Live from Virginia Wednesday morning on The John Fredericks Show – weekdays on WNTW AM 820/ FM 92.7 – Richmond, WJFN FM 100.5 – Central Virginia, WMPH AM 1010 / FM 100.1 / FM 96.9 (7-9 PM) Hampton Roads, WBRG AM 1050 / FM 105.1 – Lynchburg/Roanoke and Weekdays 6-10 am and 24/7 Stream – host Fredericks welcomed Richmond mayoral candidate Kim Gray to the show.
During the interview, Gray discusses her call for an investigation into Mayor Levar Stoney who awarded a donor a $1.8 million contract to remove statutes avoiding procurement laws. She added later that this money could have been spent on helping kids get the technology they need to be back in school after Labor Day.
Fredericks: Kim Gray with us. She has called on him to resign. No. I’m sorry she’s called on an investigation into his handling. She hasn’t called on him to resign. Some other people have done that. Sorry about that Kim, I don’t want to misstate that.
Gray: Oh no. That’s fine.
Fredericks: Kim, what is going on with these statues?
Gray: Well, I think that from all indications it should have cost a whole lot less than we as taxpayers paid for. And the contracts went to a close friend and political ally through a shell company that was created only a few days before he came up with this emergency monuments. Since the removal council has voted unanimously to remove monuments. So, you gotta ask yourself why this $1.8 million contract went out the door.
Fredericks: OK. So let’s break this down. We’re not going to discuss whether or not the statutes should have been removed. The council voted to remove them that’s fine. So we all get that. What becomes an issue is how do they get removed? They get removed, first of all, it costs the city $1.8 million.
Fredericks: And the company that got awarded the contract to take them out was a shell company that was put into business 10 days before they got $1.8 million. The third thing we find out is there was a no-bid contract. And after you voted to get the statues out whether it took a week, five days or 15 days really didn’t matter once you announced they were coming down. To me another week wouldn’t have mattered.
So we got a no-bid at $1.8 million. Now we have other people saying they were charging $180,000 a day. We could have done that $20,000 or $30,000 a day. So who got the money? And how did he bypass procurement? To spend taxpayer dollars and the city commission. There’s a long bureaucracy you have to go through right? How did he get all this done in a week?
Gray: It was under emergency provisions because of the civil unrest he used that excuse and reason for why he could justify spending this kind of money. And just put that in perspective. A person earning $36,000 a year which is above our Richmond medium. We have a lot of people in poverty who would have to work 50 years to reach $1.8 million.
It would have been more than 5,000 laptops for students. We still have more than a third that don’t have laptops. And school is fast approaching. It’s wasteful and in the wake of us needing those dollars to recover from COVID-19 and the civil unrest that has much of our city boarded.
Fredericks: So you asked for an investigation and Levar Stoney’s chief of staff Lincoln Sanders I recall said the other day, well we went out. We asked a bunch of people. They turned it down. They don’t want to have their names out there because of Charlottesville and this and that. But companies have come forward and said well nobody contacted me. I would have done it for $30,000 a day that would have been a fraction of the $1.8 million. Other companies have come forward. Why weren’t they asked?
Gray: That’s a good question. And I’ve heard from several contractors who do work with the city and many of them minorities. One in particular who doesn’t want to be named because they don’t want to have any retribution. They do this kind of work and they said they were never approached about it.
It’s really interesting to find that this contract went out the door during a time that we are in need of additional revenues. A close friend and a political ally of the mayor got a contract that looks and appears to be a lot more than it should have cost us, taxpayers.
Fredericks: Full disclosure. We’ve endorsed Kim Gray for mayor. We think she’ll be fantastic. The way it works is there is nine wards in Richmond for a candidate to win on the first ballot. They have to outright win a plurality in five of the wards. If they don’t and they only win three or four then it goes to a runoff of the top two finishers. So that’s the way it works. Let me ask you this.
The shell company that Stoney created called Team Henry, Enterprises, or something, so that was created 10 days before they got the money. It was created. So it didn’t exist. It was just created. Also, the guy that created it, a guy by the name of Henry obviously I can’t think of his first name. I’m doing this off memory. But his last name is Henry. He created this. Devon Henry. I’m sorry.
When we checked the records, Devon Henry gave $4,000 to Stoney’s political action committee. So it’s a Stoney donor. So let me get this straight. You are a Stoney donor. You gave him money. You create a shell company 10 days ahead of time. Then you get $1.8 million. Then you do the work. Then other people come out and say I would have done the work for a fraction of that. We got overcharged. And he was a donor. Doesn’t that smell a little fishy to you?
Gray: No, it does smell fishy. Procurement rules are there to protect the citizens. And those procurement rules were ignored. And under the guise of the fact that he said it was an emergency situation. And we’ve seen this happen in the past. And I don’t think that it was justified. I think that if it were a 10-day process we could have gotten requests for proposals out and bid it out. And I’m certain that it would not have cost $1.8 million.
Fredericks: My question is again, look, the mayor went to the governor and asked for the emergency powers to be extended so he could bypass through an emergency all of the normal procurement processes in Richmond that are put in place just to stop this kind of cronyism thing. But I guess my question is, let me ask you this.
If the statues took another 15 days to be taken down but you guys announced we’re going to be taking them down August 17. That was Monday. Not July whatever it was. It was going to take a month to get the right firm. We’ve got to put out the bids. It’s going to be August 17. That’s our target date. What would have happened Kim?
Gray: That’s a good question. They did take a break for the holiday. I think that’s the Fourth of July holiday. So I mean where’s the emergency? That’s what a lot of people have asked. You have to wonder why a shell corporation was created and they resisted putting information out about who actually got the contract. It’s just doesn’t past the smell test. It really doesn’t.
Fredericks: Well the mayor ordered the crews to start working on July 1. This was in direct contrast to the council. The recommendation. The recommendation that he got from City Attorney Haskell Brown who said that hey if you do this you’re going to get sued. Just go through the regular order. I mean just go through the regular process.
It’s tough to sit here and say we get the mobs, we get the statues. We get it. They have to come down. OK. Fine. Say they are coming down. And say it’s going to take two or three weeks. We’ve got children that can’t go to school and that don’t have a computer and can’t learn. And so we don’t want to waste money so they can’t have a computer and a shot of learning something.
There is not a person in Richmond that would have been upset over that. They would have said, well that makes sense. Instead, we get this thing jammed through. Goes to a donor. They gouge the city. The money is gone. Everything is bypassed. Now we find out there is another 75 documents that have not been released that people are trying to get. What do you think is going to be in those documents, Kim?
Gray: That remains to be seen. And that’s why I’ve asked for a full-on investigation because what they can hide for certain reasons but they cannot hide from a subpoena from a prosecutor or a court. So I think transparency is key here and we’ve got to follow the money and understand exactly what happened.
These are our tax dollars at hand. This is not his personal fund. The last time I checked the GoFundMe which they had established which I have questions about. There was $25,000 in that account. I’m not sure what they’ve made it up to but I’m certain it’s nowhere near the $1.8 million that have been spent on this contract.
And then in addition to that any dollars that come in philanthropically could be used to get our children broadband access and computers. We still have a third of our children with school starting right after Labor Day who don’t have RPS laptops and access to the internet. This is a major crisis situation. And nobody is telling me what the plan is and how we are going to reach them. So that is the biggest emergency we are facing right now.
Listen to the full interview here: