CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Two unsuccessful bidders for the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee that drew violent protesters to Charlottesville have filed a letter protesting the city’s process to get rid of the statue, which ended last week in the acceptance of a proposal to melt it down and turn it into new art.
Trevilian Station Battlefield Foundation and the Ratcliffe Foundation, on behalf of the Ellenbrook Museum, filed the letter Tuesday, The Daily Progress reported. They say the bid process was “disastrously arbitrary” and that it resulted in a “capricious, illegal award.”
“Instead of transparent: opaque. Instead of regular and managed: improvised and lawless. Instead of careful and fair consideration: a cursory midnight discussion and preconcerted effort to flout the legislative limit on City Council’s authority,” wrote Ralph Main, the attorney representing the foundations.
The Lee statue at the center of the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally and another of Confederal Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson were taken down on the same day in July. Charlottesville received six proposals from entities interested in taking one or both monuments, according to the newspaper.
Council members unanimously voted on Dec. 7 to give the Lee statue - which has been in storage since its removal - to the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, a local Black history museum.
The protest letter argues that the city doesn’t have the authority to destroy a statue, either directly or indirectly. Main cites unsuccessful attempts in 2020 to amend the state code to allow localities to destroy or alter monuments. It remains unclear whether donating a statue to a group that plans to destroy or alter it violates the code.
The lawyer also claims that the city didn’t give proper notice of the resolution and that the council acted unlawfully due to the lack of a manager for the solicitation. The two foundations are asking Charlottesville to vacate the award and reopen the monument for bids.
Jefferson School Director Andrea Douglas said the organization had no comment. City attorney Lisa Robertson didn’t respond to the newspaper’s request for comment.
Based on the language of the Virginia Public Procurement Act, it appears the city has 10 days to respond to the protest letter.