Gray calls for probe of mayor’s use of $1.8M to remove Confederate statues

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 8/20/2020, 6 p.m.
The fate of two Richmond-owned Confederate statues and one of Christopher Columbus remain on hold even as City Council has …
Ms. Gray

The fate of two Richmond-owned Confederate statues and one of Christopher Columbus remain on hold even as City Council has put in place a process to sell off 10 others.

Members of City Council have not explained why the statues of Confederate Gen. Williams C. Wickham and the Richmond Howitzer unit that fought with the Confederates during the Civil War were not on the list of statues approved for removal and sale.

Legislation to sell those two statues also has not been introduced.

“I will investigate,” City Councilman Michael J. Jones, 9th District, responded to a Free Press query about the statues. Dr. Jones led council’s push to rid city property of Confederate statues.

Separately, 2nd District Councilwoman Kim B. Gray on Tuesday asked Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Colette W. McEachin to investigate Mayor Levar M. Stoney’s use of $1.8 million to remove eight Confederate artifacts and portions of statue pedestals.

Ms. Gray, who is challenging Mayor Stoney in the November election, stated in a letter to Mrs. McEachin that a probe is needed to determine whether any “procurement rules were violated and whether any criminal charges are warranted.”

Mayor Stoney, who has said he acted within the law, used $1.8 million in city Department of Public Works funds to hire a company, NAH LLC, to handle the statue removals, according to city records.

On June 8, City Council gave the mayor emergency powers as the city’s emergency management director. The resolution the council passed affirmed a local emergency as a result of the civil unrest and damage stemming from protests over police brutality and racial injustice.

Based on the council’s action, the mayor relied on authority under a state statute to bypass local and state procurement rules and other laws that might have hobbled the removal operation, the Free Press has been told.

Meanwhile, City Council announced this week that any government, museum, organization or individual interested in acquiring one of the 10 Confederate statues approved for sale needs to submit a letter of intent by 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 8, to Lawrence R. Anderson, City Council’s chief of staff, via email at monuments@Richmondgov.com.

According to the announcement, the letter should spell out specifics of who is seeking to acquire the statue or statues, the offer, the site where the statue or statues would go and the timeline and method for moving the item to a new site.

The available statues include six that were removed from Monument Avenue – Confederates Jefferson Davis, Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, Matthew Fontaine Maury and J.E.B. Stuart, and two cannons.

Two additional items came from Monroe Park, a statue of Joseph Bryan and a stone cross honoring Fitzhugh Lee. Another, the statue to Confederate soldiers and sailors, stood on Libby Hill in Church Hill.

A new state law authorizing localities to remove war memorials does not appear to cover the Columbus statue, which protestors pulled down in June.

The city administration appears to control whether that statue will be sold or put back on its pedestal in Byrd Park, where it had stood since 1927.