Sudley protest Tuesday

A group of protestors moving toward Interstate 66 along Sudley Road in May. Photo by Alfredo Panameno/Sky's the Limit Media

The five Democrats on the Prince William Board of County Supervisors are facing a new civil lawsuit alleging they held an illegal meeting with police and community leaders in the wake of civil rights protests in May.

The county’s lawyer has previously denied that the supervisor’s meeting violated state law. 

Alan Gloss, Carol Fox and Tammy Spinks filed the lawsuit July 31 in Prince William County Circuit Court against Board Chair Ann Wheeler and supervisors Victor Angry, Neabsco District; Margaret Franklin, Woodbridge District; Kenny Boddye, Occoquan District; and Andrea Bailey, Potomac District, regarding the meeting held May 31.

The nonprofit organization Judicial Watch has joined the three local residents in their lawsuit, according to a news release. Judicial Watch promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law through public outreach, lawsuits and investigations, according to its website. 

“Now, more than ever, citizens need transparency in their government. Secret meetings on police policy undermines public confidence and violates the law,” said Tom Fitton, the nonprofit’s president. 

Christopher Kachouroff, an attorney with McSweeney, Cynkar & Kachouroff, PLLC, filed the lawsuit on behalf of Gloss, Fox and Spinks. 

During a hearing on a similar lawsuit filed by Gloss in June, County Attorney Michele Robl said she was prepared to show that the board did not hold an unlawful meeting May 31. Gloss withdrew the earlier suit June 15. The first suit named all eight members of the board as defendants, while the new lawsuit names only the five supervisors who attended. 

“All five Democrat supervisors attended the meeting, but the board’s three Republican members were not notified of the meeting and did not attend,” according to Judicial Watch’s news release. 

The meeting at the center of the lawsuit was the day after a large protest in the Manassas-area against police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death. The protest began at 5 p.m. with peaceful demonstrators, but police eventually declared an unlawful assembly and attempted to clear the demonstrators, who numbered about 250 at the highest point.

State troopers used “non-lethal tactics, such as OC 'pepper' spray and powder" in attempts to control the crowd, state police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said at the time. Five people were arrested and seven law enforcement officers, including county and state police, were injured, according to police. 

The meeting included Prince William County Police Department leaders and dozens of community members.

Wheeler declined to comment on the lawsuit Friday. Wheeler told InsideNoVa in June the supervisors didn’t violate state’s law by attending the meeting. Wheeler said at the time that she was invited to the meeting by County Executive Christopher Martino after she requested a meeting with the police department. 

The lawsuit alleges the supervisors violated the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, which requires the board of county supervisors to notify the public when three or more supervisors are meeting and discussing policy. 

“While no votes were cast during the meeting, the Democrat members posed questions and provided directives to the police leadership to curtail the use of crowd control measures in future disturbances,” according to the release from Judicial Watch. “As set forth in the lawsuit, this constituted a discussion of public business in violation of Virginia Code section 2.2.-3707(A).” 

Robl told the court in June she was prepared to defend the board. 

"At no time were there three or more supervisors sitting or talking together or discussing board business or taking votes," Robl told InsideNoVa after the June hearing. "It does not meet the board's definition of a meeting."

During an emergency board meeting later in the afternoon May 31, attended by all members, Prince William police Lt. Col. Jarad Phelps apologized to board members who were not invited.

Gloss, Fox and Spinks started a GoFundMe page to raise $15,000, to hold the supervisors accountable for the meeting May 31, according to the page. Through Friday, 126 people have donated a total of $11,897 to the fund. 

If the court finds that the supervisors willfully violated Virginia's open-meetings laws, it could assess civil penalties of between $500 and $2,000, which are paid into the state's Literary Fund. 

Sherrie Johnson, spokeswoman for the county, said in an email Friday the five board members have been sued in their individual and official capacity. While the county attorney represents the board as a whole, the county attorney cannot represent the individual board members in this lawsuit, because there is a conflict among the board members in this matter, Johnson said. That means each supervisor will have to hire his or her own lawyer.

“As the matter is currently in litigation, it would be inappropriate to comment on the allegations in the lawsuit,” Johnson said in an email.

(19) comments

Pershing 1a

I love it! Way to go Judicial Watch.

InsideCommenter

Judicial Watch is a corrupt GOP dark money organization.

Tom Fitzpatrick

I think that it is great that Citizens are beginning to act like Citizens.

My question is, when will Commonwealth Prosecutors start acting like defenders and enforcers of the law they swore to uphold? Their silence and inaction are signs of being complicit.

Tom Fitzpatrick

And corrupt.

Jack Print

So pleased that Judicial Watch joined this lawsuit. By anyone's definition, the Democrats on the Board held a meeting without notifying the public or the Republicans on the Board. Such partisanship and deception on the part of the Democrats is intolerable. When Republicans held the majority, they worked with the Democrats, but the current Democratic majority refuses to work with the Republican minority. The people in Prince William County expect cooperation, not partisanship and secret meetings. It's a shame that it takes a lawsuit to force Democrats to cooperate with their fellow members of the Board of Supervisors.

Zediculous

But, but they're democrats! They don't have to obey the multitude of laws they impose on the rest of us serfs ...

Scott M.

Unfortunately for the county, their constituents don't care. That's how corruption, recklessness, and poor ethics standards become part of a community's culture. It may not be too late for PWC, as most residents can recall better government in the recent past. Even those in the middle of the political spectrum must be put off by the current clowns.

Antonio Marisol

That Robl, Prince William’s corrupt County Attorney is defending them even is lieing to exonerate them

even in the face of a clear violation is disgusting and should be grounds for terminating her employment.

charles T

Nice to see our crooked supervisors been held accountable. Enjoy those attorney fees...this makes me happy. They knew they were in the wrong, they just didn’t think they would be held accountable, Tom fitton will,prove them wrong.

Stoptheinsanity

Not even the PWCBOCS is above the law. Glad to see it now stop bleeding our wallets and building "villages".

Iwouldntgiveabean

Ok. Apparently nobody here does any research. https://www.insidenova.com/news/politics/prince_william/amid-protest-response-supervisors-fight-over-closed-meeting/article_7a89b5de-aa99-11ea-8d28-dfff86ac0107.html

"The disagreement appears to have started with individual supervisors trying to respond to protests held in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. It became more complicated with a closed-door session to review Freedom of Information Act laws with the county attorney — a meeting opposed by the board’s three Republicans, who refused to participate."

The three republicans refused to participate. And they are sour because the Democrats went ahead without them.

So this lawsuit is a waste of time and resources.

VK

Watch the May 31 Emergency BOCS meeting and see what this is all about.

https://www.pwcgov.org/government/bocs/Pages/Meeting-Room.aspx

Soily

This article states both Supervisor Victor Angry and Supervisor Kenny Boddye are from the Neabsco District. Perhaps InsideNova journalist Emily Sides has trouble differentiating the two black guys. They look quite different to me. Supervisor Angry is the guy with the shiny bald head and Supervisor Boddye has a full head of hair and a beard. Supervisor Angry is pretty left wing, but basically a misguided nice guy. On the other hand, Supervisor Boddye is a full-fledged left wing nutjob, who thinks he is fighting millions of white supremacists and that the Civil War is still underway with Confederate troops stick occupying parts of Prince William County. He actaully said during the time of the riots when this illegal meeting took place that the United States was designed to keep black people down. He truly believes it. Crazy!

icrazyhorse

This civil lawsuit is a total waste of taxpayer money driven by the Republican desire to paint Democrats in a bad light. After the civil suit is over PWC should sue for recovery of legal fees spent to defend this partisan attack.

Cultured2014

how? what are they going to countersue for? not how this works. plus they are suing the individual supervisors thus the county is not in the mix here. one of the reasons why the supervisors have to get their own attorneys.

Catherine Christine

http://www.hannenabintuherland.com/europe/larry-elder-more-whites-were-brought-as-slaves-to-north-africa-than-blacks-brought-as-slaves-to-the-united-states-herland-report/

Citizen52

Thank you for that Catherine Christine. One of my Irish ancestors was sent to the Caribbean to work on a sugar plantation as a white slave. Life was not easy for the Irish Catholics, they were held down, and discrimination was rampant.

Citizen52

To INSIDENOVA staff: I’ve just read a few posts above that are neither enlightening nor civil. Your news site keeps asking for donations. Well, as long as you allow forum posters to stoop to calling each other idiots and imbeciles unchecked, there are those of us who will not contribute.

Citizen52

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