Stalling, sim­ply put

The Progress-Index Weekend - - OPINION -

As if their ap­pear­ance be­fore the state Board of Elec­tions was not bad enough, the Hopewell Elec­toral Board sunk to a new low with the strategy they un­veiled last week in Hopewell Cir­cuit Court. First, the at­tor­ney for David Sil­ve­stro and Herbert Townes wanted a de­lay in hear­ing the pe­ti­tions the state filed to remove them from their posts. It seems Messrs. Sil­ve­stro and Townes waited too long to seek coun­sel be­cause they thought as ap­pointed of­fi­cials, they would have some­one from the state at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice to rep­re­sent them. Never mind that the state at­tor­ney gen­eral was too busy rep­re­sent­ing the state in this mat­ter.

Guess they thought the AG was go­ing to play both sides and claim vic­tory re­gard­less.

Then they both de­cided they wanted their case to be heard by a jury of their own peers. A jury trial is cer­tainly within their le­gal pre­rog­a­tive, but re­ally? As much pub­lic­ity as this is­sue has got­ten, they se­ri­ously think they are go­ing to be able to em­panel 12 Hopewellians who have stayed un­der a rock all year and not known or heard any­thing about this case?

Need­less to say, th­ese shenani­gans — and that is ba­si­cally what they are — left the state, not to men­tion us and the oth­ers in the Hopewell court­room, scratch­ing our col­lec­tive heads.

First of all, why didn’t Messrs. Sil­ve­stro and Townes save us all this time and en­ergy by just sub­mit­ting their res­ig­na­tions once the state said it was com­ing af­ter them? While the SBE meet­ing was tech­ni­cally not a court of law, the ev­i­dence pre­sented clearly proved that they knew ex­actly what they were do­ing when they cast their votes to send a draft bal­lot back to Rich­mond with cer­tain coun­cil can­di­dates’ names in all cap­i­tal let­ters. And that was just part of the litany of im­pro­pri­ety the state had against them.

Mr. Townes even had the guts to say af­ter that SBE meet­ing that the state board was miss­ing the point.

With all due re­spect, sir, we feel the role was re­versed then and it still is now. It is you and Mr. Sil­ve­stro who are miss­ing the point. And now, in­stead of fac­ing the mu­sic in court like the two rea­son­ably in­tel­li­gent men you are, you con­tinue to thumb your nose at the state and at the court in mak­ing this legally ac­cept­able, yet in­tel­lec­tu­ally un­be­liev­able, re­quest.

Se­ri­ously, we are sur­prised their at­tor­ney was able to keep a straight face when he made the re­quest on their be­half. Those in the court gallery cer­tainly could not, and while they had their backs to the gallery, we can only imag­ine the state at­tor­ney gen­eral’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives could not, ei­ther.

The jury re­quest is noth­ing more than a stall tac­tic. Messrs. Sil­ve­stro and Townes read the pa­pers and look at tele­vi­sion and so­cial me­dia. They know how much at­ten­tion has been given to this is­sue. Good luck find­ing 12 im­par­tial peo­ple from Hopewell to judge them.

We know it prob­a­bly could be done, but we also know that might take a while. Hopewell has more than 22,000 cit­i­zens, but it re­ally is a small town in the fact that ev­ery­one pretty much knows ev­ery­one else. The only thing that usu­ally spreads faster than kudzu is pre-judg­ment and opin­ion.

It may take a while to seat th­ese peo­ple, but the only thing that would take longer is to go out­side of Hopewell look­ing for jurors, or even worse, hav­ing a change of venue.

If any­thing good came out of this, Judge W. Ed­ward Tomko III granted the state’s re­quest to take Messrs. Sil­ve­stro and Townes off the Hopewell Elec­toral Board for the time be­ing. Their re­place­ments sug­gested by the Hopewell Demo­cratic Com­mit­tee, Ge­orge Uz­zle and Sheila Mick­el­son, will be put on the board to at least see the city through Elec­tion Day (which, by the way, is a lit­tle more than a week away). Whether th­ese peo­ple get the job per­ma­nently or not ap­par­ently de­pends upon what 12 of their fel­low cit­i­zens have to say. Let’s just hope it is soon and it is the cor­rect call — David Sil­ve­stro and Herbert Townes have proven them­selves to be, as the se­nior state at­tor­ney gen­eral put it, “un­fit to ful­fill their du­ties.”

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