Richmond Mayor responds to calls for monument removal contract investigation

Levar Stoney says he acted within his power under local state of emergency

Richmond Mayor responds to calls for monument removal contract investigation
Richmond City Hall. (Source: Google Earth)

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney is defending the actions his administration took to tear down the city's Confederate monuments.

"I was not involved in any of those talks or that outreach," said Stoney. "I was only informed later after they were able to secure the services of Team Henry."

Richmond City Councilor Kim Gray, who is running against Stoney for mayor this fall, sent a letter to the Richmond City Commonwealth’s Attorney asking for an investigation, and if appropriate, any potential criminal charges.

Gray says Stoney didn't follow the rules over awarding the $1.8 million removal bid.

"This is a mayor who's always felt he's above the law and above the rules," said Gray.

Stoney says the contract to remove Confederate monuments this summer went to NAH, LLC. That’s a shell corporation set up just before all this went down on July 1. The mayor says the contractor created that to help with any legal issues but also to protect the owner, his business and family from threats.

The city says six major firms in the Richmond-area declined due to risk and the mayor had the power to sidestep some procedures due to the on-going local state of emergency.

"I think this could have been facilitated in a way that would have gotten a contract for much less and not wasted taxpayer dollars," said Gray.

Wednesday, Stoney told reporters he didn't know who the contractor was, nor that it was a campaign donor until after.

“It does not pass the smell test that this contract went to a high political donor of the mayor and a friend of the mayor’s,” said Gray.

State campaign finance records show Devon Henry, his company Team Henry Enterprises, as well as his political action committee, donated a combined $4,000 to Stoney’s campaign since 2016. Meanwhile, Stoney’s administration says it does not award contracts based on political donations.

“So, I don’t know who or what she may be catering to or whatnot. All I can do is speak to my experience,” said Stoney.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Colette McEachin confirms she has received Gray’s letter and is reviewing it.

Statement from Richmond City Hall:

“The Mayor acted within his authority to protect public safety (pursuant to Virginia Code section 44-146.21(c).) When the monuments were deemed a threat to public safety, the city began reaching out to firms for removal. We reached out to the six major firms in the Richmond area that do this kind of work, as well as many others in the Mid-Atlantic region. After several days of talking to firms who didn’t want to get involved, one firm finally expressed a willingness to do it, despite the risks it posed to that firm as a Black-owned business. Though the owner has donated to the Mayor’s political campaign in the past, that did not influence the contract. The city reached out to and was rejected by 6 major firms before contracting with this company. Of course, campaign donations never play a role in the city awarding any contract.”

Copyright 2020 WWBT. All rights reserved.