Litigation funds discussed for lawsuits against supervisors
The Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission met in a joint session this week to conduct a public hearing on two changes to the county’s code, both of them amendments that were subsequently approved by the BOS.
The first amendment clarifies the terms of office for Board of Zoning Appeals and BOS representatives who sit on the Planning Commission.
The issue arose in no uncertain terms at the BOS’s February meeting, when the legality of the nomination of David Konick as the Board of Zoning Appeals representative to the Planning Commission was called into question.
The code states that appointees to the Planning Commission from the five magisterial districts are to serve four-year terms. However, it is ambiguous in regard to the terms of the BOS and BZA appointees.
As was pointed out by BZA chair Alex Sharp during the public comment period in February, BZA reps to the Planning Commission have traditionally been appointed or re-appointed annually.
The amendment just approved codifies the one-year appointments (or re-appointments) for Planning Commission members that also serve on the BOS or BZA.
The second amendment to the county code approved in this week’s joint session allows condominium conversions. Sharp told the BOS at its March meeting that he would like to convert the Aileen plant on Aileen Road in Flint Hill into business condos, but the county’s code did not provide for it.
A new paragraph has been added to section 170-47 of the code and Miscellaneous Uses chart in section 170-36 has been amended.
Meanwhile, following the joint session, the BOS took up a discussion of the county’s litigation fund which was created in November 2016 to cover legal expenses incurred in lawsuits against the BOS.
In a suit filed last October, county resident Tom Woolman charges county Supervisor John Lesinski with four counts of violating the state’s Conflict of Interests Act (COIA) by either not disqualifying himself from certain transactions or failing to disclose his economic interests in the transactions, as required by law.
During the times of the alleged violations, Lesinski was chair of the Rappahannock County School Board or else a member of the BOS.
Lesinski is being defended by Robert Mitchell, attorney for the county’s insurance provider VML. Because VML will only cover expenses for defending charges while Lesinski was a supervisor, Lesinski asked the board to consider accessing the litigation fund to pay the rest of Mitchell’s fees.
The question arose in a previous BOS meeting about whether Lesinski could vote for use of the litigation fund, since he is currently being sued. County Attorney Art Goff wrote in an opinion letter, dated March 26, that he felt Lesinski’s voting for the litigation fund use was not itself a conflict of interest.
But during the discussion, Goff advised waiting until he could get a written opinion from Stewart Petoe, Executive Director of the Virginia Conflict of Interest and Ethics Advisory Council. The reason for waiting, he said was that the county has been threatened with another lawsuit.
“I got an email this morning from Mr. Konick and he’s alluding to court action,” Goff said, “and before we go down the road of perhaps setting up additional litigation, I thought it prudent that I recommend to the board that I seek the additional opinion. As you know, in COI cases, the stakes can be rather high. I would feel remiss as the board’s counsel not to suggest that we hold off … for an advisory opinion from Mr. Petoe.”
In a heated exchange, Frazier accused Goff of having a conflict of interest, in that Goff is the Commonwealth’s Attorney as well as the County Attorney.
“I have no conflict of interest whatsoever,” said Goff.
Lesinski agreed to go along with Goff’s advice.
“I would be happy to see what Mr. Petoe has to say,” Lesinski said. “I yield to Mr. Goff.”
Among other items that were on the agenda for the remainder of this week’s afternoon and evening session of the supervisors:
— Piedmont supervisor Christine Smith suggested that the Board resume holding its quarterly public forums. “There is a great interest in our holding less formal meetings for the public,” said Smith.
— Smith requested a discussion about the county’s deteriorating landline service. The Board’s Public Safety Committee asked that letters of complaint be sent to CenturyLink, Verizon, the State Corporation Commission, as well as to the state’s General Assembly delegation, Mike Webert and Mark Obenshain.
— Former interim county administrator Brenda Garton, contracted to complete minutes of past BOS meetings, has begun providing the back minutes. She also discovered that eight sets of minutes previously thought not to be approved, were actually approved by the board, but not included in the minute book in the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office.
— The BOS voted unanimously to re-appoint William Anderson, Jonathon Monroe, Joseph Keyser, and Thomas Taylor to the Rappahannock County Board of Building Appeals, and appoint Jim Racer to fill a vacancy.
— There is currently one vacancy on the Rappahannock County Recreational Facilities Authority as a result of the resignation of James Deal. The vacancy will be announced.
— The Board voted to award a contract to McGlothlin Construction to replace the lower roof on the Sheriff’s office, and authorized the purchase of a new patrol car.
— The County Administrator was authorized to execute an addendum to Culpeper Shared Use of Public-Safety Facilities Agreement.
— The public hearing for VDOT’s Secondary Six Year Plan will be held at the May 7, 2018 BOS meeting.
— There was a discussion about possibly prohibiting through trucks on Water Street in Sperryville.
— County Administrator Garrey Curry reported, among other items, that a new employee had been hired to help Ricky Jenkins with maintenance and repair work around the county and maybe at the schools; the move of county offices to the Visitor Center was complete, except for signage; and the Rappahannock-Rapidan Regional Commission is updating data tables, graphs, and maps for the county’s Comprehensive Plan.
An unedited video of the supervisors 2 p.m. session on Monday, April 2 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.