Happy New Year, BOS! Su­per­vi­sors face new law­suit

At­tor­ney David Kon­ick files fourth suit since 2016 against the county gov­ern­ment

Rappahannock News - - FRONT PAGE - By Patty hardee

Just in time to cel­e­brate the New Year, an­other law­suit al­leg­ing wrong­do­ing by the Rappahanno­ck County Board of Su­per­vi­sors has ar­rived in county in­boxes.

Filed by Har­ris Hol­low res­i­dent Ge­orge Son­nett, and rep­re­sented by lo­cal at­tor­ney David Kon­ick, the Pe­ti­tion for Declara­tory Judg­ment charges three Rappahanno­ck su­per­vi­sors and County At­tor­ney Art Goff with vi­o­lat­ing the state’s Con­flict of In­ter­est Act (COIA) on sev­eral oc-

ca­sions last year when con­sid­er­ing the ap­point­ment of Peter Luke as Deputy County At­tor­ney — iron­i­cally to help han­dle the work­load of pre­vi­ous law­suits filed against Rappahanno­ck County by cer­tain res­i­dents.

Kon­ick de­clined to com­ment be­yond what was stated in the new pe­ti­tion. Son­nett could not be reached for com­ment.

This makes the fourth suit filed against the BOS or in­di­vid­ual mem­bers since 2016. Gid Brown Hol­low llama farmer Mar­ian Bragg sued the BOS in 2016 and in 2017, both times al­leg­ing that the su­per­vi­sors vi­o­lated Vir­ginia’s Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act (FOIA).

The first Bragg v the BOS (filed in 2016 and re­ferred to lo­cally as Bragg 1) al­leges vi­o­la­tions of pub­lic no­ti­fi­ca­tion be­fore the su­per­vi­sors went into closed ses­sion to con­sider hir­ing a county at­tor­ney. Bragg 2, filed in 2017, charges that the BOS did not prop­erly ad­ver­tise and con­sider can­di­dates for the county ad­min­is­tra­tor in the fall of 2017. For­mer in­terim County Ad­min­is­tra­tor Brenda Gar­ton is also a named party in Bragg 2.

In a pe­ti­tion filed Oct. 2, 2017, Amissville res­i­dent Tom Wool­man ac­cused Hamp­ton dis­trict Su­per­vi­sor John Lesin­ski of re­peat­edly vi­o­lat­ing Vir­ginia’s Con­flict of In­ter­est Act (COIA) in his of­fi­cial ca­pac­i­ties as Rappahanno­ck County School Board chair­man and su­per­vi­sor, by ei­ther not dis­qual­i­fy­ing him­self from cer­tain trans­ac­tions or fail­ing to dis­close his eco­nomic in­ter­ests in the trans­ac­tions, as re­quired by law.

Bragg, Wool­man, and Son­nett are all rep­re­sented by Kon­ick, who Luke was hired to help de­fend against be­cause of the in­creased work­load the county now is deal­ing with. The suits are work­ing their way through Rappahanno­ck County Cir­cuit Court.

Son­nett’s pe­ti­tion al­leges that Su­per­vi­sors Lesin­ski, Chris Par­rish (Stonewal­lHawthorne) and Chair Roger Welch (Wake­field) vi­o­lated COIA by not stat­ing “per­sonal in­ter­ests” they had in Luke’s hir­ing.

In July, Au­gust, and De­cem­ber 2018 BOS meet­ings, the su­per­vi­sors voted on res­o­lu­tions to hire Luke — or ex­tend his em­ploy­ment — as Deputy County At­tor­ney.

“Among Mr. Luke's pro­posed du­ties,” says the pe­ti­tion, “was act­ing as coun­sel in [Bragg 1]” to the Board it­self as well as the three in­di­vid­ual mem­bers of the Board named in Son­nett’s pe­ti­tion.

The first count of Son­nett’s pe­ti­tion claims that the mem­bers of the Board “had or may have re­al­ize[d] a rea­son­ably fore­see­able di­rect or in­di­rect ben­e­fit . . . by au­tho­riz­ing coun­sel fees in ex­cess of ap­prox­i­mately Fifty-Two Thou­sand Eight Hun­dred dol­lars (USD $52,800.00) at tax­pay­ers' ex­pense to de­fend them in their in­di­vid­ual ca­pac­i­ties” in Bragg 1. Goff, on the other hand, would ben­e­fit “in the pend­ing lit­i­ga­tion by be­ing re­lieved, in whole or in part, of du­ties he is oth­er­wise re­quired to per­form as County At­tor­ney and as coun­sel in Bragg 1.”

There­fore, reads the count, the su­per­vi­sors and Goff should have “dis­close[d] their re­spec­tive per­sonal in­ter­ests in the trans­ac­tions in which each had any per­sonal in­ter­est un­der the Con­flicts Act and make a pub­lic dec­la­ra­tion that he was ‘able to par­tic­i­pate in the trans­ac­tion fairly, ob­jec­tively, and in the pub­lic in­ter­est’ in or­der to take ad­van­tage of one or more of the con­di­tional ex­emp­tions set forth” in the code.

“Be­cause the vote by each of the three afore­men­tioned Re­spon­dents who are mem­bers of the Board was un­law­ful and in vi­o­la­tion of the Con­flicts Act,” count two asks that the court de­clare the vote of the BOS to ap­prove Luke’s em­ploy­ment null and void.

Count three calls for Goff to re­cuse him­self from de­fend­ing the BOS in Bragg 1 and for the court to ap­point a spe­cial prose­cu­tor.

Count four claims that be­cause of the al­leged fail­ure of Goff and the named su­per­vi­sors to com­ply with COIA, Son­net has suf­fered “ac­tual and spe­cial dam­ages and in­curred at­tor­ney’s fees . . .”

A court date has not yet been sched­uled for a pre­lim­i­nary hear­ing.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.