Letter claims Norfolk candidate offered money to drop out of delegate race

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A special prosecutor is looking into claims a Norfolk democratic committee official and others offered money to try to stop someone from running for office.

The investigation stems from a letter community activist Michael Muhammad wrote about Norfolk’s NAACP President, Joe Dillard, Jr.

The letter reads, “It was brought to my attention that Mr. Joe Dillard, who is a candidate for the 89th District House of Delegates race, had been approached by the Norfolk Democratic Party Chairman Mr. Linwood Fisher and offered $10,000 in a campaign treasury to opt out of running for the 89th House District and instead run for a School Board seat.”

According to Muhammad, Dillard told him Fisher approached him on behalf of Norfolk’s Commissioner of the Revenue Evans Poston and others.

“Mr. Dillard went on to say that Mr. Fisher told him that ‘this is how it’s done in Norfolk,'” the letter said.

“I felt comfortable enough that [Dillard’s] level of honesty and integrity was such that this was appropriate to bring to the public square and seek clarification and the only way to do so is to have an investigation done,” Muhammad told WAVY News.

Muhammad sent the letter to Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney Greg Underwood, who recused himself out of a conflict. Special prosecutor Michael Doucette will look into the allegations. He has asked Attorney General Mark Herring for the assistance of the Virginia State Police. It is too early to tell if a crime occurred, Doucette said.

Linwood Fisher said he has no comment on Muhammad. Evans Poston called the claim “false” and said it was “election year politics at its worst.” Poston’s attorney Andy Protogyrou said the allegation was a “political witch hunt” with “no basis in fact.”

“I take serious serious umbrage with being called a liar and being made to seem as if I’m doing something for political ploy. I have no gain in this,” Muhammad said in response.

Dillard’s attorney Steven Forbes said that neither the Virginia State Police nor the Lynchburg Commonwealth Attorney’s office has contacted him, but he plans to fully cooperate with the investigation and has not accepted bribes from anyone.  He remains a candidate for the House of Delegates and “despite potential distractions of an investigation,” Dillard remains focused on the primaries, the statement said.