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EVMS Yearbook Controversy Cost School Over $430,000

Controversy over a racist photo on Governor Ralph Northam’s yearbook page cost his former medical school at least $430,000. That’s according to invoices obtained by VPM News through a Freedom of Information Act request.
McGuireWoods offices in downtown Richmond (Ben Paviour/VPM News)

Eastern Virginia Medical School paid McGuireWoods and a Washington D.C. political consultant over $430,000 in the wake of the discovery of a racist photo on Gov. Ralph Northam’s yearbook page, records show.

Invoices VPM News obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request show the school paid Richmond-based McGuireWoods nearly $368,000 for an investigation into the school’s yearbooks.

The school’s president, Richard Homan, estimated the investigation would cost around $300,000 at a press conference in May.

EVMS assistant president Vincent Rhodes said in an email that the bills wouldn’t draw from funds that include state dollars; EVMS gets about 10% of its budget from state coffers.

“Estimates are just that,” Rhodes said in an email. “We placed no restrictions on the scope of the investigation and relied upon McGuireWoods’ professional experience and expertise to ensure it was as comprehensive and thorough as possible.”

Investigators said they couldn’t verify Northam’s claim that he is not depicted in the photo, and that he didn’t select it to appear in his 1984 yearbook page. McGuireWoods’ attorneys did find other photos showing students in blackface and other racist and misogynistic costumes.

Homan said at the press conference that the school was aware of the photo before a conservative news site published it in February, but chose to withhold the information to avoid a political furor that might jeopardize their state funding.  

McGuireWoods charged $575 an hour for 726 hours worth of work by their attorneys, including work done by former Attorney General Richard Cullen, who led the investigation. The firm sent two invoices, with second dated August 16. 

The invoices provide a snapshot of the work done by the firm, including interviews with alumni, school officials, and Northam. The firm contacted over 80 current and former students, and interviewed thirty. 

Washington, D.C.-based Indian Lane LLC also billed EVMS for $64,562 for “professional consulting services.” The firm is run by Douglas Sosnik, a Democratic political advisor who previously served as former President Bill Clinton’s political affairs director.




Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.
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