Virginia’s New GOP AG Fires U-Va. Counsel Who Was On Leave Working For Jan. 6 Panel As Top Investigator

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Virginia’s new Republican attorney general has fired University of Virginia’s counsel, who was on leave from his job to work as the top investigator for the U.S. House of Representatives panel investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, the attorney, and university said.

Tim Heaphy, who had worked at the state school for about three years, was among roughly 30 staffers who were let go by Jason Miyares shortly before he took office a little over a week ago. Democrats have questioned the firings and how they were carried out.

Victoria LaCivita, a Miyares spokeswoman, said the attorney general’s office had also fired the counsel for George Mason University, Brian Walther, but offered no explanation for why he was let go. George Mason referred questions about Walther’s firing to Miyares’s office. Walther did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Both Heaphy and Walther are Democrats.

LaCivita did not respond to a question about whether any other counsels at Virginia’s more than three dozen public colleges and universities had been let go.

LaCivita said in a statement that Heaphy was a “controversial” hire and Miyares’s Democratic predecessor, Mark Herring, had “excluded many qualified internal candidates when he brought in this particular university counsel.”

“Our decision was made after reviewing the legal decisions made over the last couple of years,” LaCivita said. “The Attorney General wants the university counsel to return to giving legal advice based on law, and not the philosophy of a university. We plan to look internally first for the next lead counsel.”

LaCivita did not immediately respond to questions about what legal decisions she was referencing. LaCivita said Heaphy’s firing had nothing to do with his work on the Jan. 6 panel.

Herring’s former chief of staff was reviewing Miyares’s statement Sunday morning and did not immediately offer comment about Miyares’s characterization of Heaphy’s hiring.

Heaphy said in a statement he was sorry his time with the University of Virginia was over.

“Serving as University Counsel for the past [three] years has been a tremendous honor and privilege,” Heaphy said. “As a two-time graduate of the university, the parent of a current student, and a longtime resident of Charlottesville, I love the university and have been privileged to contribute to its aspiration to be both great and good.”

The University of Virginia said in its statement that school leaders were grateful for Heaphy’s “outstanding service” and were “disappointed to see it come to an end.”

Heaphy was hired by the university in 2018. The hiring came after he conducted an independent investigation of the infamous “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in 2017 that left one protester dead and dozens of others injured.

President Barack Obama appointed Heaphy to serve as the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia in 2009. He served in that position until 2014.

Miyares has made a flurry of moves in his opening days on the job. On Friday night, his office urged the Supreme Court to overturn the landmark abortion decision, Roe vs. Wade.

Miyares also announced last week he was pulling Virginia from legal action seeking to defend the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. He said the plan was detrimental to the coal industry in Southwest Virginia.

Miyares, who is Virginia’s first Latino elected to statewide office, was part of a conservative wave that propelled Republicans to the top three offices in the state in November.