Battling FOIA lawsuits, Rappahannock supervisors wary of ‘closed meetings’

Amissville’s Page Glennie subpoenaed in Bragg 1 case against county

An agenda item on Monday requested by Rappahannock County Supervisor Ron Frazier called for BOS members to go into a “closed meeting” for an unnamed county employee performance discussion.

A majority of supervisors declined.

“It seems like every time we go into a closed session we get sued,” observed Stonewall-Hawthorne District Supervisor Chris Parrish, a defendant in Marian Bragg v Rappahannock Board of Supervisors, or commonly referred to in this specific case as Bragg 1.

Having filed two lawsuits against the county, the local llama farmer alleges that the BOS violated Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) on several occasions in 2016 by not giving proper public notification before going into closed session.

“I’m not sure what this is about, or who this is about, maybe it’s not proper to disclose that here, however I do agree that there is a process for a performance review,” responded Hampton District Supervisor John Lesinski, who like Parrish is a defendant in Bragg 1.

“I’m concerned that if you just jump into a closed session . . . this particular member may not even know we are talking about them, or they may not even be there when we speak about them, which would be opening ourselves up to anything from a grievance to a lawsuit.”

At which point in a majority vote, the supervisors made it clear they were staying put where the public could see them.

Still on the topic of Bragg 1, meanwhile, outspoken Amissville resident Page Glennie stood before the Supervisors during the public comment period and directed his questions and comments specifically to BOS Chairman Roger Welch, also a defendant in Bragg 1, and Supervisors Parrish and Lesinski.

“Are you aware that your legal team subpoenaed me for ‘all communications between you and any person, entity or organization?’” Glennie asked.

“Aside from the overly broad and burdensome nature of that subpoena, please explain how a private citizen that was not present during your closed session could possibly have any information that would aid in your ‘burden of proof.’Are you aware that I have no responsibility to retain any records associated with the Bragg 1 lawsuit?

“Your legal team’s actions, and consequently yours, appear to me as harassment and retaliation for my critical public comments, potentially subject to criminal penalties under 2.2-3013 paragraph 10,” the citizen warned. “That statute lists ‘Prohibited Conduct’ as ‘Use his public position to retaliate or threaten to retaliate against any person or expressing views on matters of public concern.’”

Before he finished speaking, Glennie took a swipe at Rappahannock County Commonwealth’s Attorney Art Goff, who assisted by outside counsel retained by the county government is representing the BOS members being sued by the Rappahannock farmer.

“Later today, in your closed session, you are to discuss employee performance,” Glennie stated. “I hope Mr. Goff is on that list. His poor legal advice is having a significant cost to taxpayers and a significant impact on the acrimonious nature of county politics.”

Lesinksi, who perceived Glennie’s remark as suggesting that Goff could have been the subject of the never-held employee performance evaluation, shot back at the Rappahannock resident.

“Mr. Glennie, how did you know the performance review today was on Mr. Goff?” wondered Lesinski.

“I didn’t,” replied Glennie, repeating that in his remarks he said he “hoped” that Goff was on the list.

“I guess my only point is that we’ll never know now who the closed session was going to be about because we won’t be able to have a closed session,” said Piedmont District Supervisor Christine Smith. “I don’t understand everyone’s reluctance to enter a closed session, and I don’t know what it was about, but I was willing to see.”

About John McCaslin 449 Articles
John McCaslin is the editor of the Rappahannock News. Email him at editor@rappnews.com.

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