A special prosecutor, working with the Virginia State Police (VSP), found no evidence that Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney improperly benefited from the contract to remove Richmond’s monuments last summer.
“The investigation did not reveal anything criminal regarding the awarding of the contract,” Augusta County Commonwealth’s Attorney Timothy Martin said in a Wednesday press release.
Martin emphasized the thoroughness of the VSP investigation.
Stoney’s lawyer Jeffrey Breit told The Virginia Star, “The mayor was pleased with conclusion of the special prosecutor’s investigation. We were not surprised by the conclusion. If you all remember, in July of 2020 I said, as counsel to Levar Stoney, that the mayor had nothing to do with the choice of the contractor, that it was done by other personnel, and that there was nothing untoward or improper or even suspicious about the contract, other than the fact that evidently this man had given a contribution some time in the past.”
Removing the Monuments
At the beginning of July 2020, Stoney used emergency powers to remove the monuments before the Virginia General Assembly had authorized local jurisdictions to remove their Confederate monuments, according to reporting by NPR. Stoney was running for re-election, and one of his challengers was Richmond City Councilmember Kim Gray. In August 2020, Gray called for an investigation into the $1.8 million contract. The contract was awarded to NAH LLC, which has ties to Devon Henry who, in 2016, donated $4,000 to Stoney’s campaign for mayor.
Gray criticized the cost, use of Henry’s services, and said the city council had not been consulted. After the election where Stoney won re-election, Martin requested formal permission from Attorney General Mark Herring to begin the investigation.
Breit told The Star, “The fact that this allegation came up during a hotly-contested political campaign was upsetting, in that you shouldn’t be able to scream or cry criminal behavior in order to win an election, because people’s reputations get damaged when false allegations are raised.”
Gray did not return a request for comment.
Special Prosecutor’s Conclusions
In his press release, Martin said an “appearance of impropriety” helped motivate the investigation, noting the high cost, Henry’s donation to Stoney, and using a business entity to conceal Henry’s name.
But Martin said that Stoney did not choose Henry’s company.
“Mayor Stoney did not suggest ‘Team Henry’ as the contractor in the first place. Another city employee made that suggestion,” Martin wrote. “In fact, our investigation revealed that the city reached out to a number of contractors to do the work, all of whom refused, due to the politically sensitive nature of the work. In other words, they did not want anything to do with the removal of the monuments because the issue was controversial, and they either (1) personally objected to their removal or (2) feared that removing the monuments posed a security risk with which they did not want to contend.”
Martin also addressed the use of NAH LLC: “Because tensions were running so high at the time, and many people expressed passionate opinions about the proposed removal, the contractor chose to keep his identity hidden, which is not a crime.”
According to Martin’s release, the high cost of the monument removal was due to the fact that only one contractor was willing to perform the work.
“The utter lack of competition involved here is very likely to have driven up the price. Certainly the $1.8 million included a substantial profit to the contractor. Taking a profit, even a very substantial one, in a transaction with a government entity is not, however, criminal,” Martin said.
In his press release, Martin intentionally did not answer whether Stoney followed proper statutory procedures to have the monuments removed.
“The reason I do not is that I was appointed to investigate this matter in order to find out whether the contract award was a matter of public corruption, which is incredibly serious,” he said.
He said removing the monuments was inevitable. “It is my decision that it would be a misuse of resources to seek charges against the mayor for what was, at worst, a removal that happened some weeks earlier than it otherwise would have,” Martin said.
Martin also addressed concerns that he might also have been biased in favor of Stoney. Martin said that he is a Republican and had never met Stoney.
“The tenor of last summer’s protests and the vulgar vandalism of the monuments saddened me,” Martin said. “My decision may well be unpopular among many, but it is based on our best effort to investigate this matter, and my sincerest desire to exercise my discretion appropriately.”
“We’re pleased that [the investigation] is over, the mayor is going to go back to governing the city,” Breit said.