RICHMOND, Va. -- Former Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder is calling for an investigation into Virginia Commonwealth University's spending, as well as the removal of VCU President Michael Rao.
This comes after VCU Health paid $73 million to back out of a contract to redevelop the former Public Safety Building in downtown Richmond, known as the "Clay Street Project."
"I call for the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission to conduct an immediate investigation into this misappropriation of VCU spending," Wilder said in a press conference Tuesday morning.
VCU Health would've maintained the lease for $325 million redevelopment project for 25 years, according to Richmond BizSense.
"The taxpayers of Virginia paid $73 million for what? What did they get? With this amount, how many students are robbed of attending VCU with scholarships?" Wilder asked. "How many programs and resources will be cut out of deserving budgets? More importantly, what actions are being taken to ensure that enormous wastes like these are prevented in the future?"
In a statement, a VCU spokesperson said:
"We agree with Gov. Wilder that this financial outcome is disappointing. But by late 2021, construction and other challenges made it simply impossible to build the original project. Moving forward would have caused dire long-term financial repercussions. The one-time payment was funded by VCU Health operating funds and represents less than 2.5 percent of the health system's annual operating budget. Neither university nor state revenues were used to make this one-time payment, which allowed VCU Health to avoid far greater financial obligations and problems in the future."
"What are 'health system operating funds?'" Wilder asked at the press conference. "You understand what I'm saying. Nobody knows where the money came from. No explanation has been given. Spell it out. Who speaks for VCU on this issue?"
Wilder said the $73 million payment comes during discussions of a potential tuition increase at VCU, as well as a rapid turnover rate for Black faculty.
He called President Rao's role in payment into question, telling reporters at the press conference he should be removed from the position.
"I can't see how the Board of Visitors can justify him staying, which really, it does amount to that."
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