Lemuel Stewart Jr. was, until early June, chief information officer at the Virginia Information Technologies Agency. He reported to the agency's board that the unique $2 billion public-private collaboration between VITA and Northrop Grumman Corporation was massively faltering. The partnership, designed in 2003 to revamp the state's computer systems, isn't working, Stewart argued, and Virginia shouldn't pay the latest $14 million installment of the contract because of massive cost overruns and poor service. He was removed the next day by the state's Information Technology Investment Board. The legislature wants answers, and formal inquiries are under way.
Alex Nyerges and Pam Reynolds: He's the director of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and she's chair of its board; together, they are overseeing the massive $150 million expansion that will nearly double the museum's gallery space. A major component of the new James W. and Frances G. McGlothlin Wing is transparency — that is, a 40-foot glass wall overlooking the Boulevard and also allowing passersby a glimpse of what's inside. What will in essence be a new museum is scheduled to open May 1, 2010.
LandAmerica Financial Group Inc. took away all health and life-insurance benefits for its retirees in late November as it filed for bankruptcy. At advanced ages, retirees found that replacing life-insurance policies would cost nearly as much as the policies themselves, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. Some retirees learned of the news as they were trying to fill prescriptions and were denied.
John Bryan has labored to revive the almost-60-year-old Arts Council of Richmond. In past years, the council's prime responsibility was dispersing regional funds to arts organizations, but support dwindled under the brunt of the downtown performing-arts complex controversy. Now, with the organization renamed CultureWorks, Bryan is out front leading discussions for the Richmond Region Cultural Action Plan. He also has convened a roundtable of arts-and-culture bloggers for a conversation about next steps.
Connecticut the Brave: It's not his fault that the dithering and dickering of Richmond officials caused the Braves organization to take their ball and leave town for Gwinnett, Ga. The 25-foot fiberglass Native American head peering over The Diamond's wall is the stadium's sole occupant these days. Artist Paul DiPasquale (of Arthur Ashe monument fame) completed the piece for the rooftop of a Best Products store in Washington, D.C.; in 1985, Connecticut came to The Diamond. Until the stadium's fate is sorted out, he'll stay right there.
Seule Kabir , a VCU mechanical-engineering graduate student, demonstrated her ingenuity by seeing a problem and solving it. In the hospitals of her native Bangladesh, contemporary operating tables are often prohibitively expensive, costing upward of $80,000. She assembled a collaborative team known as "Operation Simple" to devise a table that would cost hospitals in developing nations just $500. Part of the savings comes from making the tables manually operated, rather than electric. A prototype will be completed in the fall.
Michael P. Woods , a Virginia State Police dispatcher for the past nine years, became a contestant on The Price Is Right in an episode that aired in May. Woods got to spin the big wheel and won a 2009 Ford Focus, which he gave to his wife. This was Woods' second attempt to get on the show; he'd tried in January 2008 as well. The bulk of his winnings came from the Line 'Em Up game. Woods also came home with an electric grill, an upright freezer, a Web cam and a weight bench.
Eric Maynor , the skilled Virginia Commonwealth University point guard, took over the position in his sophomore year and led the Rams to national prominence in basketball (we'll never forget that buzzer shot against Duke). As a senior, he averaged 22.4 points and 6.2 assists and was a major reason VCU went to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years. In June, the Utah Jazz, in its 20th pick, drafted the 6'3", 175-pound standout.
Gymama Slaughter , assistant professor of computer engineering at Virginia State University, was awarded a $334,483 National Science Foundation grant for her research on biosensors, cell biology, growth factors, and plant and soil science. The grant, given in September 2008, is being used for the development of new courses. The funds also will help to add students and researchers to VSU's Department of Engineering & Technology and the school's Center for Biosystems and Engineering.
Lara Coleman , former chief operating officer of Richmond-based Investment Properties of America, and Edward H. Okun , the owner of the company and The 1031 Tax Group LLP, joined the bush-league division of the Bernie Madoff team. Together, during 2005-2007, they bilked investment clients of approximately $132 million. Coleman, under terms of a January plea deal, has been sent to prison for 10 years. Okun, known as a high-living Miami developer, was convicted by Richmond federal court in March on 23 counts of financial wrongdoing. The combined penalty for the offenses adds up to 400 years; he is to be sentenced this month.
Hazel Trice Edney , a veteran journalist, was inducted this spring into the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame, the first African-American woman to receive the honor. The Harvard-educated writer reported for the Richmond Afro-American and the Richmond Free Press before covering Washington, D.C., and politics for the National Newspaper Publishers Association. She is chief editor of the NNPA News Service and BlackPressUSA.com.
Not his first time in court, landlord Oliver Lawrence was convicted on July 16 of multiple charges for failing to meet city property standards, according to the Times-Dispatch. Columnist Michael Paul Williams labeled the property owner "the face of blight in Richmond" for his portfolio of dozens of vacant properties, including several East Grace Street buildings that were damaged by fire in April 2007. During Lawrence's court hearing, the paper reported, Judge David Eugene Cheek Sr. remarked of the property owner: "I'm trying to decide whether he's a hustler, a businessman or a crook."
The blame game ensued when, in April, the 99-year-old Eggleston Hotel — a historic structure at Leigh and Second streets neglected within an inch of sustainability — gave up and fell down. Rachel Flynn, director of community development for the city, singled out the building owners as culpable while the primary owner, Neverett A. Eggleston Jr., stated, "The fault can be either way, either us or the city." He also noted lack of support from the city and banks. The property was cited by the city in 2005 as unsafe. The biggest loser is Jackson Ward, now lacking yet another component of its storied past.
In April, the James River Advisory Council honored Kathy Graziano , City Council president and representative of the 4th District, as a Guardian of the River. She navigated an almost-four-year process through city machinery to gain conservation status for more than 200 acres that form the core of the James River Parks System and Richmond riverfront. This protective easement saves the urban wild land from development.
The Peninsula Sports Club honored Mike London , the University of Richmond football coach and 1983 graduate of the institution, this spring. London was named Morewitz Sports Person of the Year for taking the Spiders to a 13-3 record and the 2008 Football Championship Subdivision national title. The Sporting News ranks London's Spiders No. 1 in the 2009 FCS preseason poll. UR has extended London's original five-year contract through the 2014 season.
Charlie Diradour , president of Lion's Paw Development Company, formed a movement to halt the proposed $388 million baseball stadium and entertainment complex in Shockoe Bottom. He started a Facebook page to garner support, and he spoke well in a Richmond Times-Dispatch-sponsored public forum. Highwoods Properties, the developer, pulled out in June. Now two proposals stand: to rebuild on the Diamond's property or build a stadium in Manchester.