Two supervisors wait until last moment to announce absences at special meeting
Lawsuit related proceedings cancelled for lack of quorum
A Special Meeting of the Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors scheduled for 2 p.m. last Thursday, Jan. 11, surrounding defending the latest lawsuit filed against the county government, was abruptly canceled after two supervisors informed county officials at the last moment that they would be no-shows.
Those same two absentee supervisors — Ron Frazier and Christine Smith — are now proposing another Special Meeting, likely to be held next week, to discuss “settlement alternatives” to several lawsuits against the county and its taxpayers.
Last Thursday’s meeting agenda at the Rappahannock County Visitors Center included a 30-minute public comment period, to be followed by the supervisors voting on a resolution to authorize County Attorney Art Goff “to represent Board Members, former Board Member, and former Interim County Administrator sued in individual capacities in Marian M. Bragg vs. Board of Supervisors, Respondents, et al. Case No. 17-000204 pending in the Circuit Court of Rappahannock County.”
But there was the one major problem: only two of the five supervisors bothered to show up — chairman Roger Welch of the Wakefield District and John Lesinski of the Hampton District.
County Attorney Goff was on hand. As was private attorney David Konick, who in effect was responsible for the meeting, given it is he who is once again suing — once again on behalf of llama farmer Bragg — the county government.
Newly installed County Administrator Garrey Curry and former Interim County Administrator Brenda Garton were there, waiting in their official capacities to call the meeting to order, while Amissville resident Page Glennie stood ready in one corner with his video camera.
Washington Mayor John Fox Sullivan, no stranger to Konick and the attorney’s previous lawsuits against the town, the Inn at Little Washington, and Trinity Episcopal Church, took a seat in the audience, and several county residents sat or stood in the doorway. A reporter for the Rappahannock News was also in attendance.
But as the clock struck 2 came the surprising announcement from Garton: “No quorum,” she said, apologizing to everybody who took time out of their day to show up.
Two supervisors do not make a quorum, she explained, which in the case of Rappahannock County is the minimum number of board members who must be present to transact business.
“This is ridiculous how this county operates, I’m damn fed up,” one unidentified woman complained to anybody who would listen, as she and everybody else slowly filed from the meeting room, got into their cars and drove off.
Garton, one of the defendants in Konick’s lawsuit, later told this newspaper that her office learned at the last moment — “literally” — that Frazier and Smith would not be in attendance.
“We knew one [supervisor] wouldn’t be there,” she said, referring to Vice Chair Chris Parrish of the Stonewall-Hawthorne district, who is vacationing in Florida.
Garton explained that as she and Curry were preparing to leave their Gay Street office for the off-site meeting they received word from newly elected Supervisor Smith of the Piedmont district that she would not be attending.
However, Garton and Curry knew that the county required only three supervisors to be present for a quorum, so as far as they were concerned the meeting was a go. But after they reached the county Visitor’s Center to call the meeting to order, Garton said, word came from Jackson Supervisor Ron Frazier that he wasn’t coming, either.
Why the pair of no-shows waited until the last minute to alert the county to their absences was not explained to those who had assembled for the meeting. But in an email to this newspaper, Frazier offered: “On the called meeting, Chris is in Florida. I am home sick, not sure about Christine, maybe a conflict at work?”
Smith, who this newspaper reached by email, explained that “with the repercussions of the freezing rain on Monday, and other circumstances that I can’t discuss, I simply was not able to attend the meeting as planned. As it was, I didn’t get home until 7 p.m. that evening. If at all possible, I would have been there.”
That said, both absentee supervisors are now together proposing a Special Meeting to discuss various lawsuit “settlement alternatives.”
In addition, their draft states, the meeting would “discuss and authorize appropriate action regarding pending litigation — Marian M. Bragg v Board of Supervisors of Rappahannock, et. al [case -180]. . . . Thomas A. Woolman v. Lesinski [case -155]. . . Marian M. Bragg v. Board of Supervisors of Rappahannock, et. al. [case -204] . . . ”
Also contained in the draft, which was signed by both Frazier and Smith, is a request for action authorizing an appropriation from the county’s “Litigation fund . . . to pay for counsel for the individual respondents that do not wish to be represented by the County Attorney . . . .”
Reached by telephone Wednesday for an explanation, Frazier told this newspaper that it was “difficult for one party to represent the six different individuals [listed as defendants in the latest lawsuit] and I would prefer to have outside counsel because I believe the county is suffering from not having objective legal opinions.”
The draft of the two supervisors’ call for a special meeting was obtained by the Rappahannock News. However it was still not posted in the county’s BoardDocs by the time newspaper went to press Wednesday afternoon, so its status is unclear.
As reported by the News earlier this month — just in time for the new year — Garton along with Welch, Parrish, Frazier, Lesinski, and then-supervisor Mike Biniek, are all being sued by Bragg for allegedly violating Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act.
A llama farmer in Gid Brown Hollow, the resident filed her petition for declaratory judgement in Rappahannock County Circuit Court on December 28 — her second suit against the BOS for allegedly violating FOIA. The first one, filed in March 2016, is awaiting a hearing before the Virginia Supreme Court.
This latest petition, ironically, alleges “knowing and willful violation” of FOIA regulations in connection with the process of hiring the new county administrator, Garrey Curry.
If we didn’t say so before, welcome sir to Rappahannock County.