Virginia House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) faces a lawsuit for falsely denying the existence of records documenting the $83,000 removal of the Capitol’s Confederate monuments.
The plaintiff in the case, David Webster II, requested documents under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) from Filler-Corn upon learning she’d removed the monuments. In her response, Filler-Corn states repeatedly “The requested records do not exist.” However, Webster II discovered many of the documents in question.
The records reveal that Filler-Corn paid a little over $83,000 to B.R. Howard & Associates, a public conservation and restoration company.
In an exclusive interview with The Virginia Star, filing attorney Timothy Anderson explained that Filler-Corn’s statements served as the lawsuit’s basis.
“My client filed the FOIA request on the monuments. She [Filler-Corn] wrote back, ‘the documents don’t exist,’ and we knew that had to be untrue because this is a big job that happened overnight. We knew there had to be documents.”
If the judge rules in favor of the plaintiff, David Webster II, then Filler-Corn must pay Webster’s attorney fees. If the court also finds that Filler-Corn “willfully and knowingly” withheld the documents, then she would also pay a literary fund anywhere from $500 to $2,000.
“FOIA is clear: even if they [the government officials] don’t have the documents but know who does, they’re supposed to tell you,” stated Anderson. “She just said, ‘they don’t exist.’ My client felt like that was a deliberate attempt to interfere with his ability to get documents he’s entitled to as a citizen through the FOIA.”
Anderson also pointed out that there wasn’t an emergency that necessitated an expedited removal of those statues and busts overnight. He criticized Filler-Corn for not revealing where the pieces are now located.
“At the end of all this, we still don’t know where they are. There seemed to be absolutely no piece of paper in Virginia saying where the monuments are. Does anyone know where these priceless artifacts are? The 900 pound statue of General Lee that was on the spot where Lee accepted command of the Confederate forces – where is it?”
Delegate Hyland Franklin “Buddy” Fowler Jr. (R-Spotsylvania) told The Virginia Star that nobody in their caucus knew about the plans to remove the monuments until after it occurred.
“It’s time for everybody involved to come clean. I didn’t sense a special emergency with removing these historical busts or anything,” remarked Fowler. “There’s money set aside that the Speaker has, but it begs the question: if you spend $83,000 on this, what are we taking that money away from?”
Additionally, Anderson mentioned that Filler-Corn may soon face more legal issues – such as possibly breaking state procurement laws.
The trial is scheduled for this Friday, October 9th at 10 am EDT.
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Corinne Murdock is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Network. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to [email protected].
Background Photo “Statue Removal” by Bloomberg QuickTake Now.