Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones is in hot water after a grand jury approved the Virginia State Police to proceed with investigations concerning the connection between Jones’ church and city government on March 16, according to Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Herring.
The state police now joins the FBI, Herring’s office and the Office of the City Auditor in the investigation surrounding alleged misconduct of resources involving the construction at the First Baptist Church of South Richmond where Jones is senior pastor.
Under Virginia law, state police cannot investigate an elected official without approval from the governor, attorney general or a grand jury.
According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, in January the Office of the Inspector General in Richmond found the city’s Director of Public Works (DPW) Emmanuel Adediran spent part of his work day as Project Manager for the construction of Jones’ church.
City auditor Umesh Dalai alleged that Adediran, who at the time was Interim Director of Public Works, spent hours of his work day on “visiting the construction site and attending meetings and phone calls related to the project.”
According to the Times-Dispatch, investigators said they could not verify whether Adediran actually visited the site or attended meetings during business hours, but did find Adediran took part in church-related conference calls. They found that Adediran spent at least 38 hours in a one and a half year period conducting work related to the church.
Hundreds of emails obtained by several media outlets by January Freedom of Information Act requests showed Adediran was informed on nearly every step of construction on the new $5 million church, and Jones was copied in a series of emails between Adediran, the executive minister of business and the church builder.
“We welcome this action that allows the state police to undertake the review we’ve asked for,” said Tammy Hawley, the mayor’s press secretary in a statement to the Times-Dispatch.
During his time as mayor, Jones has promised the separation between his church and administration. In January, Jones issued a statement calling for an end to questions about which members of his administration also attend his church.
“I believe strongly in the separation and I have worked hard in the seven years to make sure there is a separation between what happens at the church and what happens in the city,” Mayor Jones told CBS 6 in January.
The Virginia Police Department and The FBI declined to comment.
Mary Lee Clark, Contributing Writer