Money being raised to pay for Ron Frazier’s legal fees
Saying it’s “time to stand with Ron Frazier,” supporters of the Rappahannock supervisor are turning to the crowdfunding platform “GoFundMe” to raise money for his personal legal expenses surrounding alleged FOIA violations by him and certain other members of the BOS in which he alone has admitted guilt.
GoFundMe allows people to raise money for everyday events and life challenging circumstances, from walkathons and school trips to illnesses and funeral expenses. While GoFundMe announced in 2015 that its platform would no longer support legal defense funds, the terms and conditions were changed in late 2017.
The GoFundMe page for the Jackson district supervisor was created on Jan. 16 and has since raised $2,800, surpassing the $2,500 goal. That said, 11 of the 26 donations — totaling $1,625 — are from “Anonymous” donors, and to collect that money under other circumstances Frazier, as an elected official, would have been required to list their names and addresses on his annual disclosure form.
“It’s not necessary,” Frazier answered on Wednesday, explaining that in advance of the GoFundMe page being set up “by a friend” all the instructions were followed and he, as the recipient, contacted a state “conflict of interest counsel . . . and explained very carefully” the circumstances of the fundraising and it was determined there wasn’t an issue.
“It’s a murky area,” said Rappahannock County Commonwealth’s Attorney Art Goff, adding that rules, restrictions and “disclosure requirements” surrounding gifts are spelled out in Virginia’s State and Local Government Conflict of Interests (COIA) Act.
Virginia’s gift laws also prohibit, in part, local and state officials from accepting any money, loan, gift or favor that could be interpreted as influencing him/her in the performance of official duties; or accepting gifts that could raise an appearance of the use of public office for private gain.
Both federal and state governments have more closely examined the GoFundMe platform as it involves elected officers and employees. While the popular site itself doesn’t require names, addresses and occupations of donors, governments for the most part do.
The GoFundMe appeal for Frazier reads: “Ron Frazier Stands Tall For Rappahannock County. Now It’s Time to Stand With Ron Frazier.
“Three members of the Board of Supervisors have spent tens of thousands of dollars paying for legal costs that could have been avoided . . . if they had listened to Ron Frazier. But they didn’t. And, the taxpayers are paying the bills. Now, in retaliation, the Board of Supervisors is legally harassing Ron Frazier and requiring him to personally pay legal expenses that they instigated. If Ron Frazier had played ball with the other supervisors, Ron Frazier wouldn’t be facing this legal harassment.
“Ron Frazier is facing what might be $2,000 or more in legal fees. This is the result of a subpoena he received from the supervisors’ lawyer. When Ron Frazier submitted a $200 bill to pay for legal advice, three supervisors rejected his claim and then went on to pay almost $4,000 for their own monthly legal costs.
“The people of Rappahannock County must stand tall for Ron Frazier. We must help him by raising at least $2,000 to pay for his legal defense costs. Three members of the Board of Supervisors are using legal actions to harass and punish Ron Frazier. Please join with us right now by helping us raise $2,000-plus to pay for Ron Frazier’s legal fees. Act now.”
Both at January’s and this past Monday’s BOS meeting, Frazier became extremely vocal about ongoing taxpayer-funded defense of the county government in the one FOIA-related case, yet his legal expenses are not being paid with the same county litigation funds.
Frazier was initially named as a defendant, but in conjunction with the suit the plaintiff’s attorney, David Konick, offered members of the board an out: any of the supervisors who admitted to the FOIA violation would not be a named party. Only Frazier acknowledged guilt and took the offer. The other supervisors maintain their innocence.
Frazier has insisted he was entitled to county funds for his defense because he has been subpoenaed by the county as a witness — a routine procedure during evidence collection before a trial.
Speaking in support of Frazier at Monday’s BOS meeting, Piedmont Supervisor Christine Smith stated: “I think that it is our responsibility to furnish legal counsel because of the situation we created.”
An amended motion offered by Smith to fund Frazier’s legal bills out of the supervisors’ contingency fund, as opposed to county litigation funds, failed for lack of a second.
Frazier said Wednesday there was no point for him to second the motion, given he was the subject at hand and furthermore the motion would have never received the three votes it required to pass.