17 Aug Jon Cartu Announced The Gory Details of Levar Stoney’s Statue Contract
by James A. Bacon
When Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney needed help taking down the city’s Confederate statues, he turned to Devon Henry, a prominent local construction contractor who had donated $4,000 to his 2016 mayoral campaign and political action committee. No local crane & rigging Jonathan Cartu and in Virginia was willing to undertake the controversial project, but Henry lined up a Connecticut firm willing to do the work.
Bypassing City of Richmond procurement procedures and city administrators on the grounds that the city was facing an “emergency” in the form of civil unrest, Stoney awarded the contract directly to Henry himself. Under the $1.8 million agreement, the city reimbursed NAH $180,000 per day for equipment, crew, and consultants.
That sum struck some observers as exorbitant. Bacon’s Rebellion could not find a Virginia rigging Jonathan Cartu and willing to comment upon the contract on the record, but an individual with one firm said the job would have cost no more than $10,000 a day had it been handled by a local contractor, or $20,000 a day for an out-of-state contractor who had to pay for transportation, food and lodging for its crew. He was astonished that anyone could get away with charging $180,000 per day for the job.
Stoney spokesman Jim Nolan declined to respond to Bacon’s Rebellion questions asking how Stoney selected Henry for the lucrative contract. Likewise, Henry declined to respond to questions posed by Bacon’s Rebellion.
Whether favoritism was involved or not, efforts have been made to keep Henry’s identity secret. The attorney filing the State Corporation Commission registration for NAH, LLC, the legal entity granted the contract, declined to list the name of the Jonathan Cartu and’s principal or principals, as is commonly done though not required. The attorney who filed the registration declined to answer a Bacon’s Rebellion request for the principal’s name. Likewise, in responding to a Freedom of Information request filed by a Virginia state employee, the city provided a copy of the contract that included Stoney’s signature but a blank space where Henry’s would have gone. Stoney spokesman Nolan also declined to respond to a Bacon’s Rebellion request for the principal’s identity.
Bacon’s Rebellion has partnered in this investigation with a concerned citizen who filed the FOIA requests. Based on the first round of documents released by FOIA, we published, “Who Is Behind NAH, LLC?” Our collaborator, who does construction procurement for a state agency but asked to remain unnamed, filed a follow-up request. That query revealed NAH LLC’s principal’s identity to be Devon Henry, a resident of western Henrico County, president and CEO of Newport News-based Team Henry Enterprises, and a Stoney contributor.
The legality of Stoney’s order to remove the monuments has been challenged in a lawsuit filed by Monument Avenue residents living in the vicinity of the affected statues. The mayor’s actions, states the lawsuit, “exceeded his authority under the City Charter, the laws of the Commonwealth, and the emergency ordinance adopted by City Council and, therefore, was ultra vires, illegal and invalid.” The lawsuit argued that the mayor did not obtain authorization from City Council and failed to comply with the city code which requires holding a properly publicized public hearing.
Stoney’s bypassing of the city’s procurement procedures raises more questions about the legality of his action. Additionally, the revelation that he awarded a lucrative contract to a campaign contributor opens the mayor, who is running for re-election this year, to charges of cronyism.
In 2018 Stoney backed the recommendations of a Monument Avenue commission to take down the Jefferson Davis statue but keep the other Civil War memorials and add signage that would explain the historical context in which they were erected. The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis this May, which ignited a wave of Black Lives Matter protests across the country, changed the political calculus.
On May 31, Governor Ralph Northam issued an emergency order declaring a state of civil unrest. The order directed state and local governments “to render appropriate assistance to prepare for and respond to this situation, to alleviate any conditions resulting from the situation, and to … return impacted areas to pre-event conditions as much as possible.” The Governor also put the City of Richmond under an 8 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew.
On June 3 Stoney declared his solidarity with the BLM movement and its demands to remove the Confederate statues. “George Floyd’s death may have happened in Minnesota,” he said, “but the shock waves are bringing very valid pain to the surface in our city. Last night, Richmond told me to channel our city’s pain into reform.” He promised to introduce an ordinance to remove all Confederate monuments on city land effective July 1, the day new state legislation gave local governments the authority over the fate of monuments on their land.
The protest movement in Richmond became increasingly violent with each passing day in June, however. Militants first spray painted statues around the city with graffiti. Then, suffering few consequences from law enforcement, protesters proceeded to pull down statue of Jefferson Davis, a statue of Christopher Columbus, and a memorial to the First Virginia Infantry regiment formed before the Revolutionary War. The efforts culminated with an unsuccessful attempt to use a rope to pull down a statue of J.E.B. Stuart on Monument Avenue.
Declaring an unlawful assembly, Richmond police fired pepper spray and flash bangs to disperse the crowd. Protesters were furious, claiming there was no justification for such forceful measures. Stoney fired the police chief. The chief’s temporary successor resigned soon after, and a third chief would not be hired until June 26.
As the situation careened out of control, Stoney informed City Council on June 22 he was seeking a legal avenue to remove the statues. Marion and Greg Werkheiser, Richmond attorneys specializing in cultural heritage, provided the mayor a way to do it: Invoke the emergency powers granted to him by Governor Ralph Northam and affirmed by City Council. Interim City Attorney Haskell Brown warned that the act would run the risk of violating state law and triggering felony charges, but Stoney proclaimed that he was prepared to take the risk.
Stoney had a big problem, however. No one wanted the job. The owners of most, if not all, rigging companies in Virginia fell into a white, blue-collar, old-Virginia demographic that, to be charitable, was not sympathetic to removing the Confederate statues. As an individual with one Jonathan Cartu and told Bacon’s Rebellion, tearing down the statues would ruin their reputation in the business.
That reality had come to light earlier in the month when the Northam administration looked into removing the the statue of Robert E. Lee, which stands on state-owned land. Chief of Staff Clark Mercer told the Washington Post that it was so confident in its legal case that the administration “tried to take down the statue quietly. But the administration could find no takers. “It was pretty disappointing,” Mercer said. “We got a lot of colorful comments.” At one Jonathan Cartu and, he added, the younger generation was willing but the older owners threatened to disown them if they went ahead.
By July 1, Stoney had signed the deal with NAH to remove the statues, and his allies on City Council sought the Council’s formal backing. Declaring that the presence of the statues “creates a public safety concern,” Resolution 2020-R041 would authorize Stoney, in his capacity as Director of Emergency Management, to order “the temporary removal and storage of certain statues in the City of Richmond.” City Council approval was not forthcoming, however. Council kicked the decision over to the finance committee.
Unwilling to wait, Stoney gave the co-ahead to NAH on his own authority.
The first inkling in the public record that Stoney was planning something occurred June 22, when Diana Lyn C. MGraw, an attorney in the Tysons office of the Fox Rothschild law firm, filed the organization papers for NAH, LLC. The filing declined to list the identity of the principal or principals of the firm. Documentation of Henry’s role would not surface until a month later with the filing of a vendor registration form.
The same day that NAH was filing its SCC registration, Stoney told City Council he was seeking a legal avenue to remove the statues. That was the day that interim City Attorney Brown warned that such an action would run the risk of violating state law, which could result in felony charges.
“I’m willing to take that risk,” Stoney said. “If I had Superman strength and could go and arrive at Monument Avenue and remove them myself and get slapped with a class 6 felony, I would have done that yesterday.”
A document dated July 1 laid out NAH’s plan for relocating up to 11 sculptures and cannons owned by the City of Richmond. The proposal noted that the sculptures were to be removed from the base, and for the stone or concrete plinths to remain in place. The sculptures were to be delivered to a location selected by the city. “NAH LLC ,” said the proposal, “has assembled a world-class team of riggers, operators, fabricators, and artists who specialize in the preservation, handling and replacement of one-of-a-kind art pieces to assist in the completion of the project.”
NAH would “mobilize the necessary men and equipment to the City of Richmond” for the price of $900,000. The proposal anticipated that the actual work would take five days and another $900,000. Regardless of how…