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UPDATED: McEachin asks for special prosecutor to investigate Stoney's handling of Confederate statue removal

UPDATED: McEachin asks for special prosecutor to investigate Stoney's handling of Confederate statue removal

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Pedestals are all that remain of Confederate monuments in Richmond, Va. Tues., July 14, 2020. Video by Alexa Welch Edlund/Times-Dispatch

Richmond’s top prosecutor has asked the Richmond Circuit Court to appoint a special prosecutor to determine whether Mayor Levar Stoney broke any laws while arranging the removal of Confederate statues from Monument Avenue this summer.

In her latest response in a series of letters with Councilwoman Kim Gray, Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Colette McEachin said she made the request after declining to investigate late last month.

Gray’s request for an investigation is based on the Stoney administration’s approval of a $1.8 million, no-bid contract with a Newport News-based company that is linked to one of Stoney’s donors. The administration has said the political donations did not influence the contract decision and that the selection was made after several firms declined to take the project.

Gray, who is running for mayor against Stoney, said in an interview Tuesday that details about how the work was done and the overall cost of the project raise suspicion.

“There’s just too many questions out there. It’s not for me to say what is or isn’t legal because that’s not my authority,” she said. “But it’s fair for me to ask questions when it’s the people’s money.”

In a statement Tuesday, Stoney lawyer Jeffrey Breit said there was no wrongdoing.

“We are confident no matter who reviews this they will find everything was done above board and appropriately,” Breit said. “Only one firm was willing to do the work, considering the politically charged nature of it.”

NAH LLC, the shell company created 10 days before work to remove the statues began this summer, is linked to Team Henry Enterprises, a firm owned by Devon Henry. According to the Virginia Public Access Project, Henry has donated $4,000 to Stoney’s campaigns and political action committees since 2016.

McEachin initially said she would not look into the contract because Henry had donated $250 to her husband’s state Senate campaign nearly a decade ago. Gray then pushed for McEachin to request the appointment of a special prosecutor in the case, saying that not doing so would undermine public trust.

The prospect of an investigation comes as the city prepares for the final disposition of the Monument Avenue statues that have already been taken down, including those of Confederate Gens. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and J.E.B. Stuart. The state-owned statue of Robert E. Lee, the avenue’s largest monument, remains standing, with litigation against the state’s plans to take it down still pending.

The city’s statue of A.P. Hill, which stands above his grave at an intersection in the city’s North Side, also is still standing, but the Virginia Supreme Court last month suspended a potential barrier to its removal.

In a presentation to the City Council on Tuesday, Lawrence Anderson, the council’s chief of staff, said the city has received more than 30 offers for the monuments.

“We are well into our evaluation phase, and we’re working expeditiously to follow up,” Anderson told the council. “We are being very thoughtful in our review of all the offers, making sure they’re all contacted and that the final recommendations we present back to the City Council comport with all applicable laws.”

Anderson said a list of the offers will be presented to the council next week, followed by a final report with recommendations next month.

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