County attorney’s letter slams ‘crazy’ and ‘ego-driven’ litigation

Art Goff targets ‘nuts, quacks, cranks or other contrarian or ill-motivated individuals’

By Luke Christopher and John McCaslin

The cantankerous tone of Monday’s marathon meeting of the Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors was set before the assembly was even called to order when County Attorney Art Goff submitted in absentia a written brief updating the supervisors on legal issues impacting the county government.

“This is nothing more than ego-driven litigation from [David] Konick that serves only his interests and does nothing in furtherance of the public interest,” Goff, who was in Richmond on legal business, opined of the local attorney who has two separate court cases pending against the county.

Reached Wednesday, Konick responded: “The basis of the suit is the failure of the acting BZA [Board of Zoning Appeals] chairman to comply with the Freedom of Information Act notice requirements for a board meeting last September. At issue in this appeal is whether or not the board acted properly in censuring me for my effort to see that the FOIA laws were properly observed.

“That is the principle that is at issue and the public purpose that is being served.”

Goff wasn’t any kinder to Rappahannock County resident Lynn Sullivan, who also filed a lawsuit against the county in recent weeks: “This is another crazy suit involving land use tax exemption,” the county attorney charged. “She wants what she wants and a lawyer from Richmond filed the suit for her and it must be answered at our expense.”

Sullivan could not be reached Wednesday, but during Monday’s public comment period Amissville resident Page Glennie said Goff’s remarks were “bordering on libel” and strongly recommended the supervisors publicly disavow the county attorney’s comments.

In the case of Konick, Goff’s brief addressed the “speak now or forever hold your peace” rule and how it “favors finality.”

“The danger [of] not having this rule is that FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] may be abused as a weapon, and this process of governance will devolve into constant litigation over after-the-fact absurd ‘interpreting’ by nuts, quacks, cranks or other contrarian or ill-motivated individuals,” Goff wrote.

Those comments surrounded a lawsuit by Sperryville llama farmer Marian Bragg, who is represented by Konick, against the supervisors — and four of its five individual members — for alleged violations of Virginia’s FOIA that took place last year.

“At this stage you have won the case,” Goff said, referring to visiting Judge Alfred Swersky ruling that the affidavit filed by Bragg, in the words of the county attorney, “is legally insufficient.”

Konick has since filed a motion for reconsideration.

Goff’s language, in lighter terms, was also brought up in the discussion of a service agreement between the county and the Rappahannock County Fire and Rescue Association. According to Chester Gap Volunteer Fire and Rescue’s assistant fire chief Kevin Williams, “most of it is just verbiage.”

“Someone with fire and rescue experience within this county [needs] to sit down with [Goff] to try and finish drafting this … [and] I think something would come out of this,” Williams stated.

Glennie again expressed his opinion of both Goff’s and the supervisors’ work on behalf of the fire and rescue service agreement.

“The company chiefs have rejected it and refused to sign it,” Glennie insisted. “Mr. Goff’s wording had increased the distrust of the board by company chiefs and further damaged your negotiating position.”

Supervisor John Lesinski, visibly agitated by Glennie’s remarks, asked: “Are you here representing the fire and rescue association when you make those comments about the board?”

“No,” Glennie replied.

“I guess that confused me because later in the agenda,” Lesinski continued, “we have here a ‘thank-you letter’ from the fire and rescue association that says, ‘On behalf of the Rappahannock Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association I want to express our sincere thanks and appreciation for the productive meeting between the board of supervisors and representatives from the association on Wednesday, 15th of February. I believe a tremendous amount of work was accomplished as well as establishing a solid line of communication between the Board and the Association.’

“We are trying ladies and gentleman!” Lesinski added. “And that was a very productive meeting with the chiefs as acknowledged by them . . .”

Indeed, Goff in his brief stated “the agreement is ready to sign,” adding somewhat sarcastically: “I emailed Page Glennie (why is he involved again?) and let him know the language he put in there . . . runs contrary to my recollection of the Chief’s meeting agreement, and that it had to go.”

Monday’s marathon session started at 2 p.m. and ended after 7:30 p.m. Among the board’s actions, unsurprisingly, was passage of a resolution to split the monthly meetings in two to prevent such lengthy sessions.

For a trial period, at future 2 p.m. sessions the board will consider day-to-day county business — presentations by the schools, appropriations, budget information and public comment. The 7 p.m. agenda, usually only scheduled when required public hearings are on the docket, will also include other topical action items, and a second public comment session.

There has been a high demand from citizens who would like to attend supervisor sessions after normal working hours, but Hampton district supervisor Lesinski said he hoped evening sessions would allow more people to also remain in attendance and participate further beyond their initial comments.

“As we are experiencing,” he said, “some folks throw hand grenades out here in the middle of the room and then run down the stairs.”

For this week, public comment went 15 minutes over the allotted 30 minutes and mirrored the agenda with an emphasis on the transition and replacement of outgoing building official and EMS/911 coordinator Richie Burke; the location near Sperryville of a proposed 175-foot EMS communications tower; increasing tourism; government transparency and accountability; and of course Goff’s strongly worded brief and the fire and rescue service agreement.

Among other decisions and discussions at Monday’s session:

  • The board voted to continue its meeting to 9 a.m. today (Thursday, April 6) at the library, focusing on budget review and discussion.
  • Art Candenquist announced during public comment that he will stay on as deputy emergency services coordinator (to much applause) and do his best to fill in for the retiring Burke, at no cost to the county.
  • Supervisor Mike Biniek will attend the monthly BizRapp meeting to help promote tourism, looking to incorporate agritourism and local artisans as part of a broader effort.
  •  Chris Bird was reappointed as the board of zoning appeals’ rep to the planning commision.
  • The board approved the county’s new business credit card policy, 4-1, to help prevent any misuse by those officials who are assigned cards.
  • The broadband committee voted to accept, at no cost to the county, consultation from the Center for Innovative Technology, an organization with experience in rural broadband. The next broadband committee meeting is at 7:30 p.m. April 18 at the library.
  • The board unanimously passed a resolution to increase certain fees at the Amissville trash and recycling center to match Culpeper County rates. Per a longstanding agreement, Culpeper residents may use the Amissville site, but the facility only charges $2 to dispose of a tire, while Culpeper charges $4 to $11.

An unedited video of the supervisors 2 p.m. session on Monday, April 3 can be found online at rappnews.com/video, or on the newspaper’s YouTube channel at youtube.com/RappNewsPlus. The meeting agenda and related documents are online at boarddocs.com/va/corva/Board.nsf/Public.

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