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.”

Bacon’s Rebellion has documented how Stoney ignored city and state procurement law when giving a $1.8 million contract to Henry to take down four Civil War statues. The mayor has invoked his right under a public emergency, which had been declared by Governor Ralph Northam, to circumvent normal procurement requirements. However, Stoney did not even abide by the minimal transparency requirements of emergency-procurement law, such as stating in writing why the normal procurement process had to be set aside.

Bacon’s bottom line: This strikes me as a cop-out. If McEachin has a conflict of interest, surely there are mechanisms for delegating investigations to third parties.  There have been numerous instances in which local commonwealth attorneys have handed off prosecutions to counterparts from other jurisdictions. Presumably, investigations could be fobbed off on someone else as well.

How, then, does a grand jury order an investigation? Grand juries, which are convened by district and circuit court judges, don’t just decide to investigate public officials on their own initiative. Someone has to make the case to the grand jury that an investigation is warranted. Who is empowered to do that in Virginia? Wouldn’t that be the commonwealth attorney?

Some mechanism must exist to hold elected officials accountable. Readers, help me out.

Update: According to this Washington Post op-ed, commonwealth’s attorneys in Arlington County and Falls Church are suing judges. It’s a different kind of turf battle, obviously. States the WaPo: “She has filed a petition with the Virginia Supreme Court seeking relief from a sweeping and unprecedented order that undermines the discretion prosecutors normally have in making decisions about criminal cases.”

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32 responses to “McEachin Punts on Stoney Contract Inquiry

  1. Normally in our neck of the woods, if the local DA has a conflict, a DA in an adjacent jurisdiction will do it. I don’t know if there is a formal process or it’s just a good ole boy convention.

    • Somebody has to ask.

      If a grand jury is sitting, and they do from time to time, they can request the investigation without the CA or judge bringing it up. Saw that happen once. Grand juries have a lot of powers people forget.

  2. What about the state police or fbi?

    • State police can only get involved if authorized by the Governor, Attorney General or a grand jury. That is the statute Jim and I cited. The federal government is another matter, and could indeed investigate — but I would assume not without the U.S. Attorney or AG Barr at least checking off.

      • “I would assume not without the U.S. Attorney or AG Barr at least checking off.”

        Yes, which is why, oh say, the President requesting a foreign government to investigate a US citizen, e.g., someone named Hunter, would be a violation of that citizen’s 4th Amendment protections.

  3. In mcdonnell’s case, the state police was involved with initiating the case which had been or did become federal with the us doh and the fbi.

  4. From an attorney friend:

    Special grand juries may be impaneled by the circuit court at any time upon its own motion. It may also be impaneled upon recommendation of a minority of the members of a regular grand jury that a special grand jury be impaneled to perform the functions provided for in 19.2 – 191 (two), which provides investigating and reporting on any condition that involves or tends to promote criminal activity either in the community or by any governmental authority agency or official thereof, they can also be impaneled at the request of the Commonwealth attorney.

    The most interesting part is that the special grand jury shall be impaneled by a circuit court upon the recommendation of a majority of the members of a regular grand jury if the court finds probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed which should be investigated by a special grand jury to investigate… a public official

    See 19.2 – 191 (2) and 19.2 – 206 and read them together.

    Bottom line, [Collette McEachin] can’t impanel a grand jury herself.

    The circuit court has the power, not the Commonwealth attorney. I think a close reading of the language shows she has the power to request a grand jury for ordinary criminal activity, but that the statutes, under the principle of expressio unius est exclusio alterius does not give her the right to request a grand jury to investigate public officials. Read it again and again.

    • If McEachin is not empowered to request an investigation, what alternatives are there?

      Can members of the public petition the circuit court judge?

      Can Richmond City Council vote to conduct an audit?

      Do citizens have any options whatever?

      • I’m guessing a citizen petition of some sort could do it. We don’t recall in this state, do we? But I do seem to recall some petition involving Glouchester school board a few years ago.

        Say, what gives with this site? What with the bot checks by cloudfare and constantly getting err 504, site down? You hinting?

        • seeing the same. Does not appear to be cloudfare that is the issue.

          • I think it’s our browsers, Larry. But, not completely certain.

            Generally, I’m using an old unsupported iPad, so the Safari/OS is flagged as “hazardous” to becoming involved in a Distributed Denial of Service attack. Cloudflare checks that it is human access, and lets me through now.

            I also use Firefox on two Windows, 10 and XP. Again, the old Firefox/XP gets checked. I haven’t used the Firefox/10 combo yet to test this theory, but will try it later today to see if Cloudflare gets involved.

            I find it interesting that this happen after Jim changed to the new WordPress stuff, BUT I think it’s because of security tightening to the upcoming elections. Everybody is girding their loins.

          • maybe no. Chrome on a Win10, both kept up to date.

          • interesting… I’m still seeing the 5 sec delay from Cloudfare

            and on Sunday – I was seeing a graphic from Cloudfare that indicated that Cloudfare was fine and the problem was at BaconsRebellion.com

            I’m thinking Cloudfare is still involved in this…in that the 5 sec delay banner looks to be them.

            There indeed was a Century-link outage – which boggles the mind in that so many services like Cloudfare were taken down also:

            “CenturyLink outage led to a 3.5% drop in global web traffic
            CenturyLink incident takes down Cloudflare, Reddit, Hulu, AWS, Blizzard, Steam, Xbox Live, Discord, and dozens more.”

            https://www.zdnet.com/article/centurylink-outage-led-to-a-3-5-drop-in-global-web-traffic/

            AWS is Amazon web services…

        • Don’t know what the problem is. Looking into it.

          • Jim, I don’t think it’s anything you can change, or fix. I think it’s TWO things happening simultaneously.
            1) you upgraded to the new WordPress stuff, which lost old comments (temporarily, I hope), added the “like”, and some other effects.

            2) simultaneously, Cloudflare is tightening security. Nothing you can do about this, and I’m betting the whole of the net is doing this in expectations of bad actors in the upcoming elections.

          • “Cloudflare says its Sunday morning problems were due to CenturyLink outage”

            https://www.theverge.com/2020/8/30/21407429/cloudflare-down-websites-hulu-feedly-discord

  5. seeing the same. Does not appear to be cloudfare that is the issue.

  6. From another attorney friend:

    [McEachin] thinks she can investigate policemen:
    https://www.nbc12.com/2020/06/17/commonwealths-attorney-investigating-officer-who-hit-protesters-with-suv/

    My quick review of the Code does not find anything to say she can or can’t investigate the Mayor for potential violations of the Procurement Act or helping a contributor. You probably need an expert on this subject to say anything.

    • Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Collette McEachin needs to bush up on the law, and what it means to administer justice without fear, favor, or prejudice. We seem to be moving from a recognition that police officers are also subject to the law, to a situation where they are the only ones subject to the law.

      Has this been violated in the last few months?

      “You don’t need a permit to march in the streets or on sidewalks, as long as marchers don’t obstruct car or pedestrian traffic. If you don’t have a permit, police officers can ask you to move to the side of a street or sidewalk to let others pass or for safety reasons.”

      https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights/protesters-rights/

      How about this?

      “If upon such command the persons unlawfully assembled do not disperse immediately, such sheriff, officer or militia may use such force as is reasonably necessary to disperse them and to arrest those who fail or refuse to disperse.”

      https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title18.2/chapter9/section18.2-411/

      And most applicable with regard to police officers attempting to pass to fulfill their duties:

      “If any person by threats of bodily harm or force knowingly attempts to intimidate or impede a judge, magistrate, justice, juror, attorney for the Commonwealth, witness, any law-enforcement officer, lawfully engaged in the discharge of his duty…he is guilty of a Class 5 felony.”

      https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title18.2/chapter4/section18.2-460/

  7. It seems that there is a pattern of Commonwealth Attorneys everywhere who are choosing not to investigate possible crimes that are associated with the CA’s political party. Are the campaigns of the candidates for CA being supported by one source?

  8. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    This is a punt that would make Steve Cox proud. Once punted 63 yards for the skins. Nobody is going to touch this doggie doo with a ten foot poll.

  9. So, she won’t open an investigation because the guy she would have to investigate once made a political contribution to her husband. Wouldn’t that be a good reason to investigate? Meanwhile, we’re left to trust the decision making of a governor who lacked the wisdom to avoid prancing around in blackface and an attorney general who also lacked the wisdom to avoid prancing around in blackface. At the same time, the Speaker of the House of Delegates ran her own statue removal scheme and claims that a lot of money was spent with no documents.

    https://www.wtvr.com/news/local-news/va-house-speaker-sued-after-confederate-statue-removal

    Richmond isn’t a swamp, it’s an open sewer.

    • James Wyatt Whitehead V

      Filler Corn is currently guiding HB 5030 which completely guts the War Memorial law. They will all be down by next summer. Even VMI loses it’s exemption. I have been trying to follow this bill. Since it is in the speakers committee she can call it into action whenever she wants. I think it is heading to a full house floor vote Monday and then off to the senate.

      • HB 5030 now eliminates the exemption for one in a publicly owned cemetery, eliminates the requirement for public notice of a public hearing before removing, relocating or altering monuments or memorials for veterans of any war. Eliminates words ” any publicly owned monument” and “on public property” and subsequently offering it to any museum, historical society, government or military battlefield before removing etc.

        So now, if this passes, a monument or memorial doesn’t have to be on public land or publicly owned as long as it’s within the locality’s geographical limits, the locality can do what they want. How is it legal to take a privately owned memorial and do anything with it, even take it out of a cemetery??

        How many of these are on the Virginia Landmarks Register and National Register of Historic Places? Mathews’ is, and its removal is on the agenda of the BoS meeting Tuesday. Word on the street is Black Panthers of Norfolk will be back with NAACP and BLM. Supposedly, because seating is limited to 150 for social distancing, local residents and property owners will be allowed in before non-residents. We’ll see.

        • James Wyatt Whitehead V

          HB 5030 would make Mao proud. Cultural revolution is no longer a slippery slope, more like a cliff.

        • The Mathews BoS did give priority to seat residents and property owners first. The Board was reminded four of them said at a forum last November they would not remove the Confederate Memorial. Waiting for the video to see their faces when that was said. They voted for a referendum on the subject in November, 2021!

  10. Regarding technical issues:

    I believe that it’s a CenturyLink outage. They merged/bought Level 3 a few years back. Level 3 is one of the primary worldwide networks and when they have a problem, it sends ripples everywhere. Google “CenturyLink outage ” for more information.

  11. Welcome to a new version of race, race hate, apartheid, and race wars in America courtesy of your local library, now in addition to your public schools, colleges and universities:

    “Now, it appears the American Library Association has embraced the endgame initiated by Carmichael and Hamilton. Led by ALA directives, public libraries promote the same ideological challenge to existing institutions and ethical norms that dominate academia. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech now draws criticism for ceding too much to bourgeois culture. Among today’s anti-racists, skin color trumps the content of character as a determinant of achievement.

    In 1998, ALA leadership committed itself to five Key Action Areas on which to concentrate resources. The first key area was “diversity.” Engaged librarians promise to “decenter power and privilege” by employing “a social justice framework to ensure the inclusion of diverse perspectives.”

    The ALA ensures those perspectives it deems ideologically sound. Among these are terms set by critical race theory, the tangled reasoning that informs Black Lives Matter: racism is the fons et origo of America; only whites are guilty of it.

    Itself a racist assumption, the indictment has been on simmer since Carmichael and Hamilton set the condemnatory tone: “The goal of black people must not be to assimilate into middle-class America, for that class — as a whole — is without a viable conscience as regards humanity.” In the grip of moral fervor under the protection of the ALA, librarians are poised to bring the toxic brew to a boil.

    My local library turned the flame up with Harvey’s “Raising White Kids.” Among anti-racist recommendations for young readers, this was the single entry showcased for parents. The book lends a reassuring patina of high-minded scholarship to Carmichael’s declaration “we must fill ourselves with hate for all things white.”

    Harvey’s child-rearing philosophy begins with Ibram X. Kendi’s premise that color-blindness is a non-starter. To correct the failure of a color-blind approach, race-conscious parenting “insists on noticing and naming race early and often. Being race-conscious means thinking about, talking about, acting in response to the recognition or consciousness of race.” It’s race: all the time, every day, and in every way.” End Quote from Maureen Mullarkey’s article “The Pseudo Science behind Public Library Selection ‘Raising White Kids.”

    For more see:
    https://thefederalist.com/2020/09/02/the-pseudo-science-behind-public-library-selection-raising-white-kids/

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