Monday, January 8, 2007

A group of black Virginia lawmakers last week announced legislation calling for a state apology for slavery.

The joint resolution issued Wednesday urges that the General Assembly “hereby atones for the involuntary servitude of Africans” and commits to reconciliation. The group said it will formally introduce the resolution on the first day of the session, Wednesday.

Sen. Henry L. Marsh III, Richmond Democrat and a sponsor of the resolution, said it is the right time to set an example for the nation with the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown this year.

Virginia has a rich slavery history, with Richmond being a central point for the purchase of Africans.

Mr. Marsh said it is time “for Virginia to take a step toward reconciliation.”

The lawmakers say a resolution calling for a similar apology to American Indians is in the works.

• AIDS chief resigns

The head of the D.C. agency that fights HIV/AIDS resigned Tuesday.

Marsha Martin told staff and community groups in an e-mail that she is stepping down. The move came hours after Mayor Adrian M. Fenty took office.

Miss Martin wrote that as an appointee of former Mayor Anthony A. Williams’ administration, it is her time to leave the government. She was appointed senior deputy director of the Health Department’s HIV/AIDS Administration in August 2005.

• Off to prison

A former Lynchburg, Va., City Council member was sentenced to more than seven years in prison Wednesday for his role in a scheme to cheat his company’s employee-benefits plan out of more than $800,000.

A federal jury convicted Larry Carey, 59, and John Alvis Jackson, 65, in March of fraud and embezzlement.

Carey, a City Council member from 1992 to 1996, was vice president of finance at Burruss Co., a wood manufacturer. Jackson, who was sentenced Wednesday to nine years in prison, was the company’s president and chief executive officer.

Their actions, prosecutors said, cost 700 employees their jobs and left many without health insurance.

Prosecutors said the two faked inventory reports to get cash advances and put tax refunds, proceeds from equipment sales and insurance checks into a bank account without company accountants’ knowledge. Jackson received $514,000 in bonuses from the account, while Carey received $230,000, prosecutors said.

The two also took health care contributions from employees’ paychecks without paying the company’s health care plan administrator, who then stopped paying employees’ medical claims. They also did not put money into the employee pension plan.

The company had plants in Lynchburg, Brookneal, Galax and Gladys in Virginia and also in Tennessee and Kentucky when it filed for bankruptcy in November 2000.

• Open door

Transparency and accountability in Virginia state government are the goals behind a Web site that went on line last week.

The site — called “Virginia Performs” and located at — will allow residents to monitor the performances of state agencies and compare how the commonwealth is doing against other states and the nation.

The site outlines long-term goals in several key areas (economy, health and family, public safety, natural resources, government and citizens, and transportation), Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said. In each area, indicators such as third-grade reading scores and cancer-incidence rates are used to measure how the state is doing.

Users also are able to search demographic data at the state, regional and local level and use a mapping feature to create reports on dozens of measures at the state or local level.

Mr. Kaine’s office also announced $3 million in grants to allow state agencies to act on ideas submitted by residents for delivering low-cost, efficient government services.

• Booted out

Voters in the Caroline County, Md., town of Preston voted Thursday to recall two of the town’s three commissioners.

Just over half of the town’s 398 registered voters turned out to vote, and Town Manager Mimi Willis said about 80 percent of them voted to oust Rhoda Startt and Melissa Phillips.

At least 25 percent of the registered voters signed petitions this fall forcing the election. The petitions accused Miss Startt and Miss Phillips of misconduct in office, violations of the open-meetings law and conducting town business without notifying the third commissioner.

The two women contend that the reason for the recall was not written on the petition page, so the petition wasn’t legal. But the reason — unannounced closed meetings — was written on a page attached to every petition and printed on the ballots.

A special election will be conducted to fill the two vacancies, but no date has been set.

• Popular job

The list is getting longer with names of people in Henry County, Va., who are considering a bid for election to succeed the former sheriff, who has been charged along with 12 of his current and former officers with taking part in a scheme to sell drugs seized from criminals.

Lane Perry, who was appointed sheriff after the indictment and retirement of H. Franklin Cassell in November, announced that he will seek election to the post this fall.

“In the position I’m in, I feel I need to carry on with it,” Sheriff Perry said last week.

When the federal indictments were handed down, Sheriff Perry was a captain and third in line to succeed Mr. Cassell. But the second-in-command, Maj. James Keaton, was among the officers indicted on federal charges.

Sheriff’s Lt. Kimmy Nester has said he may run for sheriff. Lt. Nester was Mr. Cassell’s second-in-command before he was demoted shortly before the indictments were returned.

Mike McPeek, a retired Virginia State Police trooper who lost to Mr. Cassell in 2003, has said he will run.

Martinsville Police Chief Mike Rogers and Wes Ashley, director of the 911 center, have said they are considering seeking the post, with one running for sheriff and the other in line to be chief deputy.

Seven civilians also were indicted in the scheme. Charges included racketeering conspiracy, drug distribution, obstruction of justice and lying to federal agents.

Sheriff Perry, 37, said that morale was low among officers after the indictments, but that they have persevered.

“Basically, in a time of crisis, everything has held together,” he said.

Three of the former officers and one civilian have pleaded guilty to charges in the case. No trial dates have been set for the others.

• Obama to speak

U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, the charismatic, fast-rising potential presidential prospect from Illinois, will headline the Virginia Democratic Party’s annual fundraising dinner next month.

Mr. Obama, in his first term, will address the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner on Feb. 17 in Richmond.

The gala each year showcases key national Democratic figures. Sen. John Kerry, the unsuccessful 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, has addressed the dinner twice since 2003.

Mr. Obama, the son of a Kenyan immigrant, campaigned in Virginia last fall for Sen. James H. Webb Jr., and received a rock-star ovation alongside Mr. Webb and former Gov. Mark Warner at a rally in Richmond.

• This column is based in part on wire service reports.

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