Former Mayor Euille was focus of FBI probe

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Former Mayor Euille was focus of FBI probe
Hubert N. "Jay" Hoffman, third from right, and William D. “Bill” Euille, fourth from right, at the groundbreaking for the National Science Foundation Building. Jan. 27, 2014. (Photo/The Chamber ALX)
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By Alexander Fernandez and Denise Dunbar, Alexandria Journalism Project

Seven years ago last month, a volunteer came across a checkbook register that was wedged inside the framework of a file cabinet in then-Mayor Allison Silberberg’s City Hall office. While Silberberg was out of town that winter weekend, the volunteer brought boxes of newspaper clippings to her office and put them away in the cabinet.

The volunteer found the checkbook register – which was the same color as the drawer’s inside – in a cabinet that had not been used during Silberberg’s 13 months as mayor. She flipped through the register, which had carbon copies of checks previously written, along with deposit slips and other pieces of paper stuffed inside.

Bill Euille in the mayoral office wearing Titans gear. The lateral file cabinet where the check stub was found is just to the right of the City of Alexandria flag. It’s directly behind the manila file folder on Euille’s desk. (Photo/The The Washington Post via Getty Images)

What the volunteer found left her dizzy: The stub of a check for $260,000 from developer Hubert N. Hoffman III as payor to William D. Euille as payee tucked inside the register.

A deposit slip for the same amount of $260,000 into a SunTrust account was also inside. The check stub and the deposit slip were both dated June 18, 2012, meaning Euille was mayor of Alexandria when he received a check for more than a quarter million dollars from one of the largest developers in the city.

The check was written six days after Euille had won the Democratic primary for mayor on June 12, 2012. In this one-party town, that meant Euille was all-but-assured to serve at least the next three years as Alexandria’s mayor.

The checkbook register suggests the check from Hoffman, who goes by “Jay,” was deposited into Euille’s personal account rather than a campaign or business account. Payments for water and telephone bills were recorded in the register, which also contained cash withdrawal receipts and a deposit slip with Euille’s name and a residential address all with the same account number listed. 

The Alexandria Journalism Project* was able to determine that there has been no reported campaign contribution from Hubert N. Hoffman III to Euille for or totalling $260,000. 

The AJP also submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the City of Alexandria for Euille’s financial disclosure forms from his years as mayor, to see if the payment from Hoffman was reported, but was told that they had been destroyed. Virginia code only requires that candidate financial disclosure forms be retained for five years. 

The discovery of Euille’s checkbook register on Friday the 13th of January 2017 set in motion a flurry of activity among Alexandria’s top leadership.

The volunteer gave the register and other items in it to Silberberg upon her return. Silberberg showed it to then-City Attorney Jim Banks, who called then-Police Chief Mike Brown to alert him. Then-City Manager Mark Jinks was also informed of the discovery. Brown decided that the register, check stub, deposit slip and other items inside the register should be turned over to the FBI, which launched an investigation.

City Council had been considering several large Hoffman development projects on and near Eisenhower Avenue between 2006 and 2012. By June 2012, some had been amended and enlarged several times.

Hubert N. “Jay” Hoffman at the groundbreaking for the National Science Foundation Building. Jan. 27, 2014. (Photo/AlxTV)

Final Council approval to significantly increase the allowed size of a proposed building for the National Science Foundation on a Hoffman-owned block took place on April 14, 2012, two months before Hoffman issued the check for $260,000 to Euille.

At no point during those or subsequent Council deliberations did Euille disclose that he had received any payments from Hoffman, nor did he recuse himself from any Hoffman-related votes.

THE CHECK: Discovery 

Longtime Alexandria resident Carter Flemming got to know Allison Silberberg in 2014 when Silberberg was serving on City Council as vice mayor. Flemming volunteered on Silberberg’s successful campaign for mayor the next year. When Silberberg moved into the mayor’s office in early 2016, Flemming continued to help with various tasks, including compiling a file of newspaper clippings for her.

After a year of keeping the clippings in her home, by January 2017, Flemming was ready to move them over to the mayoral office. 

“Allison was on a trip or somewhere,” Flemming said. “I don’t know where she was, but it was Martin Luther King weekend and she had some commitment to go somewhere. So I said, ‘Well, I can just get this out of my house.’”

Silberberg told Flemming it was fine to take the box of clippings to her office while she was away and place them in an empty lateral file cabinet behind the mayor’s desk. Because Silberberg kept her working files in her desk drawers, she had not yet needed the extra filing space.

Flemming opened the top drawer of the first file cabinet, which was on the left. She had put the newspaper clippings inside when she noticed something stuck in the front of the file cabinet drawer.

“So I pulled it and a thing, I mean like a checkbook register, came out with a couple pieces of paper sort of sticking out of it,” Flemming said. “It looked like just some papers had slipped out of a file folder or something. But when I pulled it, it was the check register. I thought, ‘This is odd. I wonder if Allison’s lost her checks.’”

Flemming said because Silberberg had been in the office for more than a year at that point in early 2017, it never occurred to her that the papers might not belong to Silberberg.

“So I thought, ‘I have to tell Allison she’s lost her check register.’ I looked and there’s Bill Euille’s name and there’s the check slip for $260,000 from Hubert Hoffman III.”

Flemming was stunned.

The check stub that was found in the mayoral office on Jan. 13, 2017. (Photo/Allison Silberberg)

“I was like, ‘God, something’s not right about this.’ I mean I don’t know if it’s not right, but I know who Hubert Hoffman is. I know he owns Eisenhower Valley. I know who Bill Euille is,” Flemming said. “And I’m thinking $260,000 in our little city of Alexandria is a lot of money.

“Maybe it’s a political contribution. But somehow I never heard of Hoffman making these kinds of contributions. And, you know, in this city you kind of hear things. I mean [political contributions are] public record, as you know,” Flemming said.

Decision to investigate

Flemming put the register, check stub and other papers in a manilla envelope she found in Silberberg’s office and gave the envelope to her early in the week of Jan. 16, 2017.

“Allison’s initial response was that it clearly belonged to Bill Euille because she recognized his handwriting and saw his name on some of the receipts,” Flemming said. 

Silberberg’s response became more somber when she saw the check stub and corresponding deposit slip.

“But then Allison saw the larger white piece of paper sticking out of the register and that was the check stub from Mr. Hoffman’s $260,000 check. The check stub says it’s from Mr. Hoffman and to Bill Euille. She immediately said, ‘All of this will have to go to the authorities.’ Then she was silent for a few seconds and seemed to have a mix of reactions … shock, anger and disappointment,” Flemming said.

Silberberg said she realized the material first needed to go to Alexandria’s city attorney, who at that time was Jim Banks, but couldn’t get in to see him for a couple of weeks. Silberberg, who still has her planner from when she was mayor, said she met with Banks on Feb. 1, 2017.

Because she was concerned something could happen to the register and the papers inside, Silberberg copied all of the material before meeting with Banks. Because she felt she had a tense relationship with both Banks and City Manager Mark Jinks, she brought a lawyer with her to the meeting.

“I made a copy of the material because I didn’t trust the situation. I also was concerned that it could be lost,” Silberberg said.

Silberberg said she gave the documentation to Banks without elaboration.

“When I handed it to Jim, I didn’t say much except that this material was found in my office and I thought I should bring it to his attention,” Silberberg said. “Jim looked carefully at the documents, item by item. … And he was very careful with it, as I had been.”

When Banks saw the stub for the check from Hoffman to Euille, Silberberg said Banks looked up at her from across his desk with a shocked expression.

“[Banks] has a job to do as the city attorney. And so he immediately said to his secretary, ‘Get me the police chief now,’” Silberberg said. “The three of us just sat there quietly.”

Mike Brown was Alexandria’s police chief in 2017, and had only been in the job for about a month. Brown, who spoke with the AJP by phone for this story, said he pushed for the investigation to be done by the FBI rather than the Alexandria Police Department.

“My recommendation was it should be done externally so it could be as thorough as possible without involving the police department,” Brown said in the interview. “What you want to avoid is any possibility of any kind of conflict of interest. What you don’t want to have is a situation where it looks like the police department is getting involved in the politics of a situation.”

Silberberg, who described Brown as “a gem” and a “totally honorable” person, agreed with the chief that the investigation should be external.

When the AJP asked Jinks about his role in turning the material over to the FBI, the former city manager responded via email that he never actually saw the check stub. 

“To the best of my knowledge (which is limited as I never saw the check stub documentation you referenced), the decision to contact or not contact the FBI was one made by former Mayor Silberberg,” Jinks wrote in the email.

When told that Brown said he had made the decision to go to the FBI with the check stub and other material, Jinks said he did not recall the details of the situation.

“However, during my tenure as City Manager, in regard to handling investigative process questions, I typically sought advice from the Police Department and generally followed their advice,” Jinks wrote in a second email.

Once everyone had signed off on an external investigation, Brown said he called someone he knew in the FBI’s Washington, D.C. field office.

“I reached out to the [District] field office and talked to the assistant director who was in charge of it. … He sent an agent over there to collect the check and get a statement from Mayor Silberberg,” Brown said. “That’s the extent of the police department’s involvement and my involvement in it.”

When asked why he thought the situation warranted an FBI investigation, Brown was succinct.

“Just a concern. Just what the check was. What the amount was,” Brown said.

Top: The deposit receipt for $260,000 into Bill Euille’s SunTrust account was dated the same as the check from Hubert N. Hoffman III, June 18, 2012. Bottom: A blank deposit slip for Euille’s SunTrust account has a residential address, 106 E. Nelson Ave., printed on it and the same account number as the deposit receipt. Within 10 weeks, Euille had paid off two loans totalling $372,450 on 106 E. Nelson Ave., according to City of Alexandria Land Records. (Photos/Allison Silberberg)

Meaning

There are a limited number of things that a large check from a developer to a sitting mayor can be. On the check stub where the purpose of a payment is often listed, this stub is blank.

One potential explanation is a campaign contribution; however, Hoffman made no reported campaign contribution to Euille in 2012, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. A search of VPAP shows that Hoffman has made $152,450 in total reported campaign contributions to various candidates in Virginia – the first reported in 1996 and the most recent in 2018.

VPAP shows that Hoffman made three reported campaign contributions to Euille totalling $11,075: Two contributions, one for $75 and another for $1,000, were made to “Euille for Alexandria City Mayor – Bill” on May 5, 2009, while another contribution for $10,000 was made Sept. 15, 2015, to “Euille for Alexandria City Mayor – Bill (Independet, Write-in).” (sic)

Additionally, the check found in the mayoral office was made out to Euille personally rather than to a Euille campaign – and it appears to have been deposited into a personal bank account. It was deposited in a SunTrust account with the same last four digits as the account on the check register that receipts showed was used to make credit card payments and payments to Alexandria Renew, The Washington Post and Target. A deposit slip, printed with the same last four account digits, listed Euille’s name and address of 106 E. Nelson Ave., a residence. 

The check could also have been payment for an asset or some other property. However, a search of title records shows that Euille did not sell any properties in 2012, though he did pay off two loans totaling $372,450 on his property at 106 E. Nelson Ave. in the second half of 2012. The first loan repayment was for $50,000 on July 3, 2012, and the second for $322,450 on Aug. 21, 2012, according to City of Alexandria Land Records.

Euille then sold the 106 E. Nelson Ave. house on Sept. 30, 2013, for $855,000, but the sale was not listed on a title search as going to Hoffman.

A large payment could also be for work done for a business. It’s possible that the June 18, 2012, payment was reported on financial disclosure forms that are required of officeholders. While financial disclosure forms from when Euille was mayor have now been destroyed, they were publicly available for five years and no one the AJP spoke with for this story had any knowledge of a disclosed business relationship between Euille and the Hoffman Company.

Frank Fannon, who served on City Council with Euille from 2009 to 2012, said the mayor never mentioned receiving a payment from Hoffman.

“No. None of this,” Fannon said. “I know Euille and I know Hoffman, but I never knew of any inside deals.”

Fannon said he could not think of what the payment from Hoffman to Euille could have been for.

“No, I can’t. … I can’t think of any reason Hoffman would be writing him a $260,000 check,” Fannon said.

The AJP was able to reach Jay Hoffman on the landline phone in his Florida home on Feb. 6, 2024. When informed of the AJP’s investigation, Hoffman asked the reporter to repeat who the check was made out to. When told a second time it was to former Mayor Euille, Hoffman responded:

“Well, why don’t you talk to him?”

When asked for comment on the fact that Silberberg had decided to go public with this information, Hoffman replied:

“If you’ve talked to her then you’ve got the story. You don’t need me.”

Hoffman then hung up as a followup question was being asked.

Euille did not reply to multiple requests for comment for this story, including several emails and two voice messages left on a cell phone voicemail with his voice on it. The AJP tried without success to reach Banks.

BILL EUILLE: Local kid who did well

Euille grew up in Alexandria’s housing projects and went on to succeed in both politics and business. The culmination of Euille’s political career was his 12-year tenure as Alexandria’s first Black – and overall longest-serving – mayor. 

Yet Euille has also been dogged by ethical concerns mainly related to his acceptance of campaign donations from developers and his refusal to recuse himself on votes involving those developers. We found numerous letters-to-the-editor and a Washington Post article that raised these concerns. Several additional ethical issues arose in 2015 when Euille waged a fall write-in campaign against Silberberg after losing the Democratic primary to her in June.

Bill Euille (Photo via Facebook)

Euille grew up in a single-parent home in the housing project in North Old Town known as “The Berg.” Born in 1950, the Alexandria of Euille’s childhood was segregated; integration of public schools didn’t begin until 1959, when he was nine. 

On Aug. 28, 1963, 13-year-old Euille watched the “I Have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King Jr., Ph.D., live on television. In a column Euille wrote for the Alexandria Times in 2013, on the 50th anniversary of King’s famous speech, he said MLK’s words:

“… not only brought tears to my eyes and elicited chills, [they] inspired me – as a young, black teen – to take up the baton and tackle the challenges he advocated by striving for freedom, equality and civil liberties while pushing for better race relations, educational opportunities and jobs.”

Euille was a sophomore when T.C. Williams High School opened in 1965, and graduated from the school in June 1968 – just two months after King’s assassination. He jumped into public service in 1974 – two years after graduating from Quinnipiac University – when he was appointed to a seat on Alexandria’s School Board.** He was to remain in that post for 10 years.

After leaving the School Board, Euille focused on his business career. According to his 2017 “Living Legends of Alexandria” profile, he had gone to work out of college for a construction company “as an accountant and soon advanced to Vice President and Controller.” Euille then founded Wm. D. Euille & Associates, Inc. in 1987, and, according to Bloomberg.com, the business provided construction of non-residential buildings.

Wm. D. Euille & Associates, Inc.

Wm. D. Euille & Associates was a construction services firm, specializing in federal government contracts, according to goodnewsplanet.com. Fannon said despite serving on City Council with Euille, he wasn’t familiar with the mayor’s business other than that he owned his own minority contracting company.

The AJP filed multiple FOIA requests with the Small Business Administration, but was unable to ascertain whether Euille’s company had Section 8(a) Business Development Program status, which is a 9-year program “created to help firms owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals,” according to sba.gov.

A search of the Federal Procurement Data System turned up almost 800 separate government contract listings for Wm. D. Euille & Associates, worth well over $100 million during a 23-year span.  

Euille also formed the William D. Euille Foundation, which has an establishment date of 1997, according to the Virginia State Corporation Commission. The Foundation was listed as an “educational organization” that gave “gifts, grants, or loans to other organizations,” according to nonprofitfacts.com. Both Wm. D. Euille & Associates and the William D. Euille Foundation ceased operations in 2010, according to Euille’s Living Legends of Alexandria profile.

Tenure as mayor

Ten years after leaving the School Board, Euille returned to public service by winning a seat on the Alexandria City Council in 1994. He served three terms on Council, including one as vice mayor. 

In 2003, Euille was elected as Alexandria’s first Black mayor with 52% of the vote in a closely contested three-way race. Euille faced no challengers in the Democratic Primary in the next three election cycles and won in the 2012 general election when Alexandria environmentalist Andrew Macdonald ran against him as an Independent.

The office of mayor in Alexandria is technically a part-time position, but over the years, demands on the mayor’s time have increased to the point where it’s essentially a full-time job. When Euille was mayor, the position paid $30,000 per year, though it’s since been raised to $40,000. The mayor’s salary is low enough that the person in the mayor’s seat would qualify for deeply discounted affordable housing in Alexandria if the mayor’s salary was their sole source of income.

“Collaborative” was a word Euille frequently used to describe his approach to governing while mayor.

“My style has been to not only provide the vision, but provide leadership in terms of being a listener, being a team player, a collaborator and moving forward after we’ve all agreed on what we want to see happen, then we implement,” Euille said in a May 2015 interview in the Alexandria Times. “It’s not just: ‘It’s got to happen tomorrow.’ I’ve been successful in life and business and politics by being patient, being a team player and a collaborator.”

Many residents agreed with Euille’s self-assessment, and strongly endorsed him for a fifth term during the 2015 campaign. Resident H.J. Rosenbaum praised Euille’s approach to governing in a 2015 letter to the editor in the Alexandria Times:

“Bill Euille has been an excellent mayor. I have not agreed with him on all issues … But he, unlike most politicians, has been willing to spend political capital to pursue goals he sees as important for the city’s future. It took great political courage, for example, to obtain approval of the waterfront plan in the face of strenuous opposition. And he works at his job 24/7,” Rosenbaum wrote.

Euille was also unabashedly pro-development. His advocacy for growth helped Alexandria’s population grow by 20% during his 12 years as mayor. 

This unabated support for growth and perceived close ties with developers concerned many residents. Resident Vineeta Anand complained about Euille’s ethics in a 2015 letter to the editor in the Alexandria Times:

“Mayor Bill Euille lacks the moral compass to lead Alexandria again,” Anand wrote. “… What’s more, Euille is beholden to real estate developers and business groups who hope that he will look favorably upon them when they seek favors, even if they come at the expense of the quality of life of citizens.”

Euille and Silberberg

The careers of Euille and Silberberg had been intertwined for about five years prior to the 2017 discovery of the Hoffman check stub in Alexandria’s mayoral office.

Former mayors Allison Silberberg and Bill Euille share a laugh. (Photo/Kareinternational via Facebook)

In 2012, Silberberg ran for and won a seat on City Council, first by prevailing in the Democratic primary – which was held in the spring – and then by winning the most votes of any candidate in the fall general election, which earned her the role of vice mayor.

Like the mayor, Alexandria’s vice mayor is just one of seven votes on the dais of the city’s governing body, which functions as a legislature. While no special authority goes with the post, the vice mayor wields the gavel when the mayor is not present and usually sits next to the mayor on the dais.  

By 2015, after Euille declared his intent to run for a fifth term as mayor, there was a growing sense among many Alexandria residents that it was time for change, and two formidable residents decided to challenge him. 

In February 2015, banker Kerry Donley, who had previously served two terms as mayor before Euille was elected to the post in 2003, declared his mayoral candidacy. Silberberg followed suit in March.

Silberberg prevailed in the three-way primary, held June 9, 2015, garnering 37.5% of the vote to Euille’s 35.2% and Donley’s 27.3%. But, the race wasn’t over: Although Euille congratulated Silberberg following the Democratic primary, he refused to concede.

Euille had almost $29,000 in unused campaign funds left over from the primary, and six weeks after the primary he announced he would run as a write-in candidate in the general election against Silberberg. Residents, the Silberberg campaign and media organizations questioned the ethics of both his decision to run and actions by his campaign that fall.

Euille decided to wage the write-in campaign despite having signed a Virginia Department of Elections certificate of candidacy that states a candidate’s name cannot appear on the ballot in the general election if they have lost in a party primary. In addition, Alexandria Democratic Committee bylaws prohibit members from opposing nominated Democratic candidates.

Euille skirted the letter of these requirements by temporarily resigning from the ADC and by running as a write-in whose name was not on the ballot.

Many Alexandrians who had previously supported Euille refused to back his write-in effort. Despite endorsing Euille in the 2015 primary, the Alexandria Times was highly critical of his write-in campaign. The Times also received numerous letters to the editor criticizing Euille’s decision to run as a write-in.

“Vice Mayor Allison Silberberg defeated Euille in a fair election and it would be sour grapes for Bill Euille to run a write-in campaign,” city resident Herve Aitken wrote in a letter to the editor.

Then, during the fall campaign, Euille’s team came under fire for using an improper sample ballot as part of their campaign materials. This led Anna Leider, then Alexandria’s registrar, to report Euille’s campaign to the state board of elections for review.

“The rule is to make sure the sample ballot doesn’t get confused with the real ballots …” Leider told the Alexandria Times in 2015. 

Euille’s campaign was also criticized for issuing yard signs that read, “A proven Democrat for mayor,” even though he had renounced his party affiliation when he decided to wage a write-in campaign.

Silberberg, who campaigned on a platform of slower growth and ethics reform, had a policy of not accepting contributions from developers who frequently did business before Council. She said she returned checks sent to her campaign by developers Jeffrey M. Zell, Donald Simpson, Jr. and Rob Kaufman. She later recused herself from voting on a redevelopment project that Kaufman brought before City Council.

Silberberg prevailed in November 2015, winning the fall election for mayor against Euille by a 63% to 35% margin.

HOFFMAN IN ALEXANDRIA: The family

The Hoffman family has been associated with the Eisenhower Valley part of Alexandria for more than 65 years, dating to when Hubert N. Hoffman Jr., who according to a 2003 story in the Washington Post went by “Dutch,” purchased 71 acres of Alexandria swampland in 1958 for $200,000.

Dutch Hoffman died of prostate cancer in 2002, leaving his son Hubert N. “Jay” Hoffman III in charge of the family’s Eisenhower holdings. Jay Hoffman’s LinkedIn page lists him as chairman and CEO of Hoffman Company and states he has worked at the company since 1965.

Jay Hoffman’s LinkedIn page states:

“Hubert N. (Jay) Hoffman III is the Chief Executive Officer of the Hoffman Company, a firm that oversees the acquisition, management, development, construction, and leasing of office, retail, hotel, and multi-family properties.”

Hoffman’s LinkedIn page also states that he served in the U.S. Army in the 11th Armored Cavalry unit in Europe after high school and attended the University of Maryland.

“He is an avid stamp collector, golfer, car collector and cook,” the LinkedIn profile says.

Hoffman’s LinkedIn profile says Jay and his wife, Arline, live in Alexandria. An online search also connects them to several properties in Jupiter, Florida, through the years. 

Jay and Arline Hoffman have a reputation for philanthropy in Alexandria. Fannon praised the Hoffmans’ generosity in an interview with the AJP.

“I know Mr. Hoffman’s generous and has made many charitable contributions to Alexandria,” Fannon said.

Hoffman’s Facebook page lists many fundraisers that he and his wife have supported through the years, especially ones that help children and dogs. Donations listed on Hoffman’s Facebook page include National Children’s Museum, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Lu’s Labs, Remote Area Medical, Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary, Hope for Kids, Inc. and the Alexandria Police Foundation.

In addition, an Alexandria Times story from January 2020 reported that Jay and Arline Hoffman paid off all $18,500 in student lunch debt at T.C. Williams High School, now known as Alexandria City High School. The story also stated that the prior year, the Hoffmans had donated funds to buy uniforms for all students at Ramsay Elementary School. 

“Anything that we can do to tell those that need a helping hand, if we can, we will be there for them,” Jay Hoffman said in the 2020 interview.

The Hoffman Company

Very little public information is available about the Hoffman Company.

Unlike other development companies that have done extensive building in Alexandria, such as EYA, Simpson Development and JBG Smith, an online search did not reveal a website for the Hoffman Company. There are, however, many websites for various Hoffman or Hoffmann businesses around the country that do not appear to be related to Hubert N. “Jay” Hoffman III. 

While the leadership teams and mission statements for EYA, Simpson and JBG Smith are easily obtainable, there is no publicly available listing of key personnel at The Hoffman Company, other than company President Lauren Douglas, or of the various LLCs that operate under the Hoffman umbrella. 

The AJP compiled a list of 22 Hoffman companies and one foundation with the address of 2034 Eisenhower Ave., Suite 290, Alexandria, 22314. A 23rd company had a different listed address on Eisenhower Avenue. This information was derived from the State Corporation Commissions of Virginia, Maryland and Delaware as well as court searches involving land use and tax records. The AJP found an additional dozen or so other companies that might be owned by Hoffman, but did not include them in this story.

Of those 23 companies, only nine are listed as currently active, along with the H.N. (Jay) Hoffman III Foundation. The nine active companies are all LLCs and all have Lauren Douglas listed as the registered agent. 

Eisenhower East, 2006-2014 

At the time Euille received the $260,000 check from Hoffman on June 18, 2012, numerous Hoffman development proposals were before City Council and had been for several years.

For this story, we are focusing on three meetings and one event that shed light on the public interactions between Jay Hoffman III, the Hoffman Company LLC, the Alexandria City Council and Bill Euille. They are the Feb. 25, 2006, City Council public hearing; the April 17, 2010, City Council public hearing; the April 14, 2012, City Council public hearing; and the Jan. 27, 2014, groundbreaking for the National Science Foundation building in Eisenhower East Block 8.

A recurring theme of Hoffman development projects before City Council has been requests to maximize the size of proposed buildings beyond what was allowed in the Eisenhower East Small Area Plan.

During the timeframe between 2006 and 2014, increases in the square footage of buildings was attained in one of two ways: either by transferring allowable square footage from one block owned by the Hoffman Company LLC to another block, or by gaining bonus density by agreeing to build affordable housing units.

The former method was used to enlarge the building on Block 8, which became home to the National Science Foundation. The latter approach was used to gain additional square footage in development proposals for Blocks 11 and 12, just east of the Eisenhower Metro station – although development proposals on those blocks have yet to be built. 

Setting development in motion: 

Feb. 25, 2006 

At this meeting, City Council considered and unanimously approved seven requests by Hoffman Company LLC, according to meeting minutes available on the City of Alexandria website. Council approved five development special use permits, one special use permit for a transportation management plan and one amendment to the Coordinated Development District. The proposals for development projects on enormous swaths of land owned by Hoffman were presented as a package by attorney Jonathan Rak.

The first DSUP was for Blocks 2 and 3 – between Stovall Street, Taylor Drive and Mill Road – to construct office buildings. The second DSUP was for Blocks 4 and 5, between Stovall Street and Mill Road, to construct office, retail and residential buildings. 

The third DSUP was for Blocks 9A and 9B on Eisenhower Avenue to construct office, retail and hotel buildings. The fourth DSUP was for Blocks 11 and 12 on Eisenhower Avenue to construct retail and residential. The fifth DSUP was for Blocks 24 and 25A on Eisenhower Avenue for the construction of office and residential buildings.

Going to bat for Hoffman:

April 17, 2010 

In this meeting, City Council considered and unanimously passed the Stage 2 DSUP approval for Hoffman requests on Blocks 11 and 12. A key component of the request was a density bonus of 144,005 square feet in exchange for 56 affordable housing units.

While Hoffman had proposed, and city staff had endorsed, an expiration date of 30 years on these affordable units – meaning they would revert to market rate at the end of that time – the Alexandria Planning Commission voted on April 6, 2010, to make those 56 units affordable into perpetuity as part of its approval.

During the April 17, 2010, presentation, Rak, who was representing Hoffman at the City Council meeting, stated the Hoffman Company would not accept the Planning Commission’s revocation of the time limit and would instead forgo the bonus density and building of affordable units.

Following Rak’s presentation, Vice Mayor Kerry Donley said Council should restore the 30-year limit on the affordable housing units. Euille agreed in his subsequent remarks:

“Thank you Mr. Vice Mayor. I too agree with your comments,” Euille said at the April 17, 2010, Council meeting. “I was listening to the Planning Commission while they were having this discussion. And while I can sympathize with their desire, but yet I don’t think this is the proper thing to do, particularly with this project. We need to be consistent, and so I will be supporting restoring the original condition [of a 30-year limit].”

City Council’s vote to restore the 30-year expiration on the 56 affordable units in the Block 11 and Block 12 development proposal had a significant potential monetary benefit for Hoffman. As a comparison, since Blocks 11 and 12 have yet to be developed despite Council’s approval, we examined the closest comparable affordable housing units, those in the Parc Meridian Apartments on the adjacent Blocks 19 and 20.

The most common current discount rate in Alexandria for a one-bedroom affordable housing apartment is $1,696, according to Alexandria Housing Program Manager Tamara Jovovic. The 2023 restricted gross monthly rent limit includes utilities, and that price is for applicants at 60% of Area Median Income, which is the most common discount rate in Alexandria. Meanwhile, the average asking market rent price at Parc Meridian is $2,420 plus utilities for a one-bedroom apartment.

This means the unit is discounted by $724 per month and by $8,688 per year in rent alone. The discount would be even higher if utilities had been included in the price for the market-rate apartment. That annual discount multiplied by the 56 units that were planned for Blocks 11 and 12 – if comparable apartments were built there – would have resulted in a $486,528 total yearly increase in revenue for Hoffman once the apartments reverted to market rate, based on 2023 prices. 

That would be an additional $4,865,280 in revenue over a 10-year period, and an additional $9,730,560 if the building was in use for an additional 20 years – and even more if the buildings had more than a 50-year lifespan.

Increasing the NSF building by 42%:

April 14, 2012 

At the April 14, 2012, public hearing, City Council unanimously gave final approval to moving 204,987 square feet in floor area from Blocks 2 and 3 to Block 8, which was used to build the National Science Foundation building. This approval increased the gross allowable floor area buildable on Block 8 by 42%, as the allowable density went from 492,430 square feet to 697,417 square feet.

Blocks 2 and 3 have yet to be developed, and zoning changes currently underway in Alexandria may wind up negating that 2012 square footage reduction from being enforced. In fact, a Jan. 11, 2024, article in the Washington Business Journal indicated that the Hoffman Company plans to push for larger buildings on its remaining 17 acres of undeveloped land near the Eisenhower Metro station.

Hoffman and Euille at the NSF ribbon cutting:

Jan. 27, 2014

Jay Hoffman and Bill Euille stood side-by-side, shovels in hand, on Jan. 27, 2014, as they and several other dignitaries broke ground on the new National Science Foundation building – made possible by the 2012 transfer of square footage to Block 8. Hoffman and Euille also shared the stage that day, as each made public remarks as part of the groundbreaking celebration.

THE OUTCOME

After APD Chief Mike Brown put Silberberg in touch with the FBI, she spoke with an agent on the phone and they arranged to meet.

Silberberg said the FBI team sent to investigate and interview her specialized in public corruption. The FBI interviewed Silberberg, asking her to detail where the check was found, and opened a formal investigation.

“In the next couple of weeks, he and another FBI agent met with me for the first time in my mayoral office,” Silberberg said.

Silberberg showed the agents the file cabinet where the checkbook register, check stub and other material was found.

“We all noted how the color of the cabinet was the exact color of the backing of the checkbook, hence why it was not seen for all those years,” she said.

Silberberg said she met with the FBI agents several more times in person – always away from City Hall after the initial meeting – and also spoke with them on the phone a number of times. The FBI agents instructed her to not tell anyone about the investigation while it was ongoing. 

Silberberg said the FBI agents eventually shared their findings with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“By January of 2020, I had been out of office for a year, and one of the FBI agents reached out to me and asked to meet with me in person. On Jan. 14, 2020, we met and I was told by the FBI agents that a U.S. Attorney decided not to pursue the matter as a legal case,” Silberberg said.

The AJP filed a FOIA request with the FBI asking for information about this case and why it was not pursued, but that request is still pending.

Silberberg emphasized that the decision on whether to prosecute is the U.S. Attorney’s to make.

“I completely respect that,” she said.

The investigation ceased almost exactly three years after it began. 

Perhaps the biggest mystery surrounding the checkbook register is how it could have still been stuck in the filing cabinet drawer of the mayoral office five years after the check from Hoffman was issued. 

Since Silberberg hadn’t used the lateral filing cabinets during the first 13 months of her mayoralty, it’s not surprising she hadn’t yet found the items. But how could Euille have left them behind?

There are a few clues. The photo of Euille in the mayoral office that’s running with this story shows stacks of papers and files on his desk and on the bookcase behind it. His office, which could plausibly have been at least somewhat cleaned up for a photo shoot, was filled with clutter.

In a December 2015 Alexandria Times story about Euille’s impending departure – both literally and figuratively – from the mayoral office, it’s described as a room in disarray.

“Plaques lean against a couch; books and other items sit in boxes. His shelves are still full with piles upon piles of binders full of reports and other documents,” the Times story reads.

Silberberg said Euille had not removed his belongings from the office by the time she was supposed to move in in January 2016.

“In late December and early January of 2016, Bill had a difficult time getting everything packed up to go. Stuff was everywhere. It was frankly a big mess,” Silberberg said. 

Flemming was more direct in her assessment.

“Bill was quite a disorganized person, as we came to learn. … The office was a wreck. He did not complete moving out. He had boxes all over in the conference room,” Flemming said.  

The second question that begs consideration is why is this story just now being told, almost 12 years after Hoffman issued the check to Euille?

The time lapse is partly because the checkbook register and the story it contained remained hidden for the first five of those years, while the FBI investigation took another three. 

Though the investigation wrapped up by 2020, Silberberg continued to keep the knowledge of the check register to herself, something that she said was troubling. 

“In the past couple of years, the obligation that had been imposed on me to keep a secret had changed, and yet, a secret was somehow with me – a secret that belonged to someone else,” Silberberg said. “The bottom line is that it is not my secret to keep, and it took me time to realize that. It has troubled me since the day the materials were found in my office.” 

Silberberg said Alexandrians deserve to know whatever the truth is about the check.

“This is about the public trust. This matter is between former Mayor Euille and the people of Alexandria.”

In the December 2015 interview with the Alexandria Times, a pensive Euille discussed his legacy. Among other things, he highlighted being the first African American elected to sit in the mayor’s seat.

“… but in the end, the public will make the determination for what my legacy will be,” Euille said.

alexfernandez.lnt@gmail.com

dunbard@ix.netcom.com

*The Alexandria Journalism Project is a private foundation established to fund investigative reporting, journalism scholarships and journalism education in Alexandria. See alexandriajournalismproject.org for more information.

**Alexandria’s first elected School Board took office in 1994. Prior to that, City Council appointed School Board members.

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