Data breach, wrong vehicle tag, and an invasive drone top
Monday’s regular monthly meeting of the Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors provided plenty of fodder and a few fireworks, including two supervisors firing back at those who are repeatedly critical of the county government’s management.
But first, board chairman Roger Welch got the ball rolling by announcing that he’s been the victim of an internet-based “scam,” or data breach, in which an unknown hacker stole his computer password and sent emails to fellow supervisors asking that a “consulting fee” be paid to a fabricated party. Welch said he’s since created a more secure password.
County resident Deak Deakins, meanwhile, informed the supervisors that a drone recently invaded his privacy. Deakins said he watched in amazement as the drone flew past his Rock Mills property, then turned and flew back until it was adjacent to his home, where it stopped and hovered at a peering angle for 10 minutes. He issued a warning to the drone’s unidentified pilot that he has since consulted with the authorities, and the next time it or any other drone pays him a visit a major portion of the “fleet” will be brought down.
In another matter, it was revealed that somebody purchased a state tag for the wrong surplus U.S. Army cargo truck in Sperryville — one of two the county purchased in 2016 under unusual circumstances that are now a part of an unresolved State Police investigation.
As a result, until officials in Richmond can clear up the error, the Sperryville Volunteer Fire Department — where both trucks remain parked — cannot be reimbursed by the county the $2,000 it paid for one of the purchases. One truck was purchased for $5,300, the other for $2,000, and they were ostensibly to be used during medical emergencies to plow any snow that VDOT crews might not have reached.
When it came her turn to speak, Rappahannock County Schools Superintendent Shannon Grimsley told the board that she was extremely relieved that last month’s otherwise terrifying school bus accident on Lee Highway in Sperryville, which resulted in 11 minor injuries, wasn’t worse. Among the positive outcomes, she said, was that it “brought our community even closer together.”
Supervisor John Lesinski echoed Grimsley, praising numerous first responders for a “commendable job.” He pointed out that Engine 1 of the Washington Volunteer Fire and Rescue was on the accident scene within “two minutes” of the first emergency call, while Chester Gap Volunteer Fire Department reached the location in 19 minutes.
And speaking of the county’s volunteer fire departments, a request to replace the county’s current electronic road sign with a high-tech flashing screen measuring as much as 8 by 10 feet — warning of Amber, codeRED, and weather alerts — was sent to the planning commission for review. County resident and retired Virginia Beach firefighter Ron Makela spoke against the purchase, saying such cutting edge signage is “not needed in Rappahannock County.”
Which no doubt made Page Glennie happy. This time, the outspoken Amissville resident carried his own whiteboard to the afternoon session of the BOS, proceeding to draw a line chart of the “County Staffing Situation,” including his take on workload and production since John McCarthy retired as administrator and a current “hiring spree” to pick up the slack.
In addition, Glennie handed the supervisors his own “Rappahannock County Government To Do List,” which spelled out everything from long range financial planning to inventory and records management.
In a commentary piece published in this newspaper last week, Glennie opined that the county government was “in quicksand and sinking fast” because of a spending spree, especially for new hires that include incoming County Administrator Garrey W. Curry, Jr.
But two supervisors at Monday’s meeting — Lesinski and Chris Parrish — gave four thumbs up to the county’s government operations, pointing out for starters that there hasn’t been a county tax increase for the last four years.
Rappahannock County employees, added Lesinski to considerable applause, are doing a “pretty damn fine job.” And then addressing Glennie in particular, the supervisor shot back that the “ship is not going to the bottom” — there is no “quicksand.”
“Good government is expensive, bad government is more expensive,” Lesinski reminded those in attendance. “You can’t do it on the cheap.”
For too long, he continued, “too few people were doing too many things” in their county positions.
Regarding volunteers picking up some of the workload, as some outside observers have suggested, Lesinski agrees that volunteerism has its place in government, including presently in Rappahannock County, but with major government operations “there needs to be accountability. There’s no accountability with a volunteer staff.”
Parrish weighed in that any county that is purposely as unpopulated as Rappahannock, with only 7,300 people despite being the western edge of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region, will always have its “fixed costs,” but he said that’s the price people must pay to “enjoy the life we have here.”
Speaking of the county’s residents, and in particular its majority aging population, the county’s new Social Services Director Jennifer Parker told the supervisors that her office is considering creating an adult foster care home for Rappahannock.
Adult foster care homes are increasingly popular around the United States. Also known as board and care homes, they allow varying degrees of daily assistance, medical or otherwise, for senior citizens and adults with disabilities.
As for the fireworks, Rappahannock County Commonwealth’s Attorney Art Goff noted that besides his normal workload and official out of town travel, he’s begun prosecuting a rare murder case in Rappahannock while also facing an upcoming extensive dental procedure. So in an addendum to Monday’s agenda, he requested authorization to execute a “part-time” employment agreement with former Rappahannock County Attorney Peter Luke.
“I need a backstop” during the period, Goff explained, adding that he did not anticipate Luke working more than 8 hours per week. But having a “backup,” especially in the mold of Luke with his “institutional knowledge,” would help cover any legal issues that could arise during Goff’s absence.
After much protest by Supervisor Ron Frazier, who saw fit to point out that the county has been “very good” to Luke over the years, and he should now once and for all “retire” — the board voted 4 to 1, with Frazier voting nay, to allow the motion.
Frazier, on the other hand, argued that any “no” vote to an “addendum” item on the agenda, such as this one, means that it failed. Debate ensued for minutes on end, until Goff himself overruled and the motion passed.
“This is wrong,” Frazier shouted, complaining the addendum was “railroaded through.”
“I’m protesting in the strongest terms possible,” he stated.
In other action, the proposed amended budget for FY 17-18 was adopted; county resident Caroline Brown-Butler, the lone speaker during the evening session, was assured that the board has “no intentions” of removing the county’s Civil War monuments; and finally the board approved an extension of interim Administrator Brenda Garton’s contract through Jan. 31, 2018, so that it overlaps for one month with incoming Administrator Curry.
When Frazier wondered out loud how much work there really is to do in the administrator’s office, and won’t both administrators be idle during the overlap, Garton invited Frazier to come sit in for a day.
— Luke Christopher contributed this story
An unedited video of the supervisors 2 p.m. session on Monday, Dec. 4 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.