Richmond Commonwealth’s attorney Michael Herring announced last week that Mayor Dwight Jones will not be prosecuted for questionable overlap between city business and the church where Jones is senior pastor.
The decision follows a 10-month-long investigation where Herring criticized Jones’ lack of honesty, transparency and his administration’s operations. In the end, Herring said he lacks evidence to pursue criminal charges under the commonwealth’s public corruption laws.
“Although the investigation raises suspicion and concern about opaque governance and calls into question the credibility of many of the involved parties, these facts do not constitute probable cause for prosecution,” Herring said in a statement.
According to The Washington Post, the investigation began after a city audit found Emmanuel Adediran, the city director of public works, discussing construction of a new facility for First Baptist Church in South Richmond on conference calls during city time. Adediran later forfeited this time in vacation leave.
Herring’s office investigated whether city funds were used to construct the church, if city employees used status to get better prices from contractors and if city vendors offered city contracts for better work prices at the church.
The investigation by the auditor’s office, Herring’s office and state police found Adediran used his city email to send hundreds of emails about the project, many of which Jones was copied on. Additionally, in two instances contractors who did business with the city sent Adediran quotes for work at the church listing the city as the billing recipient.
Herring reports there is strong evidence Jones was aware Adediran used his position to obtain better pricing for work on the church. While Adediran’s behavior may have undermined public confidence, Herring said it would have only been illegal if Adediran promised something in return from the city after using his position to save money on church construction.
Jones also filled six of 58 executive-level positions in his administration with members of his church, but the corresponding investigation for allegations of cronyism found no criminal evidence, either.
“I was confident my administration strictly adhered to the law, and I am pleased, but not surprised, the Virginia State Police and Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney agree,” Jones said, according to The Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Jones’ lawyer Richard Cullen said he believes his client did not act improperly in any way.
Jones became Mayor in 2009 and will leave office in January. Herring advised better city transparency in hiring and contracting in the future. Jones will be replaced by mayor-elect Levar Stoney.
SaraRose Martin, Contributing Writer