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Virginia AG authorizes probe of statue-removal contract

January 16, 2021 GMT
FILE - Crews prepare to remove a statue Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Va. on July 7, 2020. At least 63 Confederate statues, monuments or markers have been removed from public land across the country since George Floyd’s death on May 25, making 2020 one of the busiest years yet for removals, according to an Associated Press tally. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)
FILE - Crews prepare to remove a statue Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Va. on July 7, 2020. At least 63 Confederate statues, monuments or markers have been removed from public land across the country since George Floyd’s death on May 25, making 2020 one of the busiest years yet for removals, according to an Associated Press tally. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)
FILE - Crews prepare to remove a statue Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Va. on July 7, 2020. At least 63 Confederate statues, monuments or markers have been removed from public land across the country since George Floyd’s death on May 25, making 2020 one of the busiest years yet for removals, according to an Associated Press tally. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia’s attorney general has authorized an investigation into a $1.8 million contract for the removal of the city of Richmond’s Confederate monuments, a special prosecutor said Friday.

The statues were taken down over the summer, and an inquiry into the contract between the city and a construction company owner who oversaw their removal 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.

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Martin, a former Richmond prosecutor, asked Virginia State Police for help with the case in November. He told the newspaper 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, which Herring spokeswoman Charlotte Gomer told The Associated Press is a routine requirement of state law, was first reported by TV station 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 from Kim Gray, an opponent of Stoney’s in his ultimately successful reelection bid.

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 construction firm associated with the shell company, has donated a total of $4,000 to Stoney’s campaign and political action committee since 2016.