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Story Overstated Planning Chair's State Contracts


Commonwealth Architects, the firm of Richmond Planning Commission chairman Robert S. Mills, has received contracts worth $15.5 million from the state and Virginia Commonwealth University, not $22 million as previously reported. In addition to that figure, Commonwealth Architects also received $402,530 in subcontract work with the state.

Style Weekly inadvertently counted twice contracts from VCU that also appeared in the state's procurement database. The Feb. 6 story, "Planning Chair's Firm Received $22 Million in State Contracts," attempted to put in perspective the scope of work Mills' firm performs for the state and VCU after Mills commented that the city's draft master plan shouldn't "stick its nose" into the business of the state and VCU.

While the firm received $15.5 million in total contract work, officials with Commonwealth Architects point out that much of that work is subcontracted out. In all, the firm has netted about $5.4 million, they say.

"The City Attorney clearly stated that there is no conflict of interest in Robert Mills serving on the Planning Commission and our firm having contracts with the State of Virginia," Commonwealth Architects CFO Walter Redfearn writes in an e-mail. "Therefore, the apparent point of your article is irrelevant."

A Jan. 25 opinion from the City Attorney's Office concluded that Mills' dual roles did not present a legal conflict because the city's master plan has no legal jurisdiction over state government buildings. But questions linger over how coordinated city and state planning should be.

"Where all this broke in the first place was Bob's comments relating to the master plan," Councilman Bill Pantele says. While Pantele agrees that the scope of the plan is limited, he says, "the exemption of those properties from the development of a master plan really interferes with the ability to have a plan that will work."

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