PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) - The Commonwealth of Virginia is slapping Portsmouth with a $1 million "pay now" note after the commonwealth overpaid the city for 911 services.
More bad news for the City of Portsmouth. The city manager just resigned, the former fire chief just resigned after returning from family medical leave and now the demand for payment.
The Virginia E-911 Services Board gives money to 911 centers all across Virginia. It turns out Portsmouth was overpaid the most for 911 services and now while in troubled financial times must cough up more than $1 million to pay back the State.
All 911 call centers get money from Virginia that comes from taxes on cell phones for 75 cents per phone per month. That raises about $4.5 million dollars a month that is distributed to 911 call centers.
City Attorney Tim Oksman sent a letter to council members, "that the Portsmouth Police Communications office...may have given some incorrect information to the State."
The Portsmouth 911 center sent in bad information resulting in Portsmouth getting overpaid by $1,084,126.46. The good news is the director of the State's Integrated Services Program with the Virginia Information Technologies Agency that distributes the money doesn't think a crime was committed.
"We have no reason to believe it was done intentionally," Steve Marzolf told WAVY.com. "There were a number of localities that made errors during this audit process." However, no locality owes more back than Portsmouth. The next closest community that owes money is over $300,000 less.
The bad news is Virginia wants the money back by the end of the year.
"We are still working with the City of Portsmouth to determine how we can resolve this and move forward," says Marzolf.
Vice Mayor Charles Whitehurst blames, in part, disgraced former City Manager Ken Chandler.
"There was an environment where there were no controls," Whitehurst said. Whitehurst added Chandler fostered a culture that would allow such a mistake to be made. It is clear the mistake was made by the Portsmouth Police Communications Office, wrote Oksman.
Whitehurst insists on blaming Chandler.
"It is the city manager who is supposed to hire the right people to be in charge," he said. "Then train them because the buck stops with the city manager."
The Portsmouth Police Department refused to provide anyone to discuss the matter, and had no explanation on how it happened. Marzolf would not fix blame, but says the largest error was writing off equipment that did not qualify for funding.
"Recurring equipment that is typically where expenditures for maintenance contracts were madem," Marzolf said. "This is for maintenance in the 911 center and things like that."
"Obviously, we are concerned...once the discussions are completed we hope we will have an outcome that is acceptable to both sides without being a burden on our taxpayers," Portsmouth City Attorney Tim Oksman told WAVY.com.
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