Judge dismisses three of five counts brought by citizen against supervisor

Lesinski: ‘I am very pleased that the judge sustained our demurrers’

Konick: ‘This is a tremendous defeat for certain Rappahannock County officials’

Rappahannock County Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey W. Parker has dismissed three of the five counts in a suit brought by Amissville resident Tom Woolman against John Lesinski, the county’s Hampton district supervisor.

Woolman’s amended petition outlines specific instances when Lesinski — as a member and chairman of the Rappahannock County School Board before being elected to the supervisor post in 2015 — allegedly violated the Conflict of Interest Act (COIA) by either not disqualifying himself from certain transactions or failing to disclose his economic interests in the transactions, as required by law.

In the dismissed counts, Parker ruled that Art Goff as both Commonwealth’s Attorney and County Attorney is not conflicted out of his duty to enforce the county’s laws, and that Goff and Lesinski did not conspire to deprive Woolman of his civil rights. The counts were dismissed with prejudice, meaning that Woolman cannot bring further action on those matters.

One notable change from a previous ruling by Parker has to do with Woolman’s standing — or right to sue. In his opinion letter of April 9, 2018, Parker determined that Woolman did not have standing in “a purely Declaratory Judgment proceeding.”

However, since that time, Woolman amended his petition to seek a writ of mandamus instead of declaratory judgment. Parker in his most recent letter, overturns his previous ruling and allows Woolman’s standing.

As to the other two counts, the first has to do with Lesinski’s failure to list the name and address of the county landfill, in actions where Lesinski had an alleged economic interest. Parker writes: “This matter can, in all probability, be easily remedied. . . . However, in viewing this in the light most favorable to the Petitioner the Court will overrule the Demurrer on this point and allow the matter to proceed on this issue.”

In the second count, the issue is whether Lesinski had a conflict in his role as supervisor in voting for the payment of legal fees in two other cases being brought before the BOS.

Parker writes “the matter cannot be fully resolved until all pleadings, evidence and argument in response is received.”

In an email Tuesday, Lesinski said, “I am very pleased that the judge sustained our demurrers on counts 3, 4 and 5 and dismissed them with prejudice. My counsel is still looking at counts one and two to determine if further legal action is needed.”

Wrote Woolman’s lawyer David Konick in an email Tuesday: “This is a tremendous defeat for certain Rappahannock County officials who are in the bad habit of disobeying the law and then trying to hide behind legal technicalities. The Court reversed its April ruling and agreed that Mr. Woolman has standing to seek enforcement of the Conflicts Act as a voter, and Lesinski’s demurrers on the two main issues of the case were overruled. That’s a terrific win for my client. The Conflicts Act is clear as a bell: the required declarations must be made before or at every meeting where the transaction is discussed and must be recorded in the minutes of every meeting.

“Anyone who attended them, watched [the meeting] videoes or who can read the minutes of these meetings knows that Mr. Lesinski never made any of the required declarations before, at or within one business day after those meetings. We are looking forward to the trial of this case and putting all that irrefutable evidence of his Conflicts Act violations before the Court.”

And then this from Konick: “As it now appears, whether or not Mr. Lesinski ultimately will be removed from office as the Conflicts Act provides will have to await the ultimate decision of the Supreme Court of Virginia.”

About Patty Hardee 256 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.