Investigation finds no reason to file charges against Mayor Jone - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Investigation finds no reason to file charges against Mayor Jones

Mayor Jones (Source: NBC12) Mayor Jones (Source: NBC12)

Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney Michael Herring says there was not sufficient probable cause to recommend filing criminal charges for possible conflicts between Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones' church and city government.

"…Not clear distaste, not distrust. There needed to be probable cause," said Herring, during a press conference outside the John Marshall Courthouse, Wednesday morning.

However, Herring is calling for tougher city laws to crack down on corruption.

"I think you folks are owed some answers from the administration," said Herring.

Herring’s report comes after a near 10-month investigation involving the Virginia State Police.

"Although the investigation raises suspicion and concern about the opaque governance, and calls into question the credibility of many involved parties, these facts do not constitute probable cause for prosecution under the Commonwealth's public corruption laws," the report said.

Mayor Jones declined an interview with NBC12. Jones released the following statement:

The report issued this morning found no criminal wrongdoing by me or members of my administration. More than 10 months ago, I requested an independent investigation into concerns raised about the separation between my administration and First Baptist Church of South Richmond. I cooperated extensively in the investigation to ensure any concerns were carefully examined and dispelled. After thoroughly reviewing my email, examining City and church records, and interviewing scores of witnesses, the investigation determined that no laws were violated. 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. Although the investigation took longer than expected, it was thorough and conclusive, and I am glad it is behind us.

The Virginia State Police investigation began in March, after a report by the city auditor. City Auditor Umesh Dalal found Adediran worked on the construction of the new Chesterfield campus for First Baptist Church of South Richmond, the church headed by Jones. His son, Richmond School Board member Derik Jones, is also a pastor there.

Jones requested to see if any criminal action was taken when Public Works Director Emmanuel Adediran conducted church business on city time.  Jones said earlier this year that he welcomes the review out of an abundance of caution and to ensure accountability to the people of Richmond. Under Virginia law, no elected official can be investigated unless it is requested by the governor, the attorney general or a grand jury. Adediran is an unelected public official, still working at City Hall. City records show Adediran has been a city employee for 18 years, formerly working as the deputy director of General Services for the Department of Public Works.

Investigators found Adediran spent 38 hours on the church project on city time through phone calls and emails. Adediran also used his position to attempt to garner better deals from city contractors for the church, according to the report. Once those allegations became public at the onset of the investigation, Adediran agreed to exchange 38 hours of vacation time to remove any concern.

Adediran said earlier this year that he volunteers at the church, serves as an assistant pastor and provides guidance for the church construction project. He also said he typically spends well in excess of 40 hours a week conducting city business.

The report found that no city money or contractors were ultimately used for the project, even if some businesses were propositioned. One construction contractor is quoted in the report as saying "the church wanted champagne on a beer budget."

The report further outlines how Mayor Jones hired church members for six top city hall positions, five of those employees earning over six figures. Herring writes that while it "smacks of cronyism... this practice is not, in fact, criminal."

Herring said he believes the city's currently policy to prevent corruption is "ineffective or that policy as enforced, is toothless." He called for tighter disclosure laws, with city executives being required to reveal, up front, any relationships or dealings they have with potential contractors or employees.

It's legislation that longtime council member Reva Trammell thoroughly supports.

"Why not? Why not? This is taxpayer's money. The taxpayers... feel like they've been betrayed,” said Trammell. "[The mayor] just destroyed the trust of the citizens in Richmond.

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