Thursday, November 30, 2023

VB Ministers Conference: City auditor and Hillard Heintze have conflicting messages on mass shooting independent probe

Team members from Hillard Heintze are conducting the independent review into the May 31 shooting tragedy. (Southside Daily/Lucretia Cunningham)
Team members from Hillard Heintze are conducting the independent review into the May 31 shooting tragedy. (Southside Daily/Lucretia Cunningham)

VIRGINIA BEACH — Continuing what they said was their calling to be the voice for those who are without, the Virginia Beach Interdenominational Ministers Conference is questioning “mixed messages” they said are coming from City Auditor Lyndon Remias and Hillard Heintze, the Chicago-based firm contracted to review the events surrounding the May 31 tragedy.

In a news release Monday night, conference members said they sent a list of 53 questions requesting Hillard Heintze address issues within city departments including racism, sexism, and human resource practices “during the course of their investigation”

According to the organization, Hilliard Heintze COO Ken Bouche responded to their request saying “per the contract” some or all of the questions were outside of the investigation’s scope while Remias, the city-appointed review team liaison, said the opposite.

The group planned for a news conference on Tuesday night to discuss the conflicting messages they said they’ve received.

“The auditor is telling us the firm [not the contract] will determine what is in or out of scope, now we hear from the firm our questions may not be within the scope per the contract,” said Rev. Gary McCollum, a member of the ministers conference. “Our question is, why is the auditor saying one thing and you’re saying something else? Something’s not right here.”

McCollum said after sitting in the two community listening sessions, the organization wants to ensure the team is addressing the city’s “toxic work environments” they think may have acted as a foundation for the tragedy that transpired on May 31.

“If they’re just simply coming in and treating this as a security issue — we need to put more locks on the doors and that kind of thing — we’ve missed the point,” he said.

The group has also made public their call for the immediate termination of City Manager Dave Hansen who they said is charged with managing the city’s employees.

RELATED STORY: If you ask this organization, City Manager Dave Hansen should be fired ‘swiftly and immediately’

City Council unanimously passed the July 3 resolution which Remias said is part of the firm’s contract and spells out the scope of the independent review, “it’s premature to say if the firm will, or will not” address the ministers conference’s questions.

“We’re not saying those aren’t valued issues or concerns, but the review team wasn’t brought in to look at toxic work environments for the entire city,” he said. “To try to highjack the scope is unfair to the family members, victims, and city employees.”

Some of the organization’s questions:

  • Are there pay disparities that exist between Caucasian, African-American, female, and other minority employees? If not, what’s the proof?
  • How many employees were fired over the last 36 months after having first filed a complaint?
    • How many of these terminations were for African-American employees?
    • How many of these terminations were for female employees?
  • How many VB employees retired in the last 36 months?
    • How many of these retirements were forced?
  • What instructions do employees have if they have difficulty or dissatisfaction with their immediate supervisor?

According to the resolution, the review team will:

  • Create a timeline.
  • Perform a review of the perpetrator’s employment history and workplace interactions.
  • Review relevant city policies, procedures, and practices including, without limitation, those related to:
    • Facility security
    • Prevention of workplace violence
    • Employee alerting and response to active shooter notification

Hillard Heintze is in the second phase of their 12-week review into the May 31 shooting where they’ll continue to organize community listening sessions and by the end of the eight-week phase will create a report — an Aug.14 amendment nulled the company’s original proposal to “deliver the report first as a confidential draft report to the City’s Auditor to ensure accuracy and then as a final report.”

As the team continues their review, they’ve asked residents who’d like to provide information contact them by phone or email — 877-208-5650,

RELATED STORY: Ryan ‘Keith’ Cox talked about ‘unfair treatment’ at work for years

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