Mayor Levar Stoney agreed to pay a firm linked to one of his political donors $1.8 million to take down Richmond’s Confederate statues last month, a newly released record reveals.
The city contracted with NAH LLC to remove Richmond’s Confederate iconography during ongoing civil unrest, according to documents the Stoney administration provided in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
The entity, created 10 days before Stoney ordered the statues’ removal, is a shell company linked to Team Henry Enterprises, a Newport News-based contracting firm owned by Devon Henry, a Stoney donor.
Under an emergency order, Richmond officials, including its director of procurement, said Stoney executed the contract in compliance with state law, even without following procedures outlined under the city’s emergency procurement rules.
“Were it possible to pursue a traditional procurement, the mayor would have done so, but circumstances required him to pursue a different legal avenue and he chose to prioritize protecting lives and property over process,” said Jim Nolan, a Stoney spokesman. “This decision was fully within his authority, and he stands by it.”
A message left for Henry at his company’s Newport News office on Monday was not returned. Campaign finance records show Henry has given Stoney and his One Richmond political action committee a combined $4,000 since 2016.
A Stoney spokeswoman said those donations did not play a role in the mayor’s decision to award the contract to Henry’s firm. The city paid NAH LLC $900,000 to mobilize crews to begin removing the statues, then $180,000 per day of work.
Team Henry Enterprises’ involvement was not apparent from the contract the Stoney administration executed and released in response to an initial records request last month.
That document listed only NAH, the shell company formed on June 22 with a registered agent in Northern Virginia, according to records kept by Virginia’s State Corporation Commission. The space on the executed contract for the printed name of the NAH representative read “Managing Member.”
But a purchase order obtained through a subsequent records request lists Henry as a contact. The purchase order was first reported Monday by James A. Bacon of the Bacon’s Rebellion blog.
Stoney signed off on the $1.8 million payment without conducting a fair-market price analysis of the work, a step the city’s emergency purchases policy states should be carried out if “practicable” under the circumstances. Nor did his administration publicly post a notice of the emergency award to NAH LLC at the time.
Betty Burrell, the city’s director of procurement, said Stoney executed the contract in compliance with state law that permits the local director of emergency management to forgo “time-consuming procedures or formalities” when awarding contracts during an emergency.
Under policy established by the City Council, the mayor is Richmond’s director of emergency management.
Days before signing off on the statues’ removal, Stoney requested that Gov. Ralph Northam extend Richmond’s local emergency order that was set to expire at the end of June. Northam granted the request.
That same week, a new state law took effect that gave the city control of its Confederate monuments, including those on Monument Avenue, where protesters had coalesced and clashes with police had become a frequent occurrence.
Stoney and the City Council had pledged to remove the statues via a 60-day process laid out under the new law. But protesters began pulling statues down, including the one depicting Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Officials openly worried that someone would get seriously injured if the statues remained up.
Richmond’s interim city attorney, Haskell Brown, warned Stoney that removing the statues without following state law could put the city, and any individuals involved, in legal jeopardy. Stoney flouted the advice, saying he would risk the consequences to ensure public safety.
By that point, the mayor had been working to line up a contractor to remove the statues. Nolan, the spokesman, said the administration could find only one firm willing to do the work.
“The city had reached out to many vendors as is standard in emergencies, and requests to propose to remove the statues were either ignored or immediately rejected,” Nolan said. “NAH was the only one willing to take on the job.”
Team Henry Enterprises lined up out-of-state contractors to assist with removing the city’s statues.
The $1.8 million the city paid to NAH LLC came out of the Department of Public Works budget, Stoney said. He told the council a private fundraiser would help the city recoup the money. At the beginning of August, that effort had raised about $32,500.
A lawsuit filed in Richmond Circuit Court challenging Stoney’s authority to remove the statues using his emergency powers is still listed as active, according to court records.
Upon removal, the statues were put in temporary storage at the city’s wastewater treatment plant. The City Council voted this month to make their removal permanent.
The council could vote on relocation plans for each of the statues as early as next month.