UPDATE 11 p.m. June 23: Portsmouth City Council approved $250,000 to cover the cost of moving the monument during a meeting Tuesday night, but did not decide whether to let Danny Meeks move the monument at his own expense.
PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Moving the Confederate monument in Portsmouth could take $200,000 or more. Now, a new development that has deeply divided City Council.
Now, someone’s come forward to move the controversial, now heavily spray-painted and vandalized monument for free.
Here’s the problem: The man willing to move it for free is running for mayor, and he is a former councilman.
Danny Meeks says he has all the equipment and man-power to move the monument right now.
“I will move this thing free of cost to the taxpayers, store it at one of our facilities or a city facility — whichever they want,” he said.
Portsmouth Vice Mayor Lisa Lucas-Burke says not so fast.
“I think this smells, and I think it’s a bribe to try to win votes in November,” she said.
After Meeks sent his free monument movement proposal to current Mayor John Rowe, it didn’t take long for his mayoral rivals who are already on City Council to write emails opposing the granting of Meeks to move the monument.
“I am opposed to any private citizen that is running for political office to propose such a request. All things being equal, I can make the same offer to move the monument and pay the total cost. The city owns the monument, and it is our responsibility to move and or relocate it,” Councilman Shannon Glover emailed.
Meeks had an answer for that.
“I do not think Shannon Glover has the capabilities, or the know-how to move that. I don’t think he knows the people that have the capabilities of moving it,” Meeks said.
Portsmouth Councilman Paul Battle is also running for mayor and wants nothing to do with giving Meeks what could be a political gift to taxpayers.
“Let me reiterate that, this is a political ploy. Please, count me out!” Battle wrote.
We asked Meeks if moving the monument is a political ploy.
“No, it’s not a political ploy. It is a resolution for all sides,” he said.
Lucas-Burke in her email called moving the monument for free a brilliant idea, if “Meeks were to relinquish his bid for mayor.”
She told 10 On Your Side: “I did write that, it is a brilliant idea. That’s what I wrote in black-and-white, brilliant idea, but you must relinquish your bid for mayor and then game on.”
It is suggested what Meeks is doing is bribing voters. We asked him if this is a bribe.
“This ain’t a bribe. Look, nobody else is coming up with resolutions or solutions … I’ve come up with a solution,” Meeks said.
Lucas-Burke believes running for mayor and offering to move the city’s monument for free is a conflict of interest.
“There is an absolute conflict of interest because the city has a bid process, and how can you just give it to one guy when there’s some other contractor who could take [it]?” We pointed out to the councilwoman that the difference is Meeks is willing to move the monument for free to taxpayers, and it could be savings to taxpayers of $200,000.
Lucas-Burke acknowledged “he would do it for free, but it is something City Council must decide on how to proceed.”
Glover called 10 On Your Side late Tuesday afternoon and called Meeks’ offer “unacceptable.”
“What Meeks is doing ethically stinks and is unacceptable. Council members Bill Moody, Elizabeth Psimas, and John Rowe are all supporting Meeks. Bill Moody, who also works for Meeks, was wearing a shirt saying ‘Meeks for Mayor’ during our virtual council meeting two weeks ago. There were 800 people signed in watching the council meeting,” Glover said.
It should be noted if it comes up for a vote, Meeks could become mayor if he gets those three-plus votes. Councilman Nathan Clark could make four of the seven council members.
“I’ve always been a decision-maker. I’ve been running companies ever since I got out of high school. That’s what I do. I make decisions. I live with the consequences. That’s what a leader is supposed to do,” Meeks added.
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