Update: Herring Hands Stoney Contract Investigation to State Police

by James A. Bacon

Attorney General Mark Herring has authorized the Virginia State Police to investigate Mayor Levar Stoney’s circumvention of procurement protocols to award a $1.8 million Confederate statue-removal contract to a campaign contributor, reports Virginia Public Media.

The investigation, requested by Kim Gray, Richmond City Councilwoman and rival candidate for Richmond mayor, had been handed to Timothy Martin, commonwealth’s attorney for August County, as special prosecutor. He kicked it over to Herring, and Herring has given it to the state police. I was concerned that Herring might simply bury the case, but I am pleased to see that he did not.

VPM quoted Martin:

“The AG sent the letter to Virginia State Police and they are now on it and will do the on-the-ground investigation into it,” he said.

Martin said it is “safe to assume” that interviews will be conducted with city officials involved with the contract award.

Stoney has consistently maintained that he acted properly. Due to the protests and riots surrounding civil war statues in June, Governor Ralph Northam proclaimed a state of emergency in Richmond. None of the rigging companies contacted by the city were willing to undertake the job. When signing Henry’s contract, Stoney said, he was adhering to the state’s emergency procurement requirements. The reason he kept his identity secret, Henry has said, was not to hide his relationship with Stoney but because he feared possible violence. He established the shell company, NAH LLC, to protect his anonymity. 

The media has consistently failed to report the real issue: that Stoney failed to adhere to the minimal requirements of the state emergency procurement law, as Bacon’s Rebellion detailed in this story.

A personal gripe…. In its update VPM claimed credit for reporting in June 22, 2020, that the contract had gone to “a shell company called NAH, LLC.” But that’s not quite right. VPM did reveal that NAH had received the contract and noted — in the last line of the story — that the Stoney administration didn’t respond to questions about the company’s identity, but it never referred to LLC as a “shell company” and it never questioned, as Bacon’s Rebellion did on July 29, by what authority Stoney had granted the contract.

OK, that was a minor misrepresentation. Here’s the line in the VPM story that really hurts: “A follow-up investigation by the Richmond Times-Dispatch found that the company was tied to Devon Henry, a donor to Stoney’s previous mayoral campaign.”

Actually, Bacon’s Rebellion broke the story identifying the fact that Henry was a donor, and the RTD followed up on our scoop, as the newspaper acknowledged in its story: “The purchase order [identifying Henry] was first reported Monday by James A. Bacon of the Bacon’s Rebellion blog.”

Blogs don’t get much credit from the mainstream media. At least the RTD — with whom I have had my differences — was honest enough to credit Bacon’s Rebellion. Too bad the same can’t be said of VPM.