Bath BOS case dismissed

On January 10th three of the current Bath Board of Supervisors appeared before Circuit Court Judge, John Wetsel. They were there to learn the outcome of petitions for their removal that had circulated through out their districts. Their attorney, James Cornwell Jr. of Sands Anderson law firm, was requesting the petitions be dismissed on the supervisors’ behalf. Ed Stein, the Commonwealth’s Attorney from Allegheny County argued there had been violations of the Freedom of Information Act.

Judge Wetsel had a question about how people who may not be present at public meetings are qualified to petition regarding matters of which they may not have personal knowledge.

“Suppose something egregious happened at the meeting, and there were only ten citizens there. They’re the only one who will have personal knowledge. Everybody else is going to be relying signing the petition on hearsay and opinion.”

Yet in all the very detailed discussion of the petitions, and what knowledge signers had of the material in them, neither of the attorneys spoke to the six specific items listed in each. Some of those items again are: that supervisors discussed items in a closed session unauthorized in Virginia Code; that those items supervisors then voted on resulted in the elimination of the Director of Tourism position, defunding of the Chamber of commerce, and subsequent closure of the Visitors’ Center. Other items in the petitions went on to describe those supervisors’ incompetence, neglect of duty, and misuse of the office.

The defendants’ attorney, James Cornwell Jr. maintained supervisors had focused on personnel issues, and did nothing illegal.

“What they did was, they gave duties to the county administrator, their employee, clearly personnel. Maybe they thought he played golf too much and needed more to do. Maybe they thought he was a great go-getter, and he should take over the reins, the brains of this issue. I don’t know what they thought. I wasn’t in the closed session.”

Judge Wetsel closed the court session by saying the case had been presented well and that he would give it careful thought.

On Wednesday the 17th we learned he had dismissed the petitions with prejudice. That means plaintiffs will not have the option to reopen the case.

Public pressure has brought about a few adjustments in the supervisors’ original September actions, and Judge Wetsel encouraged residents to remember something over the next few elections.

He commented with his conclusion,

“The polls, not the courts, are the proper forum within which to contest the substantive actions complained of in this case.”

Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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