VIRGINIA BEACH — After the tragedy on May 31, Jason Nixon has become the public champion for an independent investigation into the events surrounding the shooting deaths of his wife Kate, and 10 of her co-workers at the Municipal Center that day.
After calls from the public including victims’ families and state delegates, City Council voted in their formal meeting Tuesday to authorize City Auditor Lyndon Remias to award a contract to an independent firm “no later than Aug. 15, 2019” — a stipulation Nixon said is the city’s way of maintaining control over the investigation.
“We want outside eyes, we don’t want people that know ‘so-and-so’ who come in here and may look at something, or they may not look at something else,” he said.
Councilwoman Sabrina Wooten said opening a request for proposal would add more time to a process she hoped would be “expeditious,” and suggested going directly to UVA attorney Tim Heaphy who authored the report in 2017 after a Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally turned deadly.
In his address to the council in their earlier informal meeting, Remias said his office is acting under the discretion of council and their resolution directing he follows policies outlined in the “procurement act.”
“The Procurement Act does say ‘where practical’ and this is a situation where we can practically at least solicit other bidders,” he said.
RELATED STORY: Pressure mounting: City Council gears toward possible independent probe on the May 31 mass shooting
Remias said he’d been paying attention and clearly understands his office’s role as the “contract administrator and liaison” to assist the external firm gain access to necessary city point of contacts.
“In no manner do we actually conduct work, in no manner do we influence them in regards to areas they’re going to review, exceptions they’re going to report, nor do we have any input in regards to the final report,” he said.
The auditor said in anticipation of Tuesday’s vote his office is “ready to move forward” immediately finalizing the solicitation letter to start a seven-day request for proposal process.
Remias said the independent review will start as soon as a bidding firm is “reviewed, vetted, selected, and contracted” within the declared emergency’s expedited three to four weeks — the process would typically take three to four months.
“The goal is as soon as possible,” Remias said. “We want to do it quickly, but not rushed.”
Remias noted his office does want the support and trust of the public and city employees and will only enter into a contract with a firm “that has no conflicts in fact or in appearance.”
“Are they currently doing business with the city, or projected to do business with the city?” he said.
Nixon said he’s become physically ill as he’s trying to grieve, care for his three daughters, and manage the stress caused by the resistance he’s met in the pursuit of “transparency and the truth.”
“It’s like David and Goliath and like I’m working against a machine,” he said.
After City Manager Dave Hansen contested reports the shooter and nine-year city employee DeWayne Craddock had a “satisfactory” work history, Nixon sought legal representation.
“I thought ‘are you kidding me’ this is the same guy my wife would complain about all the time,” Nixon said.
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Nixon said “human resource policies and procedures are the main issues” as he knows his wife had sent negative work critiques and discussed Craddock’s performance with supervisors 18 months ago but “it would just go under the table.”
However, he said Kate was known for keeping “meticulous journals” at work which along with her cellphone and iPad have yet to be returned by law enforcement.
“Everybody’s human and I understand nobody’s perfect, but if you’ve got a problem you need to identify it and fix it,” Nixon said.
Other topics discussed
- The council voted to adopt Councilman Michael Berlucchi and Councilwoman Jessica Abbott’s resolution to urge the General Assembly provide increased funding for mental health services.
- Previously deferred indefinitely, “guns in the workplace” resolution is an “ongoing conversation,” Mayor Bobby Dyer said. The council plans to get anonymous input from city employees on their stance.
- Dyer proclaimed July 2019 is “Parks and Recreation Month.”
RELATED STORY: Virginia Beach City Council includes mental health in their gun violence discussion