VB dept. head, Warren Harris, resigns suddenly, during credit card audits
Virginia Beach's top business officer, Warren Harris, has resigned during an audit of his, and others, city-issued credit cards, reports PilotOnline.com. He had been the city's economic development director.
After leading the city's department of Economic Development for more than 11 years, the director resigned abruptly on Monday.
City Manager Dave Hansen said in an email to council members that he accepted Warren Harris’ resignation at 11 a.m. No reason for his departure was given.
"We wish him well on his future endeavors," Hansen wrote. Several council members provided the memo to The Virginian-Pilot.
Hansen declined to comment Monday through a city spokeswoman.
Harris started his job in Virginia Beach in August 2007 after working in the same position in Chesapeake for several years. He earned nearly $170,000 annually.
He could not be reached for comment.
The Economic Development Department is responsible for expanding and diversifying the tax base, bringing new companies and higher-paying jobs to the city and building trade relationships with foreign countries. The department has offices in Germany, Spain and the Philippines. Harris was responsible for fewer than 20 employees and managed a nearly $6 million budget.
City Auditor Lyndon Remias said his office is in the midst of reviewing credit card purchases by Harris and Economic Development staff. The probe began a couple of months ago and will continue for four to six more weeks, Remias said. No results have been published.
The review was sparked over the summer by an employee's spending. Remias' team found a suspected misuse of funds by the employee, who no longer works for the city, and forwarded its findings to the police.
The inquiry also prompted Remias to expand the scope of his investigation and to review spending across the department to see whether there were more pervasive issues. Employees have about 10 bank cards available for business purchases such as travel and office supplies, he said.
Mayor Louis Jones said Harris’ departure was sudden.
“It is kind of a surprise, to be honest with you,” he said.
Councilwoman Rosemary Wilson said Hansen told her in an email that Deputy City Manager Ron Williams will oversee the department in the interim and that the city plans to post a job listing soon. Harris is still named on the department's website as the director.
“This is the first I heard of it,” Wilson said, adding that she wants to know why Harris is no longer with the city.