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Prosecutor will probe Richmond mayor’s removal of Confederate statues

FILE - This June 27, 2017, file photo, shows the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee that stands in the middle of a traffic circle on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Va.  A lawsuit seeking to prevent Virginia Gov. Ralph Northams administration from removing an enormous statue of Gen. Lee can proceed, a judge ruled Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, clearing the way for a trial in the fall. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)
FILE - This June 27, 2017, file photo, shows the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee that stands in the middle of a traffic circle on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Va. A lawsuit seeking to prevent Virginia Gov. Ralph Northams administration from removing an enormous statue of Gen. Lee can proceed, a judge ruled Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, clearing the way for a trial in the fall. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

A judge in Virginia has appointed a county prosecutor to investigate whether Richmond’s mayor broke any laws when his administration hired a company to remove the city’s Confederate monuments.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported Monday that Richmond Circuit Court Judge Joi Taylor has appointed Augusta Commonwealth’s Attorney Timothy Martin.

The Levar Stoney administration originally authorized a $1.8 million contract with the company NAH LLC for the removal of Richmond’s Confederate monuments in July. The company is linked to a Newport News-based contracting firm whose owner has donated $4,000 to Stoney’s campaign and political action committee since 2016.

Administration officials said that other firms had declined to take the project. They also said the administration had the authority to take the memorials down because they had become a threat to public safety as protests erupted across the nation.

Richmond Councilwoman Kim Gray had requested an investigation last month, saying that the contract’s cost and the project’s ties to the mayor’s donor raised “troubling questions.” She is running for mayor against Stoney.

Stoney’s administration has denied wrongdoing.

Confederate statues have been coming down throughout the southern United States in the wake of protests against racism and police brutality. The demonstrations were sparked by the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis.