Board considers settling one of two Bragg lawsuits
In a three-to-two vote at its July 2 meeting, the Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors rejected authorizing additional funds for legal help for County Attorney Art Goff. But the board subsequently voted to allow Goff to “feel out” what settling one of several lawsuits against the county would entail.
Goff, who is also the county’s Commonwealth’s Attorney, presented a resolution asking the BOS to approve the continued employment of Deputy County Attorney Peter Luke and continued employment of co-counsel Mike Brown, both of whom were previously engaged in the first Bragg v. Board of Supervisors litigation.
Bragg 1, the first of two lawsuits brought against the BOS in September 2016 by Rappahannock resident Marian Bragg, alleges violations of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in the board’s conduct of closed meetings. Bragg 2, which was brought in December 2017, charges that the BOS violated FOIA rules in advertising for and choosing a county administrator.
Goff told the board that he needed additional help because of the workload caused by the two lawsuits as well as other cases he’s currently litigating.
On March 15, 2017, Judge Alfred D. Swersky, a substitute judge in Rappahannock’s 20th Judicial Circuit, denied Bragg’s petition for a declaratory judgment and enforcement of FOIA by the county’s Board of Supervisors, finding that certain procedural aspects of the complaint had not been met.
Bragg’s attorney, David Konick, appealed the ruling to the Virginia Supreme Court, which in May reversed Swersky’s ruling and remanded the case back to the Rappahannock Circuit Court.
“In Bragg 1,” Goff told the board, “there are several motions before the circuit court that Judge Swersky never decided.” These need to be cleared up, he said, before the case can move forward.
Goff described the time-consuming, behind-the-scenes actions and paperwork that need to be done to prepare for the case. Certain motions were argued in Rappahannock County Circuit Court on July 9, but a date to hear the case has not been set. In addition, he said he needed to prepare for a three-day murder trial set to start next month.
“And now Mr. Konick is trying to draw me into the Woolman case,” Goff said. That case, brought by Amissville resident Tom Woolman, charges Hampton Supervisor John Lesinski with several violations of the state’s Conflict of Interest Act (COIA).
Before voting on the resolution, Jackson Supervisor Ron Frazier asked, “What is the county government’s issue at stake here?”
“If [Bragg] were to prevail substantially on the issues,” said Goff, “there could be a substantial award of attorney’s fees, so it could be a threat to the county’s fiscal [situation].”
Frazier, Piedmont supervisor Christine Smith and Chair Roger Welch voted against the resolution. Lesinski and Parrish voted in favor.
(See related story about both Bragg cases and the Woolman case on page A1)
Bragg 1 Settlement?
Frazier then moved to authorize Goff to meet with Konick to explore what settling Bragg 1 would entail. Four supervisors voted in favor of what Welch described as “feeling out a settlement.” Lesinski abstained from the vote.
“I don’t have enough information as to what that would mean,” Lesinski said.
In an email Tuesday, Goff indicated that he had approached Konick to discuss a potential settlement.
“Mr. Konick did not provide me with a dollar figure, although I have asked him for it,” Goff said.
Other BOS business
Also at the July 2 meeting, the supervisors:
- Voted unanimously to appoint local real estate agent Cheri Woodard to the Rappahannock County Water and Sewer Authority.
- Agreed to advertise two open positions on the Agricultural and Forestal Districts Advisory Committee.
- Heard an update from County Administrator Garrey Curry on deteriorating landline service. Curry said he had received a call from the office of Virginia state Senator Mark Obenshain saying that the senator’s staff had been in touch with CenturyLink. The staff urged the telephone company to meet with Rappahannock County officials to resolve residents’ complaints of phone outages and poor service response.
- Voted unanimously to approve a resolution to authorizing the Chairman of the Board to execute a lease agreement with Community Wireless Structures for tower space on their proposed tower site on Woodward Road in Sperryville. (See story on page A1.)
An unedited video of the supervisors 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.sessions on Monday, July 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.