Anger, accusations surround county planning appointments

Wife of supervisor blasts nominee for ‘demonizing’

Members of the public who attended Monday’s Board of Supervisors’ meeting witnessed early holiday fireworks in the form of personal attacks and accusations of cronyism.

The fiery display came as the BOS took up nominations to fill two Planning Commission vacancies — one in Jackson Supervisor Ron Frazier’s district and one in the Piedmont district represented by Christine Smith.

At the March BOS meeting, Smith nominated Tom Junk, who previously served on the Planning Commission from 1994 to 2006. Traditionally, the board approves another supervisor’s nominee out of courtesy. But that time, in a surprising move, three members of the board voted against Junk, depriving Smith of her choice. She and Frazier — the only two members to vote in favor of Junk — angrily protested, demanding to know why the other members voted against Smith’s nominee. None spoke up.

Instead, by another three-to-two vote, the BOS appointed former Piedmont supervisor Mike Biniek, whom Smith had unseated in November’s election. Biniek filled out former Planning Commission Chair Gary Settle’s term, which ended in June.

Fast forward to Monday’s meeting, when as soon as the agenda item was opened Frazier jumped in to “review the nomination process,” which he said had somehow gotten “sidetracked” from a few months ago. He described a new process in which he, BOS Chair Roger Welch, and County Administrator Garrey Curry met and interviewed together the two applicants for the vacancy in his district — Rick Kohler and Page Glennie.

But Frazier claimed the process turned out to be “a waste of time, as the chair and the board had already made up their minds [on their pick].”

Looking at Stonewall-Hawthorne Supervisor Chris Parrish, Frazier said, “The board doesn’t care about qualifications, but the status quo and cronyism.”

Frazier then nominated Page Glennie, at which point Smith seconded, while Welch objected to Frazier’s characterization.

“I talked to all of you,” Welch said. “There was no going behind your back, coming up with a plan of who was going to vote for who. I have certainly not talked to Mr. [Hampton Supervisor John] Lesinski, Ms. Smith or Chris [Parrish].”

Lesinski reminded the board that some time ago they had decided to solicit applications from the public for the open position.

“[T]his board decided that it would begin to receive applications for these [county] board positions,” Lesinski said. “And so we adopted … an application process. …If anything the process has been more democratic and less cronyism.”

“You are politicizing the planning process,” Frazier shot back. “You are trying to make it some kind of a popularity contest and these people need to work underneath of that, we [the BOS] are the popularity contest if you will.”

Smith jumped in. “I would like to tell you about my personal experience not having my nominee on the Planning Commission,” she said. She said working without Junk was like “working with one hand tied behind my back.”

Lesinski said he felt pressured to defend his vote against Junk. “I did not vote for Mr. Junk because I don’t think he has the proper temperament,” he said. “He has a lot of anger. [On one occasion] he got in my face with a lot of anger. He chose to take the anger method.”

Over the din, Parrish called for the first vote. Glennie was voted down three-to-two, Frazier and Smith casting the only votes in favor.

At which point Parrish nominated Kohler. Frazier objected to Parrish nominating a candidate in Frazier’s district and then lashed out at Welch.

“Your legacy will be cronyism,” Frazier charged. “This is another prime example that you’re being manipulated. You are trying to take away the voice of the people of those districts.”

The vote was called and Kohler won three-to-two along the same lines.

But the show wasn’t over. The board still had to appoint a planner from Smith’s district among three applicants — Junk, Biniek, and late applicant Sherry Cillo.

“It makes my decision difficult,” Smith said before nominating Cillo. Parrish seconded, and the BOS voted unanimously to appoint Cillo.

During the meeting’s public comment period, Heidi Lesinski, the wife of supervisor Lesinski, began her remarks by opposing Glennie’s nomination to the Planning Commission. “On [May 9], 2017, I was on trial in this very courtroom. Page Glennie was there that day to hear the judge announce the not guilty verdict. I repeat, not guilty,” she said, turning and staring down Glennie who sat directly behind her.

In February 2017, Edmund Kavanagh, a former close friend of the Lesinskis, charged Heidi with assault. In a two-and-a-half hour bench trial in Rappahannock County Circuit Court, Judge J. Gregory Ashwell ruled that inconsistencies in witness testimony created enough reasonable doubt as to the actual circumstances surrounding the charge and declared Lesinski not guilty.

Nevertheless, Lesinski said, Glennie attempted to damage her and her husband’s reputations. She read from an October 7, 2017 email allegedly from Glennie to several members of the community: “In my opinion, Heidi and John have no moral compass and are a cancer to our community culture. . . . John’s constituents need to demand that he be removed from any public position. . . . He should be confronted at every public meeting . . . [T]he public must demand the BOS to distance themselves by stripping him of all duties and not paying for his legal defense or allowing the County Attorney to defend him . . . . Anything less should be seen as complicit in this behavior, and worthy of a response in the upcoming election.”

Said Lesinski: “The false charges brought against me were none of Page Glennie’s business but he used them to try to publicly demonize me, to attempt to destroy my reputation and my livelihood, all because of a political agenda.”

An unedited video of the supervisors 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. sessions on Monday, June 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.

About Patty Hardee 227 Articles
Writer, consultant, actor, director, recovering stand-up comic, Patty covers the county’s courts and other topics of interest for Rappahannock News. She lives with her grape-growing husband Bill Freitag in Flint Hill.

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