Harris Hollow resident George M. Sonnett, Jr., is appealing to Virginia’s Supreme Court his recently dismissed court case against Rappahannock County government officials.
Robert T. “Bob” Mitchell, Jr., a Winchester lawyer representing the county in Sonnett’s lawsuit alleging violations of Virginia’s Conflict of Interest Act (COIA), informed his clients on Tuesday that the dismissed case was now heading to Richmond for possible consideration by the state justices.
The suit was brought some six months ago by Sonnett against three county Board of Supervisors — Chair Roger Welch (Wakefield), Chris Parrish (Stonewall-Hawthorne), and John Lesinski (Hampton) — as well as County Attorney Art Goff.
It was dismissed last month during legal proceedings when Rappahannock Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey W. Parker sustained one dispositive demurrer.
“We are disappointed that Judge Parker chose to protect the lawyers involved in the case instead of protecting the citizens’ right under the Conflicts Act to be assured their elected officials are acting in the best interest of the citizens and not in their own self-interest,” Sonnett wrote by email to the Rappahannock News on Wednesday.
“We are hopeful that the Virginia Supreme Court will see this case as an opportunity to resolve this and other legal issues in this case, such as whether it is proper for Mr. Goff to serve two masters,” Sonnett said.
Washington attorney David Konick is counsel for Sonnett, who is Assistant Town Attorney for Front Royal. Sonnett stressed that he filed the suit as a citizen of Rappahannock.
Mitchell appeared in court in April for legal arguments on demurrers he filed on behalf of the board and each respondent board member, as did counsel for Goff. Upon conclusion of the arguments Judge Parker sustained the demurrers to the entire case, dismissing it with prejudice.
In his Petition for Declaratory Judgment, Sonnett charged county officials with violating COIA on several occasions in 2018 when considering the appointment of Peter Luke as Deputy County Attorney — ironically to help handle the workload of previous lawsuits filed against the county government.
Sonnett’s petition alleged that supervisors violated COIA by not stating “personal interests” they had in Luke’s hiring.