How much did Registrar Balmer spend on his city credit card?








Keith Barmer

Balmer 2021


Richmond Registrar General Keith Balmer is currently under investigation by the Richmond Office of Inspector General for nepotism and financial misconduct, according to records obtained by the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Nearly $70,000 was spent on city-issued shopping cards.

Those charges included nearly $15,000 for furniture, $8,903 for local art vendors, about $6,500 for hotels and lodging and more than $6,000 for food and beverages, according to Balmer's credit card transaction logs.

Balmer also charged $17,155.17 in fees to the card in the first two months of 2024.

A representative for the inspector general's office declined to disclose any details related to the investigation by Balmer and Deputy Registrar Keith Richardson.

“This is an active investigation,” the representative said. “We are working hard to come to a conclusion as quickly as possible.”

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Spokespersons for the Balmer and Richmond Board of Elections also declined to comment.

Procurement Cards are issued, monitored and managed by Richmond Procurement Services. A spokesman for the department did not respond to multiple questions about the card program's spending limits, category guidelines and purchasing rules. The spokesperson was first contacted last Friday.

The Times previously reported that Ballmer hired his brother and provided contract work to his wife. Former employees have come forward to accuse the registrar of favoring family members. Ballmer, who was sworn in in 2021, denied the claim.


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furniture and art

The Times obtained transaction logs from Balmer's official city credit card. The data shows that Ballmer spent $14,780.64 on expenses in the “furniture, home furnishings and equipment” category in 2023. Those fees included $9,615.02 from LaDiff, $4,119 from Bassett Furniture and $769 from Value City.

Jason Redd, a former Richmond elections office employee who was fired in October, said Balmer “pretty much redecorated the office.”

“Almost anyone who wanted a new chair or table got it if they were…one of the people he chose,” Redd said, adding that Balmer at one point purchased a pool table and a Set up a ping pong table to “boost morale”.

Balmer also spent $8,903.50 at Crossroads Art Center, a private gallery on Staples Mill Road.

Former employee Destiny Fleming, who was also fired in October, said Ballmer felt “it was his job to beautify the space.”

“He … and put artwork all over the office,” Fleming said. “Price doesn't matter.”

Both Reade and Fleming said they were fired after raising concerns about nepotism. Ballmer previously declined to comment on the firings, calling the matter a “personnel matter.”

Hotels and accommodation

The transaction log also shows that Ballmer spent $6,556.79 on expenses in the “accommodations, restaurants, motels and resorts” category in 2023. $2,933.10 at the Capitol Hill Hotel in Washington, D.C., in September.

Fleming said some of the August charges at the Roanoke Hilton stemmed from an incident during a Voter Registration Association of Virginia (VRAV) meeting attended by 10 members of the Richmond elections office.

Fleming said all employees have their own rooms at the hotel. On one occasion, an employee charged his hotel room with a large amount of alcoholic beverages, adding to the total cost of the meeting.

Reid corroborated Fleming's account, saying “the employee charged the cost of Hella drinks to his room” and that Balmer paid for everything using a shopping card.

Food & Drink

In 2023, Ballmer spent $6,135.57 on expenses in the categories of “eating establishments, restaurants” or “drinking establishments (alcoholic beverages), bars,” according to transaction logs. The fees come from various restaurants and bars in Richmond and Northern Virginia, as well as Well Hung Vineyard in Gordonsville and Crab Shack II outside Baltimore.

Reade said Ballmer frequently had food delivered to the office and was “pretty reliable in buying lunches for certain employees.”

Fleming said Ballmer regularly ordered food for numerous employees from Panera Bread, Lee's Famous Recipe Chicken and pizza restaurants.

“He would joke and say, 'Well, you know, this is in the city,'” Fleming said.

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Urban vehicle use

Reade, Fleming and a third former elections office employee who requested anonymity also raised questions about Balmer's use of a city vehicle assigned to the office.

Reid said Ballmer drove the car — a Ford Explorer — home “95 percent of the time.”

“He drove it like it was his own car,” Reid said.

Fleming said Balmer was “very possessive” of the Explorer and treated it like a personal car.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request for vehicle mileage logs, a representative from the Electoral Office said no such logs existed.

An anonymous employee with knowledge of city vehicle usage said the office kept mileage records when he started in 2019, but the practice “didn't last long” because enforcement was lax. The employee said Ballmer relied on the Explorer to get to and from get off work and handle personal matters.

Richmond's administrative regulations state that some employees may be assigned a “take-home” vehicle that they can drive to and from get off work and home. The regulations prohibit personal use of city vehicles other than those designated for “take-home” use.

Ballmer did not respond to questions about the nature and purpose of the city's vehicles.

The former employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said when he was fired, he was told he would be fired so that the elections office could cover the costs of Fleming's potential lawsuit. The lawsuit has yet to materialize.

investigation

A representative for the inspector general confirmed Friday that Ballmer and Richardson are currently under investigation for nepotism and financial misconduct. The representative declined to comment on the details of the investigation.

City officials cut off purchasing cards assigned to Balmer's office, the Virginia Mercury reported. The Times submitted a Freedom of Information Act request seeking internal communications about the alleged suspension of procurement cards to a Procurement Services representative, who referred the request to the Office of the Inspector General.

A spokesman for the inspector general said the office would not release an internal memo or email about the suspension of card purchases because of the ongoing investigation.


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