RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — David Webster with The Webster Law Firm located in Fairfax, Va. filed a lawsuit against Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn (D) after her response to a FOIA request regarding information on the late-night removal of Confederate statues from the Old House Chamber.
Filler-Corn did not immediately provide Webster with documents regarding the removal of the statues following his request. This prompted Webster’s involvement of the General District Court for the City of Richmond.
“I was irritated. I mean, I asked her three simple questions – who did you hire, how much did it cost, and where are the artifacts stored? And her response that requested documents didn’t exist just didn’t sit well with me,” said Webster.
A hearing occurred on Aug. 17, and the matter was continued to Friday. The court has determined Filler-Corn will pay fines to help cover court costs and lawyers fees. Court documents state the civil penalty will be no less than $500 and no more than $2,000.
“We understand that those who take action to make the Commonwealth more equitable will continue to receive these types of requests, but in no way will it inhibit any work we are doing on behalf of the people of the Commonwealth,” said spokesperson for the House Speaker Kevin O’Holleran.
Webster requested documents stating the names of the entity or persons hired to remove the statues from the Chamber, as well as any correspondence and contracts between Filler-Corn and the company responsible for the statue removal.
Court documents show that the House Speaker responded to the FOIA request stating that the records requested by Webster do not exist and that correspondence of a member of the General Assembly is excluded from mandatory disclosure under the Code of Virginia.
House Republican Leader Todd Gilbert told 8News, “When leaders take actions they should be willing to own them.”
The documents requested by Webster were later made available to him by the Department of General Services.
“I feel bad for the average Virginian who files a request and a public official essentially says, ‘get lost’,” said Webster.
The B.R. Howard Conservation was hired to take away the statues. The company did work for the House of Delegates on July 17, and July 20-24.
The invoice for the statue removal performed for the House of Delegates shows a price tag of $83,090.64 for the transport costs, materials and equipment, per diem, labor and time critical mobilization of workers. A majority of the cost was attributed to labor and the mobilization of workers.
“The plaintiff has received all the documents he requested from the House Clerk’s Office. The office complied and responded to the Plaintiff’s request in this matter as was believed to be required. The Clerk’s office provided these documents to members of the General Assembly, the media and any individuals who have asked,” O’Holleran said. “When the Speaker made the decision to remove the statues and artifacts honoring the Confederacy from the Capitol, it was understood that it would upset and agitate some people in Virginia and throughout the country.”
“I actually think they should’ve stayed up. I grew up next to the Lee family in McLean, Virginia. I didn’t have a problem with the artifacts, but my lawsuit is not seeking to have the artifacts restored. It’s just seeking her to say what she did with them,” said Webster.
8News asked Speaker Filler-Corn’s office where the statues are being stored. They said no comment. In regards to the lawsuit, they are working with the Attorney General’s office about the next steps.
Stay with 8News for updates.