A member of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors called for the chairwoman of the board to immediately step down Tuesday, but she declined to do so.
Supervisor Jack Cavalier, R-Griffis-Widewater, did so because of what he called “a sham of a meeting” last month specifically related to a controversial cemetery ordinance.
Cavalier said that Chairwoman Meg Bohmke, R-Falmouth, didn’t handle the Sept. 18 meeting well, losing control over the meeting and allowing one board member, Supervisor Wendy Maurer, R-Rock Hill, to monopolize discussion on the issue.
Bohmke “allowed a vote on a very important issue that resulted in a minority of the full board making a decision that may result in more problems,” Cavalier said, adding that Bohmke “disregarded the request for a deferral on the matter.”
Cavalier said at the September meeting that he had spoken with Hartwood Supervisor and Vice Chairman Gary Snellings, who was absent from that meeting due to a family emergency. Cavalier said Snellings wanted to vote on the matter and desired a deferral.
“The discourtesy and disrespect shown for her vice chairman is appalling,” Cavalier said of Bohmke.
During last month’s meeting, supervisors considered three options but agreed to take no action on the cemetery ordinance, leaving it in place as it was adopted in December 2016.
Supervisors Mauer, Bohmke and Tom Coen, I-George Washington, voted for option one, to take no action. Supervisors Cavalier and Cindy Shelton, R-Aquia, voted against the option. Snellings was absent and Supervisor Mark Dudenhefer, R-Garrisonville, abstained from the vote.
The crux of the issue centered on whether the cemetery ordinance has stood in the way of a proposed Muslim cemetery, with the U.S. Department of Justice looking into possible religious discrimination.
Last year, the All Muslim Association of America took issue with the ordinance that could possibly hinder its ability to develop a cemetery on property it owns at 1508 Garrisonville Road in Stafford.
Bohmke said Tuesday that there’s nothing in the bylaws that allow her to shut down a board member but she did ask the county attorney if she had that ability.
“None of us are perfect chairmen,” she said, noting: “Perhaps I could’ve called for a recess and we could’ve had some discussion, as well as any of my colleagues could’ve asked for a recess.”
Bohmke said it was not a fun night for any on the board, and it was very uncomfortable discussing an issue that some are very passionate about.
“On that note, I will not be stepping down but I appreciate your comments,” Bohmke told Cavalier.
Maurer thanked Bohmke for the opportunity to speak fully on the matter.
“As much power as the chairman may have, they really don’t have any when it comes to the bylaws,” said Maurer. “…To stifle debate is just not fair.”
But Cavalier said that Bohmke knew how the vote would pan out with Snellings absent and Dudenhefer abstaining, and she took advantage by not allowing a deferral.
The current cemetery ordinance keeps cemeteries 900 feet from private water wells; however, other state health department restrictions have required private water wells and cemeteries to be just 100 feet apart, the board said.
Maurer said last month that she found options two and three discriminatory against the rural population. She also raised an eyebrow at the All Muslim Association of America’s relationship with former Supervisor Paul Milde, R-Aquia, insinuating preferential treatment.
The Stafford County Planning Commission previously recommended keeping the cemetery ordinance as is.