Konick files second suit directed at O’Connell, says it’s ‘about the law, not about the lawyer’
In an response filed Tuesday (April 7) in Rappahannock County Circuit Court to the lawsuit filed against them and the town of Washington March 20 by lawyer David Konick, the attorney for the Inn at Little Washington and its chef-proprietor Patrick O’Connell characterized Konick’s suit as “the culmination of years of resentment and hatred.”
In his response, Inn attorney David Fiske called Konick a “homophobe with a vendetta” against both the Inn and the openly gay O’Connell, resentful of the “wealthy transients” the Inn attracts, and urged the court to dismiss the suit — primarily on the grounds it was filed for an “improper purpose.” “Such acrimonious actions are a waste of resources — both public and private — and cannot be abided,” Fiske wrote in his response, which asks the court for a “dismissal with prejudice” and sanctions against Konick including attorney fees and expenses.
Meanwhile, Konick filed a second circuit court action last Thursday — specifically petitioning the court to act against O’Connell for violating the state’s conflict of interest and public procurement laws. The second suit asks the court to remove O’Connell from his position as a town council member, and invalidate the town council’s 2013 actions to contribute $20,000 to the Inn’s “Town Square Beautification Project” and deed over the stub end of Middle Street to the Inn. It does not (as the first suit does) name the town as a respondent.
And this week, Washington Mayor John Sullivan said the town has rescheduled a special meeting it planned to hold last night (Wednesday, April 8) to 4:30 p.m. Monday (April 13) — after receiving a letter early this week from Konick pointing out that public notice of the meeting was not carried out according to the state Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) rules.
The town, Sullivan said, plans to hire an attorney at that special meeting to represent it in Konick’s first suit, which seeks no damages but asks the court to invalidate the council’s actions to transfer the street stub and pay the Inn $20,000 to improve the street and renovate the parking lot opposite that the Inn now leases from Trinity Episcopal Church. (The suit also alleges the payment violated Virginia’s Constitutional prohibition of church-state partnerships).
And the agenda for the council’s regular monthly meeting, at 7 p.m. Monday, takes up two thirds of page A10 of this newspaper. Sullivan said Wednesday that the council’s promise to undo any illegal or improper actions it approved in 2013 will be discussed for the first time at that meeting in the presence of town attorney John Bennett.
“Mr. Konick has been attacking the town, the Inn, Patrick O’Connell, the council,” Sullivan said Wednesday, after the Inn’s response had been filed. “He’s raised some serious legal questions which we will be addressing. But it’s fair to ask the question of where Mr. Konick is coming from, and what his motives and objectives are.”
Fiske’s response on the Inn’s behalf includes the text of several offensive emails Konick apparently sent, and posted to Rappnet, the local email list-serve (where many of the current charges of wrongdoing by the town and the Inn originated earlier this year). It says that Konick “has made abundantly clear his opinion about homosexuality and, especially, the presence of such individuals and ‘wealthy transients’ in the town or ‘his’ county.” It notes that Konick “has a colorful history of spewing vitriol concerning homosexuals and has vehemently expressed his desire to expunge them from Rappahannock County.
“While Complainant is entitled to his opinion,” it reads, “he is not entitled to use the courts as a vehicle for his personal animosity.”
In an email sent in response to a post on Rappnet about the county’s first gay marriage last year, a celebration of which was held at the Inn, the document quotes Konick as writing to the couple who were married: “I don’t know why you two gay boys give a good G-damn about them, unless one of you is planning to have a sex-change operation or already has had one. Do us all a favor and go sojourneth somewhere else before the land vomits us out as the Bible teaches it shall for even tolerating perverse kind of abominable filth like the two of you among us.”
Fiske said by telephone Tuesday: “It’s time for people to decide that David Konick speaks for me, or does not.”
Konick Wednesday emailed his response to the Inn’s filing, referring to both his lawsuits (and another pending petition to compel the town to release documents under his FOIA request, which he says the town is still working on):
“These two cases are not about personalities or individuals, except with respect to their execution of the duties of their elected offices and whether or not they complied with applicable state laws,” he wrote. “Neither of the actions filed in Circuit Court alluded to or mentioned in any manner whatsoever anyone’s personal lifestyle choices or their sexual orientation. The attempt to inject such issues into the case is a pernicious smokescreen designed to sensationalize it and to avoid a rational review of the legal issues relating to what town officials did or failed to do.
“These include the legality of the appropriation of funds all or a significant portion of which went to benefit church property, whether or not the giveaway of Middle Street was done in accordance with applicable law, and whether or not a member of the town council engaged in conduct prohibited by the Virginia Conflicts of Interest Act (COIA). These cases are about the law, not about the lawyer.”
Konick’s first suit principally accused the town council of violating various laws, naming O’Connell and the Inn specifically because it seeks to reverse actions involving real estate owned by the Inn.
The second suit pointedly alleges O’Connell is guilty of malfeasance as a town council member for “knowingly violating” the COIA by discussing the plan for the town to transfer ownership of the stub street to the Inn with town officials, specifically Sullivan and Bennett, in the months before the council took the actions in June and July of 2013. It includes references to several emails between Bennett, Sullivan, O’Connell and Fiske, and minutes of the June and July council meetings — turned over to Konick by the town last month in compliance with his FOIA request.
Konick notes that in January 2013, the town was advised by Commonwealth’s Attorney Art Goff on another matter — the purchase by Sullivan, former town council member Dan Spethmann and others of the Washington School property, then owned by the town — that Sullivan and Spethmann had to not only disclose their private interest but thereafter could not discuss the matter with any other town officials. (Full disclosure: One of the other members of the group that purchased the school was Bill Walton, a minority owner of this newspaper’s parent company.)
“This was during the same period, apparently, that the Inn was discussing the stub street with the town,” Konick said Wednesday.
On Wednesday, Fiske also sent a letter to Rappahannock County Administrator John McCarthy, suggesting “the board of supervisors . . . and the entire county and surrounding community . . . find a way to distance themselves from the inflammatory, divisive and extreme vitriol being spewed by Mr. Konick against the Inn . . . and its owner. . . .” The letter suggests that the supervisors “take a stand” on Konick, a former town of Washington and county zoning administrator who now serves on the county’s board of zoning appeals (BZA), or “the entire county could be made a mockery in the national press.”
McCarthy had no comment on the letter, other than to say it had been distributed to the supervisors — and to point out, in jesting defensiveness, that “we didn’t appoint him to the BZA, the circuit court did.” In fact, Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey W. Parker this winter appointed Konick to the BZA.
Konick’s first lawsuit is scheduled to be heard April 28 in Rappahannock County Circuit Court. According to the clerk’s office, Judge Parker is scheduled to preside.
PDF versions of the court documents filed by Konick and Fisk/IALW are linked below: