By Peter Galuszka
Imagine there is a “think tank” at a private, non-profit university. It produces no academic papers and does no peer-reviewed research. Instead, it holds podcasts, seminars and buys ads on Facebook that obviously promote a political party and president.
Would that be a “think tank” or a political action committee?
That about sums up the situation involving Falkirk Center at Liberty University in Lynchburg, according to Politico, a Washington-based news outlet.
True, Liberty is a private, conservative religious institution. But that does not mean it can do what it wants.
“Universities are not allowed to back candidates or be involved in elections because of their status as 501c(3) nonprofits, which exempts institutions like Liberty from paying income tax and allows donors to deduct their donations from their taxes,” according to Politico. Continue reading
by Kerry Dougherty
When I saw yesterday’s headline in The Washington Post, I was shocked:
“Virginia State Sen. Joe Morrissey Faces Criminal Charges For Allegedly Campaigning Inside Polling Place.”
I wasn’t surprised that Morrissey’s in trouble. Heck, his entire checkered career has been a gift to Virginia’s newsaper columnists. I wrote about him several times and, frankly, the fiery Democrat was a terrific interview.
Not shy, highly quotable. Everything a columnist could ask for in one colorful bundle.
There was that courtroom fistfight that earned him the nickname “Fightin’ Joe” when he was Richmond’s commonwealth’s attorney in the 1991. Then there was the 2015 session of the House of Delegates, when he commuted to the Capitol from the Henrico County Jail where he was on work release for a misdemeanor conviction for contributing to the delinquency of a minor (his 17-year-old receptionist, whom he later married.) If he crossed his legs just right you couldn’t see his ankle bracelet. Continue reading
Another free clinic closes. Harrisonburg’s Free Clinic is going out of business after 30 years of providing medical care to low-income, uninsured adults. The clinic’s board attributed the decision in part to the decline in the number of patients resulting from Virginia’s Medicaid expansion. The clinic had 600 patients before expansion and 90 patients afterward, reports Virginia Business. Also, staffing the facility, which relied upon the contributions of 80 volunteers, became problematic during the COVID-19 epidemic. And, thus, Virginia civil society continues to shrink and Virginia’s health care system continues to consolidate under the control of monopolistic health care systems and monopsonistic, taxpayer-funded insurance programs.
Virginia’s ruling class in action. Christian Dorsey, a member of the Arlington County Board, is in hot water for fraudulently misrepresenting his liabilities while filing for bankruptcy, reports the Washington Post. Dorsey had listed a second mortgage payment as one of his obligations, which would have reduced the amount he had to pay toward his other debts. But in fact, court testimony revealed, that debt had been forgiven and Dorsey had made no payments on it. As a practical matter, that means Dorsey has no protection from creditors for at least three months. The bankruptcy came to light after a story in the Post forced Dorsey, who also serves on the Metropolitan Washington Area Transit Authority board, to return a $10,000 campaign contribution from WMATA’s largest union. Between his Arlington board pay and his consulting fees, he earns more than $120,000 a year.
Good Governance Rule #1: You don’t want people facing bankruptcy anywhere near the public till. Good Governance Rule #2: You don’t want people who misrepresent facts to federal judges anywhere near the the public till. Continue reading
by James C. Sherlock
Sentara CEO Howard Kern
Scandals are sometimes overrated. Not this one.
I have reported here before on the strange case of the EVMS-ODU merger. I posted here on Nov 1, Nov 2 and Nov 3 with my own concerns on the subject. Many of my assessments came to fruition.
On November 13 and 20, the Checks and Balances Project picked up the story and took it to the next level. The quotations below are from the November 20 story.
I am not an attorney, but I will project today the significant legal jeopardy into which the process may have put the group that got together to coordinate and plan that merger without EVMS participation.
Not to mention the legal and personnel mess that it puts on the desk of Virginia’s Attorney General and the Governor.
by James A. Bacon
A special prosecutor charged with investigating a $1.8 million contract to take down Confederate statues in the City of Richmond, is asking Attorney General mark Herring to authorize the Virginia State Police to help him.
“I hereby request that you authorize the Bureau of Criminal Investigation within the Virginia State Police to conduct an investigation into this matter,” wrote Timothy Martin, commonwealth’s attorney for August County, to handle the matter.
According to the Associated Press, Martin told Jeffrey Breit, an attorney for Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, he needs additional investigators to conduct interviews. Continue reading
by James C. Sherlock
I have competed a study of Virginia’s worst-performing schools in the education of black children. The results presented in this essay represent a scandal of the first order and demand explanations, both from the school boards and the Virginia Department of Education.
In my next post I will review two books by prominent black academics with polar opposite views on what to do about it. But this is about the abject failure of many of Virginia’s schools to educate black students.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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