More steps were taken this week toward the likely end of legal battles between the Inn at Little Washington and local attorney David Konick, who last year filed a series of legal challenges against the Inn, the town of Washington and Trinity Episcopal Church for their actions in 2013 to begin street, parking and landscape improvements around Main and Middle streets.
Last Friday (June 8), the Supreme Court of Virginia rejected Konick’s appeal of the local circuit court’s dismissal of his initial suits. And, after its regular public meeting this Monday (June 13), the Washington Town Council in closed session agreed to seek an agreement Konick requested that any further legal action between the town and him be waived.
Washington Mayor John Sullivan said Tuesday that the council “decided in closed session to empower Town Attorney John Bennett to discuss and hopefully come to an agreement with Mr. Konick, as requested by him, concerning the suit and countersuit between Mr. Konick and the Inn at Little Washington. The agreement would be that neither the town nor Mr. Konick would sue the other over the issues raised in these suits. Whatever agreement is reached, assuming there’s an agreement, would then come before the town council at our next meeting July 5 — not in closed session but in the public session, to be approved.”
Konick brought the suits in early 2015 against the Inn at Little Washington and Patrick O’Connell, the Inn’s owner and chef, the town and the church (which owns the parking lot at Main and Middle leased by the Inn), accusing them of procurement and conflict of interest improprieties and violation of the constitutional ban against church-state transactions. The Inn and O’Connell then countersued Konick for abuse of process.
[Editor’s Note: A headline in last week’s Rappahannock News incorrectly stated that a settlement had been made — in the one remaining lawsuit that has yet to be heard in open court, that being the Inn’s countersuit against Konick. It should have said, as the article did, that parties were working toward settlement.]
An additional legal petition was dismissed last month by Rappahannock County Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey W. Parker. That was Konick’s appeal of a decision late last year by the Commonwealth Transportation Board to uphold VDOT’s administrative removal of the stub end of Middle Street west of Main from state maintenance, as requested by the town, thus clearing the way for the Inn to continue improvements it had already begun, following the town’s 2013 decision to vacate the street and deed the property to the Inn.
In a June 2 appearance in Circuit Court, Konick and Tom Junker, an attorney representing the Inn, told Parker the parties were working toward a settlement, the details of which would not be made public. The town council, which is not a party to the suits between Konick and the Inn, was asked by Konick to agree to seek no further legal remedies involving the issues of the 2013 “Town Beautification Project.”
Supreme Court refuses Konick’s appeal
The settlement announcement came days before the Virginia Supreme Court ruled on Konick’s petition to appeal Parker’s ruling, which held that Konick, as a non-resident of Washington, did not have standing to bring the suits. (As long as the decision was pending, the door was still open for Konick’s appeal.) He appeared before a three–judge panel in Richmond April 5 after submitting a 41-page petition in December.
The state high court’s 50-word statement issued June 8 said: “Upon review of the record of this case and consideration of the argument submitted in support of and in opposition to the granting of an appeal, the Court is of the opinion there is no reversible error in the judgment complained of. Accordingly, the Court refuses the petition for appeal.”
In an email statement sent Tuesday (June 14), Konick wrote: “Unfortunately, this means the underlying facts and circumstances of what the Town did in this case will never be subjected to scrutiny on the merits by any court. That is the only relief from the Town I ever requested — declaratory judgment and, if applicable, enforcement of applicable law. I never sought any attorney’s fees or damages of any kind. The Town successfully thwarted any judicial review of what they did, so I don’t see how the Supreme Court’s decision affirming that as a non-resident, I didn’t have standing to challenge what they did is anything but a pyrrhic victory for them.”
Konick and Junker said last week that although the parties are working on a settlement, some of the details are contained in sealed documents in the circuit court clerk’s office — per a protective order — and are not available to the public. (Typically, the only public record of a lawsuit settlement is the court’s orders that the legal actions are dismissed; any settlement between parties occurs outside the court and is most often covered by confidentiality agreements.)
A motion filed by Konick May 5 outlined the history of his requests for documents “tailored to discover information related to damages arising from the alleged abuse of process,” according to the motion. His first request was filed Jan. 9 and was answered Jan. 28 when the Inn filed an amended complaint asserting that damages exceeded $50,000 in legal fees and other costs.
In a phone call June 15, Junker said, “Mr. Konick asked for documents supporting our claim of damages. We produced documents backing up our claim of expenses, primarily attorney’s fees, incurred defending his prior actions which we claimed were abuse of process.”