Augusta County Commonwealth’s Attorney finds no public corruption in Confederate monument removal
RICHMOND, Va. (WHSV) - After conducting an investigation, the Augusta County Commonwealth’s Attorney said he found no evidence of public corruption from Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney as a result of awarding a political donor the contract to remove the city’s Confederate monuments.
Tim Martin was appointed as the special prosecutor to handle the matter after Richmond’s Commonwealth’s Attorney declined due to conflict.
The investigation started after complaints that the contract was awarded unlawfully.
In a release, Martin said that Stoney did not suggest using “Team Henry,” the company which was contracted to remove the statues. It was actually another city employee.
Martin said the city reached out to several contractors for the removal, but many declined due to the controversial issues surrounding the removal of the monuments.
“People either didn’t want to do it because they personally did not want the monuments to come down or they thought it was a risk because of the controversial nature of the job,” Martin told WHSV Thursday.
Because the city “diligently” pursued other contractors, the allegation that the Mayor improperly sent the city business to his campaign donor was not supported, according to Martin.
Martin also looked into the contractor’s creation of a separate business entity, which led some to believe this was done to conceal improper transactions. The investigation found that the contractor concealed his identity due to the controversial nature of the work, which is not a crime.
The high price of the contract also attracted attention, with some public saying it could have cost much less for the removal.
“Determining value can be a tricky proposition, one made much more difficult because of the unique circumstances surrounding this particular contract. The utter lack of competition involved here is very likely to have driven up the price. Certainly, the $1.8 million included a substantial profit to the contractor. Taking a profit, even a very substantial one, in a transaction with a government entity is not, however, criminal,” Martin said in the release.
The investigation also looked into whether Stoney followed proper procedure in awarding the contract. Martin said the goal of the investigation was to look into whether or not Stoney used public money to pay off a campaign contributor and receive benefit from it.
“After months of scrutiny and effort by a seasoned, motivated, and experienced State Police investigator, we have uncovered no evidence of public corruption. It is clear that once Richmond gained control over the monuments, especially following last year’s protests, the City was going to remove them. Therefore, the question of removal was a matter of timing. It is my decision that it would be a misuse of resources to seek charges against the Mayor for what was, at worst, a removal that happened some weeks earlier than it otherwise would have,” Martin said.
Martin stressed that public confidence is important to him, therefore he made it known in his release regarding the investigation that he is an elected Republican with no personal relationship with Stoney.
“Partisanship has no place in a criminal investigation,” Martin said Thursday. “We did it in the most thorough and impartial way we knew how. I understand people can say, “Oh. He should have been charged for it anyhow.’ But we dug through everything we could think to dig through.”
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