In a petition filed this Monday (Oct. 2) in Rappahannock County Circuit Court, Amissville resident Tom Woolman accuses Hampton district supervisor John Lesinski of repeatedly violating Virginia’s conflict of interest regulations.
Woolman’s petition, which asks for a declaratory judgement and the court’s enforcement of the state Conflicts of Interest Act (COIA), also requests the appointment of a special prosecutor or grand jury and Lesinski’s removal from office. Woolman is represented by local attorney David Konick.
The petition was served by Major John Arstino of the Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Office just hours before the board of supervisors was set to hear and vote on two controversial proposals. One of the proposals — seeking county support for a multi-use trail that would eventually link Washington and Sperryville — was cited in the petition as one of four counts of Lesinski’s alleged violations of COIA.
Lesinski has 21 days in which to respond to the petition. When asked to comment, Lesinski replied in an email Tuesday, “At this time legal counsel has recommended I make no statements.”
The four counts in the petition outline specific instances when Lesinski — as a member and chairman of the Rappahannock County School Board before being elected to the supervisor post in 2015 — allegedly violated COIA by either not disqualifying himself from certain transactions or failing to disclose his economic interests in the transactions, as required by law.
Lesinski, a licensed Virginia real estate agent, is a senior vice president at Colliers International, a global real estate brokerage, and the listing agent for the Blue Rock Inn, an 80-acre property that sits directly across Lee Highway from the county high school.
Although the petition states that Lesinski’s wife, Heidi Lesinski, a real estate agent with Century21/New Millennium, is co-broker for the Blue Rock Inn, it does not name her as a co-respondent. According to COIA, officers or employees of local government must also abide by the law, if their immediate family members have economic interests in certain transactions.
Count One alleges that while Lesinski served on the school board, the board entered into negotiations in 2014 and 2015 with Community Wireless Structures to lease high school property for the placement of a communications cell tower. After opposition from the community to the cell tower, the school board voted 3-2 not to sign a contract with CWS. Lesinski cast one of the two votes in favor of the contract.
(In 2014, Eric Tollefson of Sperryville filed a Circuit Court suit alleging the school board had violated Virginia Freedom of Information Act regulations in its negotiations with CWS. Tollefson was also represented by Konick in that suit, which was settled out of court by the school board after it declined to enter the contract with CWS. Konick has also in recent years filed Circuit Court petitions, or represented clients who filed them, alleging FOIA, Conflict of Interest Act and procurement law violations by the town of Washington and the Inn at Little Washington.)
Woolman’s petition asserts that had the CWS contract gone through, the added cell and internet capacity would have enhanced the value of the Blue Rock property, and thus Lesinski should have disclosed his interests and recused himself from the transaction.
A similar claim is made in Count Two, that the recently proposed Rappahannock multi-use trail — which its private organizers hope will ultimately connect Washington with Sperryville — would also enhance the value of the Blue Rock Inn, and that Lesinski should have disclosed his interests and refrained from voting on the proposal. At the close of Monday’s nearly five-hour public hearing on the trail, he voted along with his fellow supervisors to approve the trail, the first segment of which will span the mile and a half between the county’s elementary and high schools.
Count Three refers to the supervisors’ consideration of improvements to the county landfill in Amissville in 2016. “The proposal involved an associate of Respondent Lesinski at Colliers, the son of the then Rappahannock County Attorney, Peter H. Luke,” according to the petition.
Lesinski did recuse himself from discussions of the landfill improvements, but did not, according to the petition, “make any of the required disclosures about the nature of his personal interest in the transaction.”
Count Four cites a previous legal action in which the BOS was accused of violating the Virginia Freedom of Information (FOI) Act. That petition was brought Nov. 7, 2016, by county resident and llama farmer Marian Bragg, also represented by Konick. Konick has appealed the case to the Virginia Supreme Court after Bragg’s petition was dismissed in August by Rappahannock County Circuit Court Judge Alfred D. Swersky.
Woolman’s grounds for alleging a conflict of interest include Lesinski’s vote — along with three other members of the board — to authorize $100,000 in county funds to cover legal fees as a result of Bragg’s petition.
Count Five requests the appointment of a special prosecutor or grand jury, as “Rappahannock County Commonwealth’s Attorney [Art] Goff also serves concurrently as County Attorney for Rappahannock County and as Respondent Lesinski’s personal defense counsel in the Bragg case.”
(However, the supervisors convened a special meeting in August and voted unanimously to authorize the appointment of an outside lawyer to defend the board in an appeal to the Supreme Court of Virginia.)
Count Six of Woolman’s petition demands Lesinski’s removal from office.
When asked if Goff would be defending him, Lesinski referred the Rappahannock News to Goff, who did not return a phone call.
Heidi Lesinski also declined to comment in a phone call Tuesday. And attempts to reach Woolman for comment have been unsuccessful. When asked for a statement in a phone call Tuesday, Konick said, “I think the petition speaks for itself.”