Law­suits con­sum­ing county’s time, en­ergy, money

Su­per­vi­sor Fra­zier wants his le­gal ex­penses paid with county funds Welch re­elected BOS Chair; Smith Vice Chair

Rappahannock News - - FRONT PAGE - By Patty hardee Spe­cial to the Rap­pa­han­nock News

De­spite sev­eral mem­bers of the pub­lic ask­ing for ci­vil­ity of the Rap­pa­han­nock County Board of Su­per­vi­sors in the New Year, this past Mon­day’s meet­ing was marked with dis­agree­ment, ag­gres­sion and raised voices — sup­plied mostly by Jack­son Su­per­vi­sor Ron Fra­zier.

Fra­zier erupted sev­eral times dur­ing the meet­ing, mostly around the topic of on­go­ing tax­payer-funded lit­i­ga­tion in de­fense of the county gov­ern­ment. At present, there are four law­suits nam­ing the BOS, County At­tor­ney Art Goff, or in­di­vid­ual BOS mem­bers.

Fra­zier was ini­tially named in the first suit known as Bragg 1, which charges vi­o­la­tions of pub­lic no­ti­fi­ca­tion be­fore the su­per­vi­sors went into closed ses­sions to con­sider hir­ing a Rap­pa­han­nock County At­tor­ney in 2016. But in con­junc­tion with the suit, the plain­tiff ’s at­tor­ney, David Kon­ick, of­fered mem­bers of the board an out — any of the su­per­vi­sors who ad­mit­ted to the vi­o­la­tion would not be a named party.

Only Fra­zier ac­knowl­edged guilt and took the of­fer. The other su­per­vi­sors main­tain their in­no­cence of the al­le­ga­tions.

In Mon­day’s meet­ing, as in the De­cem­ber BOS meet­ing, Fra­zier in­sisted that he was en­ti­tled to use the county’s lit­i­ga­tion fund for his le­gal ex­penses, even though he is not a de­fen­dant. He also protested against be­ing sub­poe­naed as a wit­ness — a rou­tine pro­ce­dure dur­ing ev­i­dence col­lec­tion be­fore a trial — im­ply­ing that with the sub­poena,

County At­tor­ney Art Goff with call­ing him a liar.

The dis­agree­ment about pay­ment of Fra­zier’s le­gal fees arose dur­ing the dis­cus­sion of ac­counts payable. Two pay­ments were dis­cussed: one for $4,080 to the Walker Jones law firm, whose at­tor­ney Mike Brown is act­ing as co-coun­sel with Goff; the other for $200 to Of­fit Kur­man, a law firm that Fra­zier con­sulted.

Af­ter sev­eral min­utes of Fra­zier’s vo­cal chal­lenges to the Board and to Goff and his con­tention that the county should pay his le­gal bills for Bragg 1, Stonewall-Hawthorne Su­per­vi­sor Chris Par­rish bran­dished his wal­let, pulled out $200 and of­fered the money to Fra­zier, who ac­cepted it.

Fra­zier then made a joke of it, pass­ing his hat around the meet­ing pre­tend­ing to so­licit other con­tri­bu­tions.

But dur­ing a sub­se­quent dis­cus­sion about the meet­ing agenda, Fra­zier again flared up.

Smith had re­quested that a stand­ing item be placed on the agenda for the Board to get in­for­ma­tion about and dis­cuss cur­rent lit­i­ga­tion against the county. Hamp­ton Su­per­vi­sor John Lesin­ski asked that the item be deleted.

“We had that item on the agenda in De­cem­ber and it turned out to be noth­ing but a tongue lash­ing ses­sion of the County At­tor­ney [Goff],” Lesin­ski said, al­lud­ing to Fra­zier’s ver­bal at­tack of Goff at the Dec. 3 BOS meet­ing.

Fra­zier re­sponded, also re­fer­ring to Goff, “Un­for­tu­nately what we had was an em­ployee that was in­sub­or­di­nate to this board.”

Smith ex­plained that she placed the item on the agenda not for “an in depth anal­y­sis,” but for in­for­ma­tion on bills, court dates, and other sig­nif­i­cant events.

Dur­ing a heated ar­gu­ment with Lesin­ski, Fra­zier claimed that he was be­ing “de­lib­er­ately” left out of in­for­ma­tion.

Two suits brought by Gid Brown Hol­low res­i­dent Mar­ian Bragg charge the Board with vi­o­la­tions of the state’s Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act (FOIA). An­other, filed by Amissville res­i­dent Tom Wool­man, al­leges that Lesin­ski vi­o­lated the state’s Con­flict of In­ter­est Act (COIA). And the fourth, filed in late De­cem­ber by Har­ris Hol­low res­i­dent Ge­orge Son­nett again charges three mem­bers of the BOS and Goff with COIA vi­o­la­tions. The suits are work­ing their way through the courts. The first Bragg case is head­ing to trial, although a date has not yet been set.

The un­pleas­ant­ness be­gan not even four min­utes into the meet­ing with the elec­tion of the BOS of­fi­cers, part of the or­ga­ni­za­tional meet­ing con­ducted in the first meet­ing of ev­ery year.

Par­rish nom­i­nated Chair Roger Welch to con­tinue as chair­man. But Fra­zier — long a critic of Welch — com­pared the nom­i­na­tion to the mean­ing of in­san­ity: “Do­ing the same thing over and over and ex­pect­ing dif­fer­ent re­sults.

“I’m not go­ing to be able to sup­port this gen­tle­man,” Fra­zier said. “We need to do some­thing dif­fer­ent.” Par­rish ob­jected.

“I think this is [Welch’s] last year. I don’t think he in­tends to run again,” Par­rish said. “It would be il­log­i­cal to re­move [Welch] from the Board at this point.”

Fra­zier be­gan chal­leng­ing and in­ter­rupt­ing Par­rish, ask­ing why Par­rish thought Welch qual­i­fied. Par­rish tried to de­flect Fra­zier’s at­tack while the rest of the su­per­vi­sors sat stone-faced.

Af­ter sev­eral min­utes of Fra­zier’s con­fronta­tion of Par­rish, Lesin­ski called for a vote. Welch was re­elected by a four to one roll call vote, Fra­zier an­swer­ing only “present.”

Next, in a sur­prise twist, Pied­mont su­per­vi­sor Chris­tine Smith was elected Vice Chair. Fra­zier orig­i­nally nom­i­nated Smith, but no one sec­onded her nom­i­na­tion. Par­rish was then nom­i­nated to con­tinue as Vice Chair, and Fra­zier again com­plained, say­ing, “We need some­thing dif­fer­ent.”

Par­rish was re­elected in a three to two vote, Fra­zier vot­ing “present” and Smith, “nay.”

Par­rish, who was sub­jected to a great deal of crit­i­cism last year over his sup­port of the once-pro­posed 1.2 mile School Con­nec­tor Trail, then de­clined his elec­tion as Vice Chair.

“I don’t think I am will­ing to serve as Vice Chair if it’s not unan­i­mous for the Board,” Par­rish said. “I de­cline the Vice Chair­man­ship and se­cond the nom­i­na­tion of Ms. Smith.”

She was elected four to one, with Lesin­ski vot­ing “present.”

OTHER BOARD BUSI­NESS

Board mem­bers and oth­ers were elected to var­i­ous boards and com­mis­sions, as fol­lows:

➤ Welch as the Board rep­re­sen­ta­tive on the Rap­pa­han­nock-Rap­i­dan Re­gional Com­mis­sion.

➤ Smith as Board rep on the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion and the Rap­pa­han­nock County Recre­ational Fa­cil­i­ties Au­thor­ity (RCRFA).

➤ Wake­field dis­trict res­i­dent Steph Rid­der was elected to the RCRFA.

➤ Board of Zon­ing Ap­peals mem­ber Chris Bird as the BZA rep on the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion.

➤ Lesin­ski as Board rep on the Rap­pa­han­nock River Basin Com­mis­sion, Par­rish as al­ter­nate; and the Rap­pa­han­nock County Com­mu­nity Pol­icy and Man­age­ment Team.

➤ Fra­zier and Smith as Board reps to the Pub­lic Safety Com­mit­tee.

➤ Fra­zier as Board rep to the Fire Levy Board.

➤ Par­rish as Board rep on the Rap­pa­han­nock Shenan­doah War­ren Re­gional Jail Au­thor­ity Board.

➤ Wake­field res­i­dent Ja­son Brady was elected to the Agri­cul­tural & Fore­stal Dis­trict Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee.

The BOS heard re­ports from the county’s au­dit­ing firm Robin­son Farmer Fox As­so­ciates, and about the county’s Re­gional Haz­ard Mit­i­ga­tion Plan. Mark Nes­bit from VDOT re­ported on cur­rent and planned road main­te­nance in the county.

BY LUKE CHRISTO­PHER

Jack­son Su­per­vi­sor Ron Fra­zier, declar­ing he is en­ti­tled to use county lit­i­ga­tion funds for his pri­vate le­gal ex­penses, makes a joke of it by pass­ing around his hat dur­ing Mon­day's BOS meet­ing in Wash­ing­ton.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.