Judge: ‘I need to acquaint myself with this rather voluminous file’
Attorneys for both sides in the case of Marian Bragg v Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors appeared before Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey W. Parker on Tuesday to determine the outstanding issues that need to be heard.
Bragg’s attorney, David Konick, told the court: “This case has been going on for more than two years. All we want is our day in court.”
The case, known locally as Bragg 1, alleges that the county’s Board of Supervisors violated Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) on several occasions in 2016 by not giving proper public notification before going into closed session.
Another case, known as Bragg 2, alleges that the BOS did not properly advertise and consider candidates for the county administrator in the fall of 2017.
Parker took over both cases in July of this year after Alfred D. Swersky, a substitute judge in Rappahannock’s 20th Judicial Circuit, retired before deciding on outstanding motions in Bragg 1.
Facing the prospect of reviewing hundreds of pages of the nearly 60 documents filed in the case, Parker on July 20 asked County Attorney Art Goff and Konick to help sort out the important issues to consider, so that he could narrow his focus. Many of the documents filed are procedural notices that do not address the content of the case.
“There is so much the court has to absorb,” Parker said. “I need to acquaint myself with this rather voluminous file.”
At Tuesday’s hearing, Goff, Konick and attorney Mike Brown — recently brought on to help Goff — directed Parker’s attention to four major documents and a list of 10 issues to be resolved, two of which were found to be moot.
In a phone call Wednesday, Brown said that the list of outstanding issues includes two responsive pleadings to motions from December 2016 that have never been addressed, as well as several demurrers attacking the basic arguments of the case.
In addition, in early 2017, Swersky placed a stay on discovery “that still remains in place,” said Brown. Konick Tuesday asked that the stay be lifted so that both sides could begin to gather evidence. Parker denied the request until specific issues could be identified, which could happen in a hearing as early as October 4.
Stonewall-Hawthorne supervisor Chris Parrish, named in both Bragg cases, observed the Tuesday hearing. Afterward, in a brief interview, Parrish questioned the merits of the case.
“David [Konick] said that when he opens his file he says he ‘wonders what this case is all about,’” Parrish said. “It just shows that the case has no merit.”
In a phone call Wednesday, Parrish said that about two weeks ago Konick offered to settle the case for $40,000. (In a previous conversation, Goff explained that he didn’t like to settle. “It just invites frivolous lawsuits,” he said).
In yesterday’s phone call, Brown reiterated the desire of all the parties to resolve the case.
“All the parties, including the court, are really determined to get the case to an actual hearing as quickly as possible,” Brown said. “The court doesn’t like cases to languish on its docket for such a long time.”
Konick wrote in an email Wednesday, “We are pleased that finally after two years of delaying tactics by the County, the Court is moving this case forward expeditiously, and that, as Judge Parker stated yesterday in open court a number of times, the Court considers this ‘a serious matter.’”