By Alfred S. Regnery
David Konick has earned a reputation in Rappahannock County as the self-appointed guardian of virtue in government, and has chosen litigation as his primary tool. His lawsuits, usually correctly referred to as frivolous, serve no purpose other than to disrupt local government, distract local officials from serving the residents and taxpayers of the county, and keeping Mr. Konick’s name in the news.
There is an old saying among lawyers that a bad settlement is better than a good lawsuit. And any attorney worth his salt knows that like wars, lawsuits should only be started as a last resort and after all other options have been exhausted. They are expensive, the results often uncertain, and they usually leave a bad taste in the mouths of all parties. And it is elementary that a lawsuit should serve the interests of a party or client, not the interests of the lawyer. Mr. Konick ignores all those rules. Any merit that may exist is just a vehicle to justify the case, suits are filed before Mr. Konick has even discussed a settlement, he never exhausts his other options, and if he has a client, it is one he has recruited and convinced to sign his papers in his stead.
The Rules of Professional Conduct of the State Bar of Virginia state:
A lawyer’s conduct should conform to the requirements of the law, both in professional service to clients and in the lawyer’s business and personal affairs. A lawyer should use the law’s procedures only for legitimate purposes and not to harass or intimidate others. A lawyer should demonstrate respect for the legal system and for those who serve it, including judges, other lawyers and public officials. While it is a lawyer’s duty, when necessary, to challenge the rectitude of official action, it is also a lawyer’s duty to uphold legal process.
In light of those rules, it is instructive to take a quick look of some of Mr. Konick’s recent lawsuits: readers can draw their own conclusions:
- In Marion Bragg v Board of Supervisors of Rappahannock County et al, Konick sued the County Board of Supervisors and five of its six members individually for violation of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. The County has spent over $30,000 in attorneys fees so far, and the County Attorney and other county officials have spent several hundred hours defending it. Konick lost the case, but appealed it to the Virginia Supreme Court, where it will be argued this summer. The County has hired an outside law firm to argue that case in the Supreme Court; the cost is capped at $7,000. Benefit to the taxpayers: Nothing.
- In Konick v. Town of Washington, VA et al, Konick sued the Town of Washington, over the sale of a stub street to the Inn at Little Washington and for payment, by the town, to the local Episcopal Church for the improvement of its parking lot. Konick lost the case and the Court imposed sanctions against him. Cost to Town of Washington taxpayers: More than $50,000. Benefit to taxpayers: Nothing.
- In Konick v. Board of Zoning Appeals of Rappahannock County and Jennifer Matthews, Individually, Konick, who is a member of the BZA, sued the BZA two separate times over a special use permit. When the cases became moot, the BZA directed Konick to have them dismissed. Attorneys fees paid by the County: $6570. Benefit to taxpayers: Nothing.
- In Marion Bragg vs Board of Supervisors of Rappahannock County et al, (known as Bragg II) Konick sued the Board of Supervisors, the Acting County Administrator and each of the members of the board individually for violation of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act when it hired the new County Administrator. The case is still pending. The case is being defended by outside counsel and paid for by the County’s Insurance carrier, which has a $100,000 limit; anything in excess will be paid by the taxpayers. Additionally, the County Attorney has spent about 20 hours on the case. As any driver who has been in an accident knows, insurance companies cancel coverage, or raise the rates, where more claims are likely to be filed. Benefit to County taxpayers: Nothing.
- In Woolman v. John Lesinski, Konick sued County Supervisor John Lesinski to force Lesinski to be recused from voting on matters concerning the proposed bike path, on the grounds that Lesinski’s wife is the realtor for property being sold across Highway 211 from the route of the proposed bike path. The case is pending. The County is responsible for defending the case and hired outside counsel to represent Lesinski; attorney’s fees are being paid by the County’s insurance company. Benefit to the taxpayers: Nothing.
- In Konick v Inn at Little Washington, Konick sued The Inn and its proprietor, Patrick O’Connell, the largest employer in the County, to void the Little Washington “Town Square Beautification Project” and to require that $20,000, appropriated by the Town of Little Washington, be returned to the Town. The Circuit Court dismissed the case and imposed sanctions on Konick. Cost to the Inn at Little Washington is unknown, but is estimated to be between $50,000 and $100,000. Benefits to anybody: Nothing.
In addition to the direct expense, County employees have spent countless hours collecting information for Mr. Konick’s many Freedom of Information requests — hours that could have been spent on useful activities, all to fulfill requests that returned no benefit to taxpayers.
As long as this string of lawsuits continues, Rappahannock County taxpayers will finance Mr. Konick’s publicity-seeking and unprofessional conduct. And a word to the wise: don’t expect any return on your tax dollars.
— The writer lives outside the town of Washington
Editor’s note: In Konick v. Town of Washington, VA et al, the Town of Washington spent $72,090.16 on attorney fees, not including the hours spent by town employees defending against the lawsuit.