Records? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Records!

Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn and House Clerk Suzette Denslow. Photo credit: Virginia Mercury.

by Dave Webster

On July 30, 2020, I served a Virginia Freedom of Information Act request on House of Delegates Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn regarding her removal of the Lee statue and other artifacts from the State Capitol, specifically inquiring as to who she hired, how much they were paid, and where she stored the artifacts which are the property of the people of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia. I also asked her if there was a competitive bidding process for the contract or contracts.

Her reply was:  “The requested records do not exist.”

Faced with this mysterious response, I was compelled to file suit against Speaker Filler-Corn in the General District Court for the City of Richmond on August 11, 2020. (Case No.  GV20014728-00).

The first hearing occurred on August 17, 2020 before Judge Tracy Thorne-Begland. Assistant Attorney General Robert McEntee appeared on behalf of Speaker Filler-Corn. My attorney is Tim Anderson of Virginia Beach.

I don’t want to go into too many details but Judge Thorne-Begland was clearly skeptical that this entire affair could have been pulled off without a single document being generated. He stated:  “I mean, I don’t — I never have worked in the state legislature, but I would imagine the hiring of a conservator would require a piece of paper.”

I plan to subpoena Speaker Filler-Corn and have her testify as to how she could have pulled off the removal of all these artifacts without generating a single document. Out of an abundance of caution I have sent a mirror image of my request to House Clerk Suzette Denslow. She asked me to give her more time to respond in light of the Special Session convening on August 18, 2020 and I consented.

I suppose it is theoretically possible that Speaker Filler-Corn instructed House Clerk Denslow to call the Division of General Services and have them remove the artifacts. However, Speaker Filler-Corn told the Washington Post that she hired a Pennsylvania contractor to carry out the removal as well as hiring a “creative consultant” to oversee the project. “The House hired a Pennsylvania company to handle the move but would not disclose the name of the company, the cost of the work or where the sculptures were being taken for storage.”

I don’t think Speaker Filler-Corn should be allowed to spend thousands in Virginia taxpayer dollars and then object that she doesn’t have to say who she hired or how much she spent. There must be a document somewhere.

Dave Webster lives and practices law in Herndon. This column was published originally in The Bull Elephant.

Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


45 responses to “Records? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Records!”

  1. Confederate statues… Mayor Stoney…. Speaker Filler-Corn…. No paper trail…. I think I see a pattern here.

  2. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Delay. Obfuscate, order more studies. Kick the can far down the road to avoid needed changes. I think I see a pattern here.

    1. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

      I love it — the big time journalist defending secrecy and evasion by government officials. That’s the pattern, Peter. If the shoe were on the other foot, I would not defend a GOP speaker so obviously ducking a fairly simple FOIA request.

      1. Eric the Half a Troll Avatar
        Eric the Half a Troll

        Just a reminder that we do not have a copy of the FOIA request nor the response. It is possible that the response was appropriate for the request. If not, it will come out in the suit and Dave will rightly get his documents. That is never a bad thing, imo.

  3. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    Can’t help but say I’m not surprised that all the statements I heard from Democratic office holders and my friends who are active Democrats that giving the Democrats the majority in the General Assembly would change all the secrecy that the GOP practiced was false. But, unlike the GOP, Virginia Democrats have the MSM to keep the secrecy issues secret. Same thing holds about nonpartisan redistricting.

    1. They did change the secrecy that the republicans practiced.

      They changed it into secrecy that the democrats practice.

  4. Keep going Dave! Good on you.

    1. Dave Webster Avatar
      Dave Webster

      Thanks V N. Please see my update below. The veil of secrecy is slowly being lifted.

  5. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Haner. The other day I suggested that Jim file an foia and sue if he’s refused. Big time journalist? I guess. At least compared to you!?

    1. Way to ignore the larger issue namely the failure of the Speaker to provide documentation in accordance with the Code of Virginia. Been down this road before having filed hundreds if not thousands of FOIAs over the years and yes, occasionally, a writ of mandamus to compel disclosure by similar miscreants. I likely would have filed more writs over the years but they can get costly (both in terms of time and money) and sometimes the juice ain’t worth the squeezing.

      1. Steve Haner Avatar
        Steve Haner

        This was a job that could easily have been done by state staff at the Department of General Services with a standard work order. As with the Stoney debacle, there is something they don’t want known. (Another big donor?)

        1. Dave Webster Avatar
          Dave Webster

          Speaker Filler-Corn stated she hired a Pennsylvania company. Therefore, the removal of the artifacts was not solely the result of a work order to the DGS.

  6. SGillispie Avatar

    Great work Doug. And Haner for exposing Galuszka.

    Typically, his posting is nonsensical and is another demonstration that in his zeal to attack anything written by one of his hated “conservatives” he appears to lose all critical thinking ability. There is no kicking the can down the road. The can has been opened and consumed.

    The issue is who opened it and with what authorization. Of course Galuszka isn’t interested in accountability for liberals and democrats.

  7. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    I believe Paul Goldman was charged more than $2k for foia documents about Farrell and Stoney’s Baby Hill project while the bill for the rtd was a few hundred. Gilliespie, I get tired of saying this but you know nothing about me, my work or what I have done.

    1. “I get tired of saying this but you know nothing about me, my work or what I have done.”

      People who use phrases like that have often done nothing.

      1. As much as I disagree with him (politically) most of the time, I can tell you that Peter Galuska is definitely not one of the people who has done nothing.

        1. That’s why his statement is preposterous. His record is public knowledge, to claim that people don’t know what he’s done, he seems to think he worked for the Agency in a clandestine manner in Russia during the cold war.

    2. Dave Webster Avatar
      Dave Webster

      Peter, I am not sure I understand your statement. Are you saying that Paul Goldman was charged much more for his FOIA request regarding the Navy Hill project than the Richmond Times-Dispatch was?

  8. Nancy_Naive Avatar

    Psst, hint. Not all public servants come with a Rosemary Woods or a Fawn Hall,… apparently, just Republicans.

  9. SGillispie Avatar

    Ah, the trolls come out of the slime with the old saw both sides do it…

    1. Nancy_Naive Avatar

      So, which side doesn’t?

      1. Both do it, obviously.

        The difference is this case is that for nearly two decades the democrats have been saying “put us in charge and we won’t behave that way”.

        I didn’t believe them for a millisecond – political corruption is not the purview of any one party – but apparently enough people did believe them to put the democrats in charge. Rather than improving our government and cleaning things up, though, the democrats are as bad, and quite possibly worse, than the republicans ever were.

        And the “everybody does it” is even more disingenuous than usual given the claims made by democrats prior to gaining control.

    2. Matt Hurt Avatar
      Matt Hurt

      If both sides would police their own, they’d provide less ammunition for the opposing team.

  10. S. E. Warwick Avatar
    S. E. Warwick

    Given the fall off in business activity due to the lock down, hiring an out of state contractor was a slap at Virginia businesses.

    1. djrippert Avatar

      But in-state contractors could reasonably be picked and managed by state employees. Out-of-state companies require in-state “creative consultants” and temporary LLCs. Always watch the middlemen. The rent seekers. The campaign donors. The crony capitalists yearning to be paid.

  11. djrippert Avatar

    Is anybody really surprised that multiple Virginia politicians seized upon civil unrest as a pretext for shady business dealings? Stoney has his buddy setting up an LLC to run a contract that could have been let directly to the people who actually did the work. Filler-Corn hired a “creative consultant” to oversee the project. Smells like middlemen / cronies / rent seekers to me. How much money, over what period of time, did Stoney’s buddy and Filler-Corn’s “creative consultant” pocket on these deals?

    Time for some transparency from these Democratic political hacks.

    1. Dave Webster Avatar
      Dave Webster

      DJ, I plan to find out just how much money this Pennsylvania company B.R. Howard & Associates, Inc. was paid by Speaker Filler-Corn.

  12. djrippert Avatar

    In Richmond at least – there’s enough money being discussed to gain the interest of federal authorities. Certainly the endlessly slimy Eric Holder had no issue with charging Bob McDonnell. Stoney’s $1.8M statue removal contract where people involved in such business estimate the cost at $500K leaves $1.3M missing. As I recall, that’s significantly more than was at stake in the McDonnell case.

    Seems like Stoney and Filler-Corn need to see some windbreakers in their future. You know, the windbreakers with FBI emblazoned across the back.

  13. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    High government officials stealing and hiding historic cultural artifacts owned by the state in the middle of the night – This is the work of Banana Republic regimes, and fascist and leftest totalitarian states, which is what the state of Virginia obviously has become, and how it now operates, under its current rulers.

    1. Peter Galuszka Avatar
      Peter Galuszka

      A little perspective. This all stinks but it ain’t nothing like Bob McDonnell whose trial I covered for six weeks or so. He is never mentioned in this blog like trump, our corrupter in chief

      1. Nah, we barely mentioned the McDonnell scandal on this blog… unless you count these stories:

        1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
          Reed Fawell 3rd

          So did I as regards his transportation chief, and their policies, but I thought Rollex watch scandal was typical cooked up scandal gin up by hypocrites, all sound and fury little tempest in tea pot, much to do about nothing, as did finally the Courts.

      2. Steve Haner Avatar
        Steve Haner

        I weighed in plenty at the time.

  14. Nancy_Naive Avatar

    Does Twitter count as an official record?

    1. Well Karen, err, Nancy, if it is on an official Twitter account of an elected official or governmental entity in the Commonwealth, the answer is yes.

      1. Nancy_Naive Avatar

        Thanks Mom.

        You’re a real Mother…

          1. Nancy_Naive Avatar

            Yeah, uh huh.

            Cool. The link appears in two different forms depending on the page view, or how I’m viewing your reply, i.e. via BR or WordPress.

  15. DLunsford Avatar

    Look on the bright side; at least she didn’t incite a riot in Portsmouth!!!

  16. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead V

    Good luck Mr. Webster! I am cheering for your important work.

    1. Dave Webster Avatar
      Dave Webster

      Thanks James.

  17. Dave Webster Avatar
    Dave Webster

    UPDATE: I have discovered a few things this past week. Speaker Filler-Corn and House Clerk Suzette Densow have a discretionary budget under their command that as of November 2019 was approximately $5,000,000. The company hired by House Clerk Suzette Denslow (at the direction of Speaker Filler-Corn) to oversee the removal of the artifacts was undoubtedly B.R. Howard & Associates, Inc. of Carlisle, Pennsylvania which in October 2019 performed work at the State Capitol and is presently overseeing the removal of the Lee statue on Monument Avenue. The President of B.R. Howard is Jolene R. Howard. Her husband is Robert Howard. It seems highly likely the contract awarded to B.R. Howard did not result from a competitive bidding process which possibly violated the Virginia Public Procurement Act. I have served a FOIA request on the Department of General Services whose employees almost certainly physically removed the artifacts under the direction of B.R. Howard.

  18. SGillispie Avatar

    A belated thank you to Galuzska for pointing out that the Democrat stink of this is indeed small compared to the Democrat stink in the McDonnel affair, where the corrupt Obama DOJ and prosecutors went so far off the rails the conviction was reversed UNANIMOUSLY by the Supreme Court which also in an unusual mandate “imposed higher standards for federal prosecutors who charge public officials with wrongdoing.”

    Is this what Galuzska who continually preens about his good character, stellar resume and journalistic creds is informing us about here?

  19. Dave Webster Avatar
    Dave Webster

    Where did the comments go?

Leave a Reply