• Lies by Jack Whitney, director of Virginia Beach Planning, that such a document existed
  • Lies by Whitney's wife, Jane Whitney, head of HRT's light rail project that it would fail without Virginia Beach's contribution
  • Lies by City Manager Jim Spore to the council that only councilmen DeSteph and Bobby Dyer were opposed to the giveaway
  • Lies by X-HRT director Michael Townes, forced out of the job by the mushrooming scandal, that Virginia Beach wouldn't be asked to pay a penny for the study
  • Lies by Mayor Will Sessoms about the commanding officer of Oceana saying light rail was his top agenda item.

As Virginia News Source started shooting down the lies and exposing the truth the deal came unraveled.

It started two Saturdays ago when VNS asked Jones at the GOP weekly breakfast if he was going to vote for the giveaway.  He replied with an emphatic, "No."  

He then went so far as to predict the light rail project would never be built in Virginia Beach.

And just two weeks before that Saturday, Shucet told the GOP breakfast meeting that if the project stops at Newtown Road, its current terminus, it would be a dead project.

The project, currently almost $108 MILLION over budget in  just 1-year, is technically only approved to be built from the downtown Norfolk medical center to Newtown Road.

And the original grant application document given to VNS states that ANY COST OVERRUN on the project is Norfolk's responsibility to pay. That's why Norfolk Mayor Fraim has conspired with Virginia Beach Mayor Sessoms to drag Virginia Beach into the project:  To help allay Norfolk's costs.

That was a helluva gamble since Virginia Beach voters had rejected the same project by more than 60% in 2000.

When the vice mayor jumped the traces, lobbying began in earnest against other members of council.

Councilman Harry Diezel, told VNS he was undecided, but when VNS told him about the lies, he said, "Yeah I heard a little about that Tuesday (after last week's council meeting.)"  He told VNS he probably would not vote for the giveaway.

Until VNS requested a copy of the original grant application made by HRT to the federal government, NO MEMBER of city council, including Jim Wood, HRT's chairman, and John Urhin, also a member of the HRT board, had ever seen or read the document. Wood, as chairman of HRT, couldn't get a copy of the document and admitted he'd never seen it.

Wood told VNS, "I have been trying to get a copy of the document for 3 months (from now X-HRT head Townes), and he has refused to give it to me."

Wood said he'd tell HRT that VNS' was a FOIA request and he would have to go to court in 5-days if he didn't produce it.

HRT produced it and made it available to VNS in 3 days.

Mayor Sessoms refused to reply when asked Monday if he had seen the original grant application or the 'supposed' document obligating Virginia Beach to pay a portion of the study cost.

As far as VNS has been able to determine only Wood and  DeSteph have read the original document and only DeSteph and Vice Mayor Jones have the 'fictional' document obligating Virginia Beach to pay $250,000.

That document produced by Shucet for DeSteph and Jones is dated 1999 and signed by the city manager.  It was never authorized or approved by the City Council.

In addition no action on such an agreement by a previous council would be binding on the current council.

To rely on that illegal document as the reason to giveaway $250,000 (or on just reports that it existed) would have made ALL MEMBERS OF COUNCIL GUILTY of malfeasance - a crime.

The original application is also prima facie evidence that HRT lied to the feds about the projected costs and ridership for the project.

By the time Townes finally broke down and told the board, the cost overrun was $108 MILLION in a year and the project was a year behind schedule, it was already sinking into deep trouble. 

When council last week was asked to approve the $250,000, on the agenda for tomorrow, Jack Whitney told the council  there was a document committing the council to the funding request.  It turned out to be the illegal one given DeSteph and Jones Monday.

His wife, Jane Whitney, said HRT did not have the funds to cover the $250,000 it was requesting from Virginia Beach and failure to get the funding would kill the study.

Jones and DeSteph told Shucet Monday morning that to try to force the request to a vote would end up seeing Urhin, and council woman Barbara Henley, who for some weird reason down in Pungo is a light rail supporter, being kicked out of office, along with anyone else who supported it.

Wilson had made up her mind to vote against the request.

The destructive political potential, Shucet was told, was too great to force a council vote on it.

Jones and DeSteph told Shucet he should find someway to cover the costs from 'in house' HRT funding.  It was after that meeting, Shucet phoned to say he wanted the request removed from the agenda.  Depite Jane Whitney's lie to council, Shucet will get the money in house.

Council members said they had never had such lobbying pressure put on them.

One said, "There's no question that a vote for the funding, like the mayor wanted, would be tacit approval of the entire light rail project.  A vote against would be a vote against the entire project.  

"This is not the way to go and I don't want to have to be put on record like this for $250,000."