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 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
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
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.
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
Jim Bacon talks to John Reid with WRVA’s Richmond Morning News about NAH LLC, its $1.8 million contract to take down the Confederate statues, the mystery of who owns the company, and whether Mayor Levar Stoney followed proper procurement policy in hiring the company.
Screen Grab from the contractor’s invoice filed by NAH, LLC, for $1.8 million in work performed in removing Confederate statues and cannons.
by James A. Bacon
Most of the Confederate statues and memorials in the City of Richmond are gone. Only the statue of Robert E. Lee, the subject of ongoing litigation, remains. The statues and cannons are not coming back. The broken egg cannot be reassembled. But there are legitimate issues relating to Mayor Levar Stoney’s use or abuse of power. It’s one thing to remove the statues in accordance with state law and local ordinance. It’s another to take them down in violation of the same laws and ordinances under pressure from protesters and mobs.
One big question is by what authority Stoney spent $1.8 million to pay the contractor that removed the memorials. City Council never appropriated the funds. An employee of a state agency familiar with state procurement policy, who asks to remain anonymous, thought Stoney’s procurement of statue-removal services seemed “irregular,” so she filed a Freedom of Information Request for more information. She shared the resulting documents with Bacon’s Rebellion.
Among her more interesting findings was the fact that Stoney contracted on July 1, 2020, with a Henrico County entity, NAH, LLC, to do the work. The paperwork for creating the partnership had been filed with the State Corporation Commission June 22 — only days previously. The timing suggests that NAH was not an ongoing business enterprise but was formed for the express purpose of removing the statues.
That raises several questions. Who are the principals behind NAH? How was the plan conceived? Do the principals have any connection to Stoney beyond the signing and execution of the contract itself? Continue reading