Potential bidders for Confederate monument removal ask to do work overnight, remain anonymous _lowres

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--New Orleans resident Russell Robinson, right, makes the Black Power sign next to fellow resident James Gaffney wearing a Confederate battle flag on his head and on his walker during a rally of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Louisiana Division, in protest of New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu's plan to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee at Lee Circle in New Orleans, La. Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015.

The Mayor’s Office in New Orleans on Friday removed from its website a list of contractors that had shown interest in the job of taking down three monuments of Confederate figures after hearing that the companies had received warnings not to bid on the contract.

The warning calls and emails also have prompted city officials to push back the deadline for bids, apparently out of fear they would be unable to find anyone to do the job.

The companies, some of which did not even plan on bidding, have been getting calls and emails that apparently come from members of Save Our Circle, a group that’s been lobbying to keep the monuments honoring Gen. Robert E. Lee, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard in place.

Members of the group put out a call on Facebook to “discourage” companies from bidding to remove the monuments.

The contractor originally selected by the city, H&O Investments, of Baton Rouge, backed out when its owner reported that he and his employees had received death threats. The owner’s Lamborghini was later found torched in the company parking lot.

The city then decided to put the job out to bid.

At least two firms that had been listed on the city’s website this week received calls they deemed intimidating, though no physical threats were reported.

The owner of one company, who asked not to be named for fear of encouraging more calls, said she received a total of four phone calls and emails since her company was listed on the site.

Those contacting the company stressed that their group is 10,000 members strong, the same figure used by Save Our Circle.

She said she had never planned to bid on the job and that her contact information had been posted automatically by the city’s purchasing system after she clicked on the project while perusing available bids.

“One guy told me that they would contact people and tell them not to do business with (her company) ever again, that they would put me out of business if I bid on this job,” the business owner said.

She said she has contacted the FBI about what she described as “thinly veiled threats.”

The city’s procurement website typically lists information about all registered contractors that have viewed bid documents, providing potential bidders a sense of who else might be competing for the job. Five firms were listed as having viewed the monument removal documents before the city took down the page Friday.

Hayne Rainey, a spokesman for Mayor Mitch Landrieu, confirmed the decision to remove the list came after “reports of intimidation.”

Emails sent to the business owner ranged from one simply asking her not to “destroy our history” to warnings that her business would suffer.

“You need to decide if it’s in the best interest now and in the long term for your company to be known as someone that believes in destroying history despite overwhelming opposition from the residents and businesses of New Orleans and Louisiana,” one emailer said. “As all polls and social media have shown, there is overwhelming disapproval in public opinion for this project both locally and across the country.”

The business owner sent back a note explaining that she wasn’t bidding on the project but also put in her 2 cents on the monuments debate.

“We should not celebrate this kind of sad bravado with statues,” she wrote. “In essence, these (Confederate) guys were traitors to the United States of America. Why should they have statues that represent the absolute worst in America. Yes, it is history, but do we have statues of Benedict Arnold? Where are the statues of the slaves who endured untold torture and suffering during this period? It is time for these statues to come down.”

The city originally planned to accept bids to remove the statues until March 29, but “due to these extenuating circumstances,” the deadline has been pushed back to April 22, Rainey said.