WASHINGTON - Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares has fired lawyers from two public universities in the state, including one who serves as a top counsel on the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot.
Tim Heaphy worked as a counsel at the University of Virginia, but has been on leave from the position to work for the House Committee. A Jan. 6 panel spokeswoman wouldn't say anything about the matter.
Brian Walther, who served as counsel for George Mason University, was fired by Miyares, a Republican. The state attorney general is appointed to both positions.
The director of communications for the attorney general, Victoria LaCivita, confirmed the firings to NBC News and said that Heaphy's work was unrelated to his work for the Jan. 6 panel. LaCivita did not provide any additional details about what caused the terminations.
The decision had no relationship with the January 6th committee or their investigations. It is common practice for an incoming administration to appoint new staff that share the philosophy and legal approach of the Attorney General. She said that every counsel serves at the pleasure of the Attorney General.
Democrats in Virginia were quick to criticize the move. Scott Surovell, a top Democrat in the state Senate, called the move unprecedented. She was very concerned that Heaphy was fired for political reasons, according to Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va. Heaphy was hired as a university counsel at UVA in 2018. He has been on a leave of absence from the university since he became chief investigative counsel for the Jan. 6 committee in Aug. 2021. Prior to joining the university, he worked on an independent review of the Charlottesville white supremacist rally.
Brian Coy, a UVA spokesman, told NBC News that University leaders are grateful to Tim for his outstanding service to our community and disappointed to see it come to an end. Heaphy said in a statement provided by UVA, Serving as University Counsel for the past 3 years has been a tremendous honor and privilege. As a two-time graduate of the University, a parent of a current student, and a long-time resident of Charlottesville, I love the University and have been privileged to contribute to its aspiration to be both great and good. He said that while I'm disappointed that my time as University Counsel has come to an end, I m confident that the office will continue to provide quality service as the University continues to thrive in the days to come. Since October 1999, Walther had been a university counsel at George Mason for more than two decades, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Walther said a request for comment was not immediately returned. George Mason University directed NBC's inquiry into the attorney general's office.
In November, Miyares was elected state attorney general and sworn in earlier this year. He has served as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates since 2016.