By The Associated Press
A Virginia special prosecutor has requested that state police investigate Richmond’s $1.8 million contract for the removal of the city’s Confederate statues.
The statues were taken down over the summer, and an inquiry into the contract between the city and a Richmond-area construction company owner was initiated after a political rival of Mayor Levar Stoney’s raised concerns about the deal.
A Richmond judge appointed Timothy Martin, the commonwealth’s attorney for Augusta County, to handle the matter in September.
“I hereby request that you authorize the Bureau of Criminal Investigation within the Virginia State Police to conduct an investigation into this matter,” Martin wrote to Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring in a letter.
Martin declined further comment.
A spokeswoman for Herring and a spokeswoman for state police both declined comment.
Jeffrey Breit, an attorney for Stoney, said in an interview Thursday that neither he nor the mayor were concerned about the investigation, which he said was based on politically motivated criticism.
Breit said Martin told him he made the request because he needs additional investigators who can conduct interviews.
“It’s got to go through a process,” Breit said.
Stoney’s administration initially declined to answer questions from reporters about who was behind the shell company, NAH LLC, that records showed the city had contracted with for the removal of the statues.
News outlets later uncovered through public records requests that NAH was linked to Devon Henry, the founder of Newport News-based construction company Team Henry Enterprises.
It was also reported that Henry had previously donated $4,000, a relatively modest amount, to Stoney and his political action committee over the course of several years.
The revelations led to allegations of cronyism. One of Stoney’s opponents in the November election, city councilwoman Kim Gray, requested the investigation.
Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Colette McEachin initially declined to take up the matter, citing a donation Henry had made to a political campaign of her husband, U.S. Rep. Donald McEachin, when he was running for state senate. She later asked the court to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate.
A court granted the request, appointing Martin.
“Mr. Henry will fully cooperate with any formal inquiry into the removal of monuments in the city of Richmond. Mr. Henry’s focus was on safely and properly performing the difficult job his company was hired to do,” Team Henry Enterprises said in a statement.
Henry, who is Black and has said he formed the shell company for safety and privacy reasons, has said he’s faced death threats since his identity was made public.
Stoney ordered the statues removed on July 1, the same day a new state law took effect explicitly giving localities the authority to take them down.
Stoney, who is also Black and has also faced threats related to the statue removals, said he was invoking his emergency powers to immediately remove the statues instead of following a lengthy process outlined in the law. He said he was concerned about public safety amid continuing protests and fears that protesters could get hurt if they tried to bring down the enormous statues themselves.
The mayor has defended his handling of the removals and the contract, saying that “what we did was legal, it was appropriate, and it was right.”