Category Archives: Scandals

Henry Defends Role in $1.8 Million Statue Contract

Devon Henry

The Associated Press snagged an interview with Devon Henry, owner of NAH, LLC, the shell company that was awarded a $1.8 million contract to remove Richmond’s Civil War statues earlier this year. That contract, awarded by Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney after bypassing normal procurement protocols, is now under investigation.

The AP story provides insight into why Henry, a 43-year-old African-American construction contractor who has done more than $100 million in business with the federal government, hid his identity by setting up a shell corporation.

Henry huddled with his family to make sure everyone was on board. His son and daughter “started Googling” and “there was most definitely a level of concern” when they read about what happened in Charlottesville (where plans to remove a Robert E. Lee statue sparked a deadly white supremacist rally in 2017) and New Orleans (where a contractor’s car was firebombed).

Ultimately, they all agreed to take the job. This was an opportunity to be a part of history.

For safety, he said, he sought to conceal his company’s identity, creating a shell entity, NAH LLC, through which the $1.8 million contract was funneled.

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Caroline Volunteers Remove Statue for $6,000


Using volunteer labor, Caroline County has removed a Civil War statue from the front of the county courthouse for approximately $6,000. The county had received estimates ranging in price from $170,000 to $260,000 from out-of-town companies that would have charged for lodging and other costs, reports the Free Lance-Star.

Balking at the price to move the 43-ton monument, county building official Kevin Wightman and a crew of more than 20 volunteers stepped up. Community members donated a forklift, trailers, straps, and plywood. Wightman had requested a $25,000 budget, but ended up spending less than $6,000. Said Wightman: “This is Caroline County. We take care of our own and we’re fully capable.” Continue reading

Senator Warner Is Missing in Action

by Emilio Jaksetic

As co-chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Mark Warner, D-VA, was vociferous about the need to investigate allegations of Russian collusion by President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. But Virginia’s senior senator was silent in 2019 when the Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General identified serious defects and failings with FBI and DOJ handling of the investigation of those allegations. He was silent when a former FBI attorney pleaded guilty in August 2020 to criminally altering a document used to support a request for a FISA warrant in the Russian collusion investigation. And he has been silent about the subsequent discrediting of the Steele dossier.

Now Warner seems reticent about the need to investigate allegations of foreign payoffs to Hunter Biden or question if former Vice President Joseph Biden knew about those foreign payoffs.

Multiple sources of information support the allegations against Hunter Biden:

  • Peter Schweizer’s books, “Secret Empires” (Harper, 2019) and “Profiles in Corruption” (Harper, 2020);
  • Various emails reported by the New York Post (October 2020);
  • A Senate report issued October 11 (“Hunter Biden, Burisma, and Corruption: The Impact on U.S. Government Policy and Related Concerns”) available here.

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UVa’s Lawn Scandal — Bad Leadership and Worse Lawyering

Ms. Azher’s pinboard pictured here has a note that states: “I stand with farm workers”

by James C. Sherlock, University of Virginia, College of Arts and Sciences, 1966

Hira Azher’s profane sign on the door of her room on the University of Virginia’s Lawn has made headlines, and the ensuing controversy has raised many questions. This article will highlight a new issue. University administrators, I will argue, botched the handling of the incident by turning what should have been a breach-of-contract issue into a constitutional freedom-of-speech case.

After alumni raised objections to the now-infamous sign, which said “F— UVA,” President Jim Ryan sought legal advice from University Counsel Timothy Heaphy. Heaphy concluded that the student’s use of profanity was protected by the First Amendment. Although the resident contract signed by Lawn residents gives the University the right to regulate signage, he argued, the institution’s failure to enforce that particular provision in the past essentially gave Azher a pass.

But my analysis suggests that the contract is clear. The University could have enforced it when Ms. Azher breached it with her door sign, which is prohibited by both the contract and University fire regulations.

Mr. Heaphy serves both the University President and the Board of Visitors. He gave each of them and the rest of us bad information. The public representations of the President, the Board and the Counsel himself on facts of the case do not withstand a fact check of the housing contract that Heaphy’s own lawyers wrote and that Azher signed and continues to violate.  Continue reading

Special Prosecutor to Investigate Stoney Contract

Smedley Crane & Rigging crew, sub-contracted by NAH LLC, dismantling the JEB Stuart statue.

A Richmond Circuit Court judge has appointed an August County prosecutor to investigate whether Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney broke any laws when he awarded a gave a $1.8 million contract to remove Civil War statues.

Richmond Councilwoman Kim Gray, who is running for mayor against Stoney, had requested an investigation, and Commonwealth Attorney Colette McEachin had referred the matter to Circuit Court Judge Joi Taylor.

“All I can tell you at this early stage is that we will investigate the matter in an unbiased way, and take whatever action is appropriate given what we find,” said Martin, a former Richmond prosecutor who moved to Augusta in 2014 , reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Continue reading

Update: McEachin Calls for Special Prosecutor

Colette McEachin, Richmond Commonwealth’s attorney, has asked the Richmond Circuit Court to appoint a special prosecutor to determine whether Mayor Levar Stoney broke any laws when using emergency powers to assign a $1.8 million statue-removal contract to Devon Henry, a campaign contributor.

Councilwoman Kim Gray, who is running against Stoney for mayor, requested McEachin to conduct the investigation. Last month the C.A. had declared that she had a conflict of interest on the grounds that Henry had previously made a modest contribution to her husband, Rep. Donald McEachin. The inquiry seemed stalled, but yesterday’s ann0uncement indicates that it could continue moving forward.

According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, a Stoney spokesman said that an investigation “will find everything was done above board and appropriately. Only one firm was willing to do the work, considering the politically charged nature of it.”

Bacon’s Rebellion, which broke the story of Stoney’s conflict of interest, has uncovered evidence that the mayor did not follow all emergency-procurement requirements and that other municipalities, from Baltimore, Md., to Brunswick County, Va., have taken down Civil War statues for a small fraction of what Richmond was charged. You can follow the evolution of the controversy here.

— JAB

Maybe We Can Sue

by James C. Sherlock

Updated August 30, 3:30 pm

I wrote yesterday about a House of Delegates bill that ultimately was passed by the House Committee for Courts of Justice as House Bill No. 5074 Amendment In the Nature of A Substitute (the bill).  

I wrote of its effects on public officials and owners and managers of private companies for violations of COVID-19 regulations. The bill makes them not just accountable to state and federal regulators, but also personally civilly liable for the slightest violation of any part of the virtually unclimbable wall of applicable regulations. And Virginia has the strictest COVID-19 occupational safety regulations in the nation.

This essay will discuss the ethics of two different original bills and reveal the secretive process by which the final substitute was developed in committee. It will ask the General Assembly to clean up a scandal of its own making.

Some may say this “goes on all the time.” It may, but that does not mean it should.

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McEachin Punts on Stoney Contract Inquiry

by James A. Bacon

Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Collette McEachin said Friday she will not investigate Mayor Levar Stoney’s awarding of a $1.8 million contract to businessman Devon Henry, a Stoney campaign contributor, on the grounds that Henry also donated money in 2011 to her husband’s 2011 state Senate campaign.

“Although the amount of money donated over nine years ago may not be significant and my husband is no longer in that elective position, it is incumbent upon me to maintain the public trust in this office and to avoid even the appearance of impropriety because of any actions taken by my office,” McEachin wrote to Councilwoman Kim Gray. An opponent of Stoney in the mayor’s race, Gray had called for an investigation into the circumstances of the contract award.

Collette McEachin, who is married to U.S. Rep. Donald McEachin, D-4th, also said that the state code allows only the governor, attorney general or a grand jury to order a criminal investigation of a local elected official, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Gray said she will continue speaking out. “I think that the people have a right to have full understanding of how this contract went out,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything this egregious.” Continue reading

Former Transportation Secretary Questions $1.8 Million Statue-Removal Contract

Brunswick County’s Board of Supervisors wants to take down this statue, but balked at paying $33,000. Photo credit: South Hill Enterprise

by James A. Bacon

Pierce Homer knows a thing or two about construction contracting and government procurement. He is transportation director for a private engineering firm. Previously, he served as Secretary of Transportation under Governors Mark Warner and Tim Kaine. And before that, he worked for local governments in Prince William County and Galveston, Tex.  In sum, Homer has more than 30 years of experience procuring and building infrastructure in Virginia, both as a state and county official and as an employee of a private engineering firm.

He is also forthright about supporting Kim Gray, who is one of six candidates running against incumbent Levar Stoney for mayor of Richmond.

Homer has been asking some of the same questions as Bacon’s Rebellion. How is it possible that it cost the City of Richmond $1.8 million to remove four Civil War statues? That’s how much Stoney paid NAH LLC in a no-bid deal with a campaign contributor to hire an out-of-state firm, Smedley Crane & Rigging, a welder, and a consultant to remove and transport the statues of Stonewall Jackson, J.E.B. Stuart, Mathew Fontaine Maury and Jefferson Davis.

His inquiries suggest that it could have cost no more than $200,000 to $300,000 to remove the statues. What, he asks, could have justified charging the city $1.8 million? Continue reading

Time for the Mayor to Clear the Air

Smedley Crane & Construction remove the Commodore Maury statue.

by James A. Bacon

Three years ago, the Richmond Times-Dispatch published an article headlined thusly: “Baltimore paid less than $20,000 to remove four Confederate monuments last month. So what does that mean for Richmond?”

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe had estimated that it would cost more than $5 million to remove five Confederate statues from Richmond’s Monument Avenue. They argued that such a large sum would be more productively spent on city schools.

After conducting a Freedom of Information Act request, the RTD discovered that the City of Baltimore had paid a contractor $19,364 for “monument removal and storage” of four Confederate statues. The contractor put the statues in a city storage lot and covered them with tarps. To address security concerns, the city had the statues removed overnight with no advance notice.

The RTD article seems especially relevant today as Stoney, running for re-election, defends his decision to pay a campaign contributor $1.8 million to remove four statues: of Jefferson Davis, J.E.B. Stuart, Stonewall Jackson, and Mathew Fontaine Maury. The circumstances in Baltimore and Richmond were not identical. The Richmond statues were larger than the Baltimore statues. Stoney was acting during a public emergency punctuated by violent protests. No Richmond contractor was willing to undertake the job, and the mayor had to look out-of-state for someone to do the work.

But when the cost differs by a factor of almost 100, Stoney has some explaining to do. Especially when he ignored Richmond and state procurement policies to award the contract to a dummy corporation set up by Devon Henry, a campaign contributor. Continue reading

Elmer Gantry In Lynchburg

Jerry Falwell, Jr., and wife Becki

By Peter Galuszka

The resignation of Jerry Falwell Jr. amid a series of scandals may have a strong impact in Virginia where his late father built an extraordinary, ultra-conservative evangelical university in Lynchburg that later became highly politicized lightning rod supporting President Donald Trump.

Falwell has been caught up in a number of controversies including limiting speech on campus, going after The New York Times for trespassing when it reported he insisted that student ignore wearing anti-viral pandemic masks and so on.

What happened with Falwell Jr is as  an American story as apple pie topped with a Cross. It might have some straight out of the pages of Elmer Gantry.

After touting strict school policies that forbid students from drinking alcohol, watching “R”-rated movies or engaging in pre-marital sex, Falwell was pictured aboard a NASCAR mogul’s yacht half dressed with a semi-clad, pregnant woman who was said to be his wife Becki’s assistant. Falwell was holding a wine glass with a liquid in it but Falwell said it wasn’t wine.

Shortly afterwards, he gave an interview to the right-leaning Washington Examiner stating that his wife had been involved with a multi-year sexual affair with Giancarlo Granda, a former Miami Beach pool boy whom Falwell funded to set up a hostel business. Continue reading

House GOP Refuses Per Diems, Dems Cling to the Loot

by Kerry Dougherty

Lemme get this straight.

The Commonwealth of Virginia is facing a possible $2.7 billion shortfall over the next two years, due to lost revenue from the pandemic shutdowns.

Yet, in the wake of this fiscal crisis, Democrats decided to award themselves a fat per diem – more than $200 a day it turns out – while working from home. The per diem is intended to be used by members for hotels and meals while in Richmond.

Are House Democrats insane? Did they think Virginians wouldn’t notice this misuse of public funds?

Worse, are these greedy politicians unaware that tens of thousands of Virginians remain unemployed and are struggling to support their families while they merrily slurp up extra tax dollars? The optics of this chicanery are obscene. Continue reading

Stoney Didn’t Comply with State Procurement Rules Either

No Department of General Services records that the City of Richmond filed documentation of the statue-removal contract with the state.

by James A. Bacon

The defense of Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney’s awarding of a $1.8 million statue-removal contract to a campaign supporter — that he followed state emergency procurement law, even if he didn’t abide by the City of Richmond’s law — has no basis in fact.

Stoney’s defenders have argued that the public health and safety were at stake when protesters were trying to tear down the statues, and the Mayor had to act decisively. Stoney executed the contract in compliance with state law that permits the local director of emergency management to forgo “time-consuming procedures or formalities” when awarding contracts during an emergency, Betty Burrell, the city’s director of procurement, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch two days ago.

“Were it possible to pursue a traditional procurement, the mayor would have done so, but circumstances required him to pursue a different legal avenue,” said the mayor’s spokesman Jim Nolan. “This decision was fully within his authority, and he stands by it.”

There’s just one problem with this line of argument: Stoney did not comply with state procurement law. The law does not give local officials a blank check; it requires them to leave a public record of their actions. Continue reading

Stoney Justifies Statue Contract

by James A. Bacon

The Stoney administration did not answer Bacon’s Rebellion requests for information when we were researching Mayor Levar Stoney’s awarding of a $1.8 million contract outside of Richmond’s procurement laws, but it did respond to the Richmond Times-Dispatch when the newspaper followed up on the revelations posted on this blog.

Here’s how Stoney spokesman Jim Nolan justified the awarding of the contract to NAH LLC, owned by Devon Henry, a Stoney donor, to take down several of the city’s Confederate statues last month. 

Were it possible to pursue a traditional procurement, the mayor would have done so, but circumstances required him to pursue a different legal avenue and he chose to prioritize protecting lives and property over process. … This decision was fully within his authority, and he stands by it.

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The Gory Details of Levar Stoney’s Statue Contract

Devon Henry, principal of NAH LLC, which was awarded the $1.8 million contract to take down Richmond’s Confederate statues.

by James A. Bacon

When Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney needed help taking down the city’s Confederate statues, he turned to Devon Henry, a prominent local construction contractor who had donated $4,000 to his 2016 mayoral campaign and political action committee. No local crane & rigging company in Virginia was willing to undertake the controversial project, but Henry lined up a Connecticut firm willing to do the work.

Bypassing City of Richmond procurement procedures and city administrators on the grounds that the city was facing an “emergency” in the form of civil unrest, Stoney awarded the contract directly to Henry himself. Under the $1.8 million agreement, the city reimbursed NAH $180,000 per day for equipment, crew, and consultants.

That sum struck some observers as exorbitant. Bacon’s Rebellion could not find a Virginia rigging company willing to comment upon the contract on the record, but an individual with one firm said the job would have cost no more than $10,000 a day had it been handled by a local contractor, or $20,000 a day for an out-of-state contractor who had to pay for transportation, food and lodging for its crew. He was astonished that anyone could get away with charging $180,000 per day for the job.

Stoney spokesman Jim Nolan declined to respond to Bacon’s Rebellion questions asking how Stoney selected Henry for the lucrative contract. Likewise, Henry declined to respond to questions posed by Bacon’s Rebellion. Continue reading