during the campaign and will do so for the inaugural, says the mayor-elect's transition team has filed papers with the State Board of Elections and the city registrar. Jones' representatives will file and disclose inaugural details. The first such report is due March 15.
“It's the right thing to do — full transparency in politics,” says Felan, who managed Gov. Tim Kaine's inauguration. He says any leftover money will be donated to the Central Virginia Foodbank.
Statewide officeholders were not required to disclose finances for their inaugurals until the General Assembly passed a bill after Gov. L. Douglas Wilder declined to publicly account for the $1 million surplus from his gubernatorial inaugural fund. The Internal Revenue Service eventually investigated and Wilder settled with the feds in 2000. The terms have never been released.
History repeated itself when Wilder became mayor in 2005. He raised $153,000 for his gala, netting $63,000 after expenses with no accounting of where that money went. Major donors were disclosed only after Style Weekly requested them. Paul Goldman, then Wilder's senior policy adviser, said at the time he wasn't sure what the mayor planned to do with the spare $63,000: “There is no specific plan at present.”
It's still not clear what became of the money.
Inaugural events set for Jan. 10 include:
• A public ecumenical service, 10 a.m. at First Baptist Church of South Richmond, 1501 Decatur St.
• A public swearing-in ceremony, noon at City Hall, 900 E. Broad St.
• An inaugural ball, 8 p.m. at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. $75 per person; $1,000 sponsorships for a table of 10. 804-644-8515, email@example.com.
• Food drives at all events to benefit Central Virginia Foodbank.