Worker fired for doing mayor’s church work on the job

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 3/4/2016, 6:26 a.m.
The Richmond Ambulance Authority quietly has terminated a high-ranking employee who was doing volunteer work for Richmond Mayor Dwight C. ...

The Richmond Ambulance Authority quietly has terminated a high-ranking employee who was doing volunteer work for Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones’ church during business hours, the Free Press has learned.

Pamela J. Branch, the authority’s chief human resources and legal officer for several years, was fired Feb. 24 after officials determined she spent time at the RAA doing work as clerk of First Baptist Church of South Richmond, where the mayor is senior pastor.

The Free Press has confirmed that her dismissal came after she threatened to sue the authority for religious discrimination if she was disciplined for doing church business on RAA time.

Ms. Branch could not be reached for comment.

“No comment,” was the only response from Terone B. Green, chairman of the board of the ambulance authority, an independent public entity the city created in 1991 to operate Richmond’s emergency medical services.

RAA CEO Chip Decker said, “I am not going to comment on employment matters” when asked about Ms. Branch’s status with the organization.

Sources indicated that Ms. Branch’s forced departure followed a search of the authority’s computers, which turned up emails and other documents involving the church that she created while at work at RAA.

The emails also included correspondence she exchanged with Mayor Jones, the Free Press has been told, showing he was aware that she was using RAA resources for church work.

The Free Press has requested copies of the emails and documents under the Freedom of Information Act, but has not yet received them. Mr. Decker stated Wednesday the request is still being processed.

In response to a request for comment from Mayor Jones, his press secretary, Tammy Hawley, stated Wednesday: “With respect to any emails between she and the mayor, the appropriateness or not of that should be driven by RAA policies and procedures.

“For example, the city’s own policy allows for some limited use of emails for personal use,” she continued. “The issue for us in the recent matter with (Emmanuel O. Adediran, the city director of Public Works) was persistent use and not limited use. RAA policies would dictate what she should or should not have done with respect to her volunteer work (for the church) from there. I’m not aware of the level of usage she had or what their policies are.”

Ms. Branch is the second employee caught breaching the firewall Mayor Jones claimed he set up when he first took office in 2009 to keep city business separate from that of his church.

Earlier this year, City Auditor Umesh Dalal created a major stir when he reported that Mr. Adediran was spending city time serving as volunteer project manager on the development of First Baptist Church’s satellite sanctuary in Chesterfield County.

The evidence came from emails on Mr. Adediran’s city computer, including a few Mr. Adediran exchanged with Mayor Jones, showing the mayor was aware of Mr. Adediran’s activities for the church.

The Free Press also reported previously that Mr. Adediran had permission from his immediate supervisor to undertake his work for the church and was known to work longer hours on his city job to make up the time.

Mayor Jones and Selena Cuffee-Glenn, the city’s chief administrative officer, required Mr. Adediran to relinquish 38 hours of vacation time to make up for the city time the city auditor estimated he had misused doing church work.

Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael N. Herring also has begun a probe with the Virginia State Police to determine whether any criminal laws were violated.