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Mayor responds to call for probe into his handling of Confederate statue removal contract

Posted at 1:25 PM, Aug 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-19 18:11:06-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney says he did nothing wrong when he ordered the removal of Confederated statues in Richmond, but one of his challengers in the upcoming mayoral election has asked the Commonwealth's Attorney to investigate.

In a letter to Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney Colette McEachin, Councilwoman Kim Gray requested a probe into the facts and circumstances surrounding a $1.8 million contract given to NAH LLC/Team Henry Enterprises and to see whether any laws or rules were violated.

"Recent news reports have uncovered evidence raising troubling questions about the City of Richmond's recent handling of a procurement contract executed with a shell company linked to one of Mayor Levar Stoney's political contributors," Gray wrote.

In a statement to the Richmond Times Dispatch, Team Henry owner Devon Henry says he created a separate entity, NAH LLC, in an effort to protect the safety of his employees, subcontractors and their families, citing documented attacks against contractors for similar work in New Orleans.

In a press conference Wednesday, Mayor Stoney shared a voicemail his office received on August 3 from someone he says was upset about the mayor's removal of the Confederate monuments and his plan to commemorate the Shockoe Bottom slave trade.

"Fourteen percent of this country is Black and y'all think you're going to run the whole country and turn it over and make white people your slaves now, you have lost your cotton-pickin' mind son," the man in the voicemail said.

"We will march in there and tear that son of a b**** down," he added in reference to the Shockoe Bottom plan.

The mayor says the voicemail and others illustrate why Devon Henry initially wanted his name kept private.

"No one should risk putting his team and family at risk. So I support the way he went about shielding his team and his family from that sort of vitriol," said Stoney.

The Stoney administration says that the city reached out to six major firms in the Richmond region.

"When no one else would take the job, Devon Henry stood up," Stoney tweeted Tuesday.

The mayor says only NAH LLC/Team Henry expressed willingness to take on the "personal risk" associated with the job.

Henry contributed $4,000 to Stoney's campaign since 2016.

The city paid him $1.8 million dollars to remove the monuments.

Stoney also addressed those who think that the contract was given to Henry because he was a contributor of his past campaign, and that's why the company's name was shielded.

"I don't get involved in procurement process. Ever. That's been the practice of this administrative practice of my office from day one and was the practice that was followed through in the right fashion for this particular contract. I didn't know who NAH LLC was until after the selection of the contractor. But as I stated earlier, I see why he would do that. And I support him in doing so," explained the mayor.

When CBS 6 originally filed a FOIA request for information about the removal of the statues, the contract we received showed the shell company, NAH LLC, as the contractor, and did not list any names.

According to the SCC website, NAH LLC was created on June 22, just 10 days before the first statue came down.

"I was not involved in any of the of those talks or that outreach. I was only informed later, after they were able to secure the services of Team Henry about selected the selection of that contractor," said Stoney on Wednesday.

Councilwoman Kim Gray, who is challenging Levar Stoney in the upcoming mayoral election, said she believes the mayor did not adhere to the city's proper legal process.

"Knowing that a $1.8 million contract went out to a political donor and close ally of the mayor who gave that contract out raises a lot of questions... it doesn’t pass the smell test," said Gray.

Gray also questioned if the mayor adhered to legal procedures detailed in the city's emergency procurement rules in ordering the removal of the statues.

Gray noted that Interim City Attorney Haskell Brown publicly warned the mayor in July that removing the Monuments could put the Mayor and the city at legal risk.

"I formally request that you initiate a full. complete and immediate investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding this matter to determine whether any laws or emergency procurement rules were violated and whether criminal charges are warranted," Gray wrote to McEachin.

"I take issue with the fact that we have a mayor who believes he is above the law and above the rules," added Gray.

Commonwealth's Attorney Colette McEachin tells CBS 6 that she received Gray's letter and is looking into it.