Richmond officials have launched an investigation into whether as many as 300 employees have taken advantage of city-issued free-hug cards, used whenever a necessary embrace is needed.
While city code allows public workers one free hug per week, Mayor L. Douglas Wilder said many employees were using up to three hugs a day for simple cheer-ups, jobs well-done, to feel special, expressing sympathy, or, in some cases, showing happiness and joy.
Other employees, Wilder said, were prolonging the hugs into full-on cuddles.
“Recent events in this administration show that there are some very serious lapses in control of how we issue these hug cards, or coupons or whatever you want to call them,” Wilder said, disclosing that he does hold a card and uses it once weekly with either the city attorney or public-utilities director. “Though we encourage the occasional – and free of charge – embrace every now and again, we must reign in this reckless snuggling.”
The investigation comes after a nine-month review by the city auditor, who found hundreds of examples of hug-card abuse as Richmond employees attempted to refill on happiness, emotional warmth or general affection for one another, Wilder said.
Councilman Chris A. Hilbert said the city is considering a new policy that will allow for up to five free hugs a week, with one-foot personal barriers kept between participating embracers to limit coziness. In addition, arms would be required to be kept above the midriff, Hilbert said, as such activity can lead to eventual spooning.