Fellow citizens, the purpose of the following is to keep you apprised of recent developments regarding the Prince William County Board of Supervisors (BOCS), land use, rule of law, etc. This message is hyperlinked here: https://pwcbg.org/2020/10/wheeler-violated-laws-jurisdictions-in-godwin-bypass-gambit-foia-case-denied-on-technicality-rule-of-law-how-to-create-real-unity/ Please share via email, social media, etc.
1. In her pro-residential developer Godwin Bypass gambit on 8 September, Chair Wheeler: overruled a unanimous BOCS decision from a few weeks earlier; violated multiple laws, jurisdictions, best practices, and citizens’ right to petition the government; and ignored citizen protests and the advice of multiple independent experts. (See https://potomaclocal.com/2020/10/08/defer-action-on-route-28-project-due-to-flawed-process/ and pp. 13-16 here https://colesdistrict.org/wp-content/uploads/9th-Edition.pdf See also: https://pwcbg.org/2020/09/wheeler-shills-big-for-developers-in-west-county-continues-assault-on-rights-rule-of-law-low-cost-housing-residents-leading-local-news-org-muzzled/ )
2. A retired Fairfax County judge, with strong Democratic Party ties, dismissed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) case from Prince William County citizens against the BOCS Dem majority. If that headline sounds a little strange to you, keep reading; the story gets even stranger.
In what seems best described, at least in our laymen’s terms, as winning on a technicality, retired Fairfax County Judge Dennis J. Smith dismissed the FOIA lawsuit, apparently requiring proof from the citizen plaintiffs that the BOCS Dems knew or should have known it was a public meeting and requiring proof that the BOCS Dems thus willfully violated the FOIA statute. A high bar, a heavy burden of proof indeed.
” ‘This was about, let’s get rid of the Republican slate [the three Republican members of the BOCS], and if we get rid of the Republican slate then we won’t have any interference’ in influencing police actions, [plaintiffs’ attorney] Kachourouff told the judge near the hearing’s end. [Judge] Smith said he might agree with Kachouroff’s assessment if Kachouroff had provided evidence to support that conclusion, but said he had not.” (See https://www.princewilliamtimes.com/news/breaking-judge-rules-in-favor-of-prince-william-supervisors-accused-of-breaking-foia-law/article_1534994e-08e3-11eb-b8eb-ab64459d84ef.html (including paragraphs 17-18) and https://potomaclocal.com/2020/10/08/resident-who-sued-prince-william-supervisors-over-meeting-law-strikes-out-in-court/ and “example” #5 of https://pwcbg.org/2020/06/bocs-chairs-disregard-for-others-rule-of-law-is-undermining-our-freedoms-prosperity-11-examples/)
Now let’s briefly discuss retired Fairfax County Judge Smith. It’s not easy to find news media or other public coverage of judges’ political leanings, but here are two clues we found after a little searching.
In early November 2012 Judge Smith ensured that Fairfax County Democrats have the authority to patrol inside voting areas on election day and to openly challenge voting officials, a tactic apparently now in Northern Virginia (NoVA) Dems’ playbook, a tactic with strong potential to become a new form of voting fraud/intimidation. (And you thought the voting area, which includes your sign-in area and polling booth, was safe from politicization. Think again.) Furthermore, the judge’s support and enthusiasm was apparently not restricted to his ruling, but extended beyond that to an apparently unsolicited warning that “precinct judges cannot arbitrarily restrict poll watchers’ rights, and [he] said he is ready to intervene on Election Day if necessary.” (See: https://valawyersweekly.com/2012/11/05/judge-denies-dems-request-on-poll-watchers/ and https://www.fairfaxdemocrats.org/2012/11/03/fairfax-democrats-victorious-over-board-of-elections/)
NoVA Dems revere Judge Smith so much that on his retirement in 2015, 22 Dems — but only 4 Republicans — (all 26 were lawmakers from NoVA) sponsored the Assembly resolution commending him. This was at a time when Republicans outnumbered Dems in the Assembly > 2 to 1. (See: https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?151+ful+HJ675)
Questions: We willingly suspend our disbelief regarding impartiality and defer to the judge, of course, because we believe in the rule of law. But even if we somehow accept that this was a meeting of county officials called by county officials to discuss police policy, but no business (or only informal business, which doesn’t count) was discussed, nevertheless, questions remain about the 5 BOCS Dems’ behavior:
- If innocent of intent to exclude the other 3 BOCS members from the 31 May meeting, why didn’t even one of the 5 Dems, particularly Chair Wheeler, bother to call and invite even one of the 3 Republicans as soon as it was obvious they weren’t at the meeting — particularly Supervisor Candland, whose district was directly affected by the riots?
- Why has Chair Wheeler apparently still not apologized to any of the 3 Republicans for excluding them — in clear breach of common decency and her responsibilities as BOCS chair?
- Why did it fall to private citizens to file suit in this case and be subject to a high-hurdle burden of proof? Why were county or state attorneys/prosecutors not even investigating this apparent FOIA violation, much less bringing charges themselves, with all the resources of the state behind them? (The answer to the last question is obvious: because Virginia is now a one-party monopoly, the first time since 2001.)
- If the FOIA issues were truly no big deal, why was County Attorney Michelle Robl — who has made it abundantly clear that she works primarily for and is the protector of Chair Wheeler — so quick to require formal FOIA training for the BOCS right after the 31 May meeting? (No one has accused the 3 Republican supervisors of violating FOIA meeting rules, so the training was not necessarily needed immediately for them.)
3. Not so fast, Chair Wheeler, Supervisor Franklin; Rule of Law IS Your Business — As explained above, the judge’s decision is far from the moral absolution Wheeler claims it is in her 9 September official email. She and the other BOCS Dems appear to have escaped sanction only because it was too difficult to prove what a BOCS meeting would be, in this context, and to prove harmful intent by the BOCS Dems.
Wheeler titled her official email about the FOIA case “Getting on With Business” and said (in boldface type): “Now that this matter has been dismissed, let’s get on with seeing to the business of Prince William County and serving its residents.” Likewise, Supervisor Franklin said: “I’m glad it’s over and I’m looking forward to getting back to the real business of the county instead of the shenanigans.”
Chair Wheeler, Supervisor Franklin: Please consider that you and the other six supervisors are, effectively, the chief executives and legislators of the county government, the bureaucracy of which assists you in carrying out your executive duties. Respecting the rule of law, the Bill of Rights, FOIA law, all law — in spirit and letter — and respecting all the residents of the county, both east and west, the quality of their roads and schools, and wisely and judiciously using their tax money is not a nuisance, an annoyance, “shenanigans” or an obstruction to “getting on with ‘real’ business.” It is your business. Ensuring the greatest good for the greatest number, guaranteeing the basic rights of all minority groups, and supporting equal opportunity within the rule of law is your business. You have no other constructive business of significance. It’s unsettling to us, and dangerous to the county, that you often seem to take so lightly the rule of law and respecting all the citizens of the county.
What the Rule of Law Isn’t —At the 22 September BOCS meeting at which the defining of important new policymaking terms proposed by the BOCS Dems such as “equity lens,” “equity in housing,” “affordable housing,” and “environmental justice” was discussed, Supervisor Franklin made the following truly remarkable statement. She said: “To be honest, when developers come to me I tell them it’s up to them to figure out how to get to what I want. So if they want to do workforce housing or affordable housing, you’re right, there is no definition — we’re working on it — but I tell them ‘if you guys want to do this project in my district, it’s up to you to figure out and it’s up to me to agree with it.’ So some of that is just being pro-active in those discussions. I do want to make sure we’re clear on what we’re doing.” (See: https://pwcgov.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=23&clip_id=2763, 3:12:40 thru 3:13:05 )
Minus Supervisor Franklin’s lawless approach in the quote immediately above — which, regardless of possibly some good initial intentions, is rife with corrupt possibilities and likelihoods now and in the future — we wish the 5 Dems would’ve approved Supervisor Candland’s effort to define the Dems’ new policy terms at the 6 October BOCS meeting. But instead they once again defeated a constructive Republican proposal on a 5-3 party-line vote. (See https://pwcgov.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=23&clip_id=2766, 2:45-3:12 and 3:12-3:52.) We also wish Supervisor Franklin, Chair Wheeler, and the other 3 Dems would’ve allowed Supervisor Lawson — and, by extension, Brentsville District’s residents — the same courtesy and discretion over residential development in our district, rather than intrusively jamming the Devlin Rd. project down our throats in March, against virtually unanimous opposition, including 1,000 petitioners. Likewise, for Supervisor Vega and her constituents in the illegal Godwin Bypass reversal on 8 September. (See #1 above.)
4. How To Create Real Unity — Now combine the info above with all of the following info, to name just a few examples: https://pwcbg.org/2020/09/wheeler-shills-big-for-developers-in-west-county-continues-assault-on-rights-rule-of-law-low-cost-housing-residents-leading-local-news-org-muzzled/ and https://pwcbg.org/2020/07/summary-updates-bocs-chair-wheeler-undermining-our-freedoms-prosperity-11-examples/ and https://pwcbg.org/2020/06/letter-to-bocs-on-19-may-bipartisan-vote-ending-lockdown/ and https://pwcbg.org/2020/04/urgent-plea-to-bocs-dem-majority-regarding-31-march-chance-to-fix-defects-in-devlin-rezoning/ and https://pwcbg.org/2020/03/chair-wheeler-holding-semi-public-31-mar-bocs-meeting-to-implement-greatly-increased-emergency-powers-suspension-of-public-comment/ and https://pwcbg.org/2020/03/pwcbg-speeches-propose-better-way-decreased-devlin-density-debunk-developer-myths-on-proffers-lawsuits/etc .)
Rather than treating the Western half of the county like conquered, occupied territory, like the enemy, as the 5 BOCS Dems have already so often done in the first 9+ months of their four-year terms, which will only result in endless disunity, political rebelliousness, and anger among residents who can think for themselves and don’t like being bullied — rather than that, how about a new approach? Chair Wheeler, you regularly speak about the need for unity, but then refuse to truly acknowledge anyone but those with whom you agree. You refuse to compromise on major issues. That implies that by “unity” you really mean “capitulation” by and complete defeat of anyone who prevents you from getting your way. So how about listening now to those with whom you disagree, compromising, and finding more chances for win-win and less win-lose. The illusion of politics and power is “once in power, always in power.” But the cycles of politics and the hubris of power tend to suggest differently for those who ignore the people or run their stewardships into the ground. Besides, when you love the people, all the people, they tend to love you back.
Ralph & Kathy Stephenson
Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth
Only in the bright light of public scrutiny can the common good be secured,
while in darkness and obscurity the interests of the powerful and affluent prevail.