Virginia AG authorizes probe of statue-removal contract

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia’s attorney general has authorized an investigation into efforts by Richmond officials to take down the city’s Confederate monuments last year, including a $1.8 million contract that was given for the statues to be removed, a special prosecutor said Friday.

The statues were taken down over the summer, and an inquiry into the contract between the city and a Richmond-area construction company owner was initiated after a political rival of Mayor Levar Stoney’s raised concerns about the deal.

A Richmond Circuit Court Judge assigned Augusta County Commonwealth’s Attorney Timothy Martin last summer to investigate the removals, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

Martin, a former Richmond prosecutor, asked Virginia State Police for help with the case in November. He said in an email Friday that state police recently told him that they will help after Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring authorized the agency to do so. The attorney general’s authorization was first reported by WRIC.

Jeffrey Breit, an attorney for Stoney, said in an interview in November that neither he nor the mayor were concerned about the investigation, which he said was based on politically motivated criticism.

Stoney ordered the statues removed on July 1, the same day a new state law took effect explicitly giving localities the authority to take them down.

Devon Henry, the owner of a Newport News contracting firm associated with the shell company, has donated a total of $4,000 to Stoney’s campaign and political action committee since 2016.