Insisting on transparency and accountability ‘is no red herring’
9/17/2020, 6 p.m.
Re Editorial “Red Herring,” Free Press Sept. 10-12 edition:
After reading your most recent editorial, “Red Herring,” I was deeply disappointed.
A red herring is defined as “something that misleads or distracts from a relevant or an important question, it may be either a logical fallacy or a literacy device that leads readers or audiences toward a false conclusion.”
My call requesting an investigation where Mayor Levar M. Stoney used $1.8 million dollars to remove Confederate statues was never intended to lead Richmonders to a false conclusion.
The mayor and all members of Richmond City Council agreed to the removal. We did not agree to an action that questions the appropriateness of the transaction. The Virginia Public Procurement Act (2.2-4300), Section C, states in part “... all procurement procedures be conducted in a fair and impartial manner with avoidance of any impropriety or appearance of impropriety, that all qualified vendors have access to public business and that no offeror be arbitrarily or capriciously excluded ...”
Was the transaction in question fair and impartial when considering the following?
• The contractor selected to remove the statues did not have a contractor’s license to conduct business in the Commonwealth.
• The shell company was created 10 days before the decision was made to use this particular contractor.
• The transaction was a no-bid contract, which means this company was selected based on Mayor Stoney’s sole discretion.
• To date, there is no record of a permit issued for this project.
• The principal of the contracting company is an ally and major contributor to Mayor Stoney’s mayoral campaign.
To insist on transparency and accountability, especially in public services, is no red herring. To the contrary, transparency and accountability are the foundations of good governance. These actions safeguard a functioning democracy. It is the right of citizens to inspect the work of public officials and hold authorities to account for their actions.
In this situation, it is not enough to say the Stoney administration said other contractors were contacted. Transparency requires an appropriate response to the questions above as well as detailed information on other contractors that supposedly were contacted — who were they, when were they contacted, were there discussions of payment and is there a written record?
For too long, Richmond has been plagued with accusations of corruption and ineffectiveness. In 2017, my colleagues and I pushed for a crackdown on corruption in City Hall. At that time, I said there were certain situations that may not cross the line of the law, but do not pass the smell test. This situation certainly has a foul odor.
Corruption has to stop! It is a threat to our city. If public officials continue to engage in actions that only benefit themselves and their allies, then how can we have meaningful dialogue and actions to address the most critical issues facing our community?
The Free Press has always been a champion for the people of Richmond. You say that you place a high value on quality and that you are guided by a commitment to the eternal principles of truth, integrity, robust debate and justice. Given all we know about this transaction, I am disheartened and surprised that the Free Press did not make the first public call for an investigation.
KIM B. GRAY
The writer represents the 2nd District on Richmond City Council and is a candidate for mayor.