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Local News in Virginia

Civil Rights Group Alleges Councilman’s Gain From City Contract Was Improper

By Leonard E. Colvin

Chief Reporter

New Journal and Guide

A local civil rights group that is leading the fight to have Norfolk City Council remove a Confederate monument from city-owned property in downtown Norfolk is also charging a conflict of interest against one of its council members and other city officials in the awarding of a city contract.

The United Front for Justice (UFJ), in a petition filed recently with the Norfolk Circuit Court, alleges that “conflict of interest” and/or “improprieties” were committed in 2009 by Norfolk Councilman Barclay C. Winn, Winn Nursery Of Virginia Inc., the City of Norfolk, the Norfolk City Attorney’s Office, the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, and Conrad Brothers Inc. over the awarding of a city contract to Winn’s landscaping business.

Roy Perry-Bey, who heads United Front for Justice, said his group has filed a petition demanding the Norfolk Circuit Court to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the alleged conflict of interest “for possible obstruction of justice, fraud, collusion, official misconduct and violation of the State Conflicts of Interest Act.”

The petition contends that Winn and other defendants knowingly, concealed Councilman Winn and Winn Nursery’s filing of an unlawful bid and Winn’s council vote without disclosure, resolution or approval from City Council.

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The 2009 landscaping job at Norfolk’s Town Point Park paid out $254,292 to Winn’s Nursery, a sub-contractor.

Perry-Bey said he was told by the Norfolk Circuit Court Clerk’s office that there “was enough merit to his group’s allegations to have the court consider looking at appointing a special prosecutor.”

Perry-Bey said each defendant is being served with the petition and that they must now respond to the allegations.

THE UFJ is the same organization which staged a protest demonstration on August 25 asking that the city council remove the Confederate Monument from city property in downtown Norfolk.

When contacted by the Guide, Councilman Winn said that the only issue may be his company’s not disclosing that it was a subcontractor among the other bidders for the landscaping contract nine years ago.

“There may be a perception of wrong doing,” said Winn. “This situation has been disposed of some time ago. Although I have the right to do so, I have taken our name off any future bidding lists to assure there is no perception of wrong doing.”

The petition identifies Winn as “a City Councilman for the City of Norfolk with long-standing ties to Conrad Brothers, a Chesapeake firm hired by the City of Norfolk as the general contractor for the $11.5 million restoration of Norfolk’s Town Point Park.”

“Winn knowingly failed to disclose his financial interests as a voting member on the City Council regarding bidding or awarding contracts before City Council, and before becoming a City Councilman on the Norfolk City Council, Winn’s Nursery was awarded several contracts to do landscaping for the City of Norfolk,” the petition submitted to the court said.

“The Respondents in the above referenced matter were clearly aware of the law and that Town Point Park was a city facility, and the fact Winn’s business associates Conrad Brothers, the Chesapeake firm hired by the city of Norfolk, was the general contractor.”

The complaint also names Norfolk’s City Attorney, Bernard A. Pishko and Norfolk’s Commonwealth’s Attorney Gregory D. Underwood, and their staff, with knowing about the matter yet refusing to investigate it, as required by law.

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