The Commonwealth Iconoclast

A site dedicated to covering issues relevant to the Commonwealth of Virginia, and nation at large, plus other interesting things too, as I see fit...

Thursday, November 24, 2005

BAD DAY FOR DEMOCRACY IN THE HEART OF VIRGINIA


It was an unusual day in a little community 70 miles west of the state Capitol of Richmond, Virginia.

A special emergency meeting of the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisor was called under a little used Code provision to address a matter of pressing urgency for the citizens of this little rural county. The emergency, it seems, was the question of fair representation on the Prince Edward County Planning Commission.

The special emergency meeting was held on November 22, 2005 at 12:15 PM, during what was normally lunch hour, during a typical work day. The Court room was tense. Security was tight with a heavy presence of armed police security personnel. It seems that the County Administrator Mildred B. Hampton expected trouble and ordered up deputies with enough guns and ammo to put down a sizable citizen insurrection.

However, given the fact that the meeting was not publicized and that it was being held in the middle of a work day, the few citizens in attendance (a half a dozen or so) were far out numbered by County elected officials, high level County administrators, the County attorney, and the armed guards.

The discussion was brief as was the meeting. Three Supervisors, Pattie Cooper-Jones, Sally Gilfillan, and Lacy Ward presented what seemed to be anything but seditious rhetoric. Their comments were measured, logical and simply asked that the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors be fair and to allow all electoral districts representation on the County Planning Commission. These three Supervisors came to make this seemingly reasonable request as a result of ongoing citizen complaints concerning the failure of the local Planning Commission to perform due diligence in the review of several important zoning questions.

After Supervisors Cooper-Jones, Gilfillan and Ward made their presentations, the other five Supervisors had their turn to speak. But there was no rebuttal. The five Supervisors, including Chairman William Fore, Vice Chairman Howard Simpson, and Supervisors Charles McKay, Bobby Jones and James Moore were silent.

This silence, however, belied the iron will of the silent majority. When the vote came to give fair representation on the Planning Commission, the five silent Supervisors took firm control of the situation and voted the measure down five to three.

Having grown up in Prince Edward County I maintain an interest in the affairs of the Community. This strange meeting was videoed and that video is now available for interested citizens to see.

No shots were fired. No arrests were made. Nobody got hurt. But this was not a good day for democracy in the Heart of Virginia. Fair representation on the County Planning Commission is still an elusive democratic ideal that is not available to citizens of Prince Edward County.

Why? That is a good question.

PHOTO CREDITS: Courthouse exterior and interior photos are from the Prince Edward County web-site. Police photo is a visual simulation of police security at the meeting from the Google archives.

21 Comments:

  • At 11/24/2005 2:22 PM, Anonymous Allen W. said…

    Thank you for this article, I live in Prince Edward County and have been closely following this story. The 5 members of the BOS are absolutely pathetic, and should be ashamed of their behavior. The more unfiltered exposure we can "shine" on these people, the better!

    Thanks again - Allen

     
  • At 11/24/2005 4:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    certain members of County Staff, Planning Commission, and BOS are use to having things their way, and the cocept of open and fair government for the people (as opposed to the powerful, well connected few) is foreign!

    This will, and must change!

     
  • At 11/26/2005 9:54 AM, Anonymous RBJ said…

    Thanks for e-mailing me this article. I live in Charlotte County and I have been keeping up with this situation in Prince Edward. The actions of the Board in Prince Edward are shameful. People behnd the scenes (i.e. County Adminstrator, certain members of the Board I believe) are maining "deals" with developers, and they absolutley fear (and loath) anyone who ask basic question, since they are not use to ever being questioned.

    Since the local paper of record, the Farmville Herald, only gives "surface" coverage of this important issues, I belive unfilterd coverage by a blog such as this is an excellent idea.

    I will mail this link to everyone I know, and I suggest that anyone who has an interest in this matter do the same.

     
  • At 11/26/2005 10:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It is quite interesting (a bit depressing too) that the county made famous by the "Massive Resistance" about 50 years ago is still up to the same old practice of denying basic rights to their own citizens. However, in this modern version of the "Massive Resistance" county officials really are not quite so discriminating on whose rights they step on. They are quite comfortable on stepping on anybody's rights who happen to get in the way. Ain't progress grand!

     
  • At 11/28/2005 9:14 AM, Blogger Will Vaught said…

    No problem with the blog entry, hope I can help. I agree with the two posters that in general the local media in Farmville is a part of the problem with accountability in local government in Prince Edward. And yes, they do appear to be somewhat hesitant to print in real "hard hitting" articles that are critical of the BOS or County Administration.

    Also I couldn't agree more with the anon. poster who compared the recent actions of the BOS in PE and the sad chapter of "massive resistance" that Prince Edward is so well known for..

    I truely belive that blogs might be the best outlet for the citizens of the area to vent/announce their frustrations with the total lack of accountability and cronyism that takes place in YOUR courthouse. Though the County might be small in terms of population (20 - 25K residents) the good citizens of the County DO NOT HAVE TO SIT BY AND LET BUSINESSES AS USUAL continue with no consequences.

    As a former resident of PE, I will keep my eyes open, and continue to read the Herald (on-line) - if anyone has any further comments, or they would like another blog entry in regards to their on going struggle, pleas e-mail me (commonwealthiconoclast@yahoo.com), and I will consider your request.

    And as always continue to e-mail these blog entries to EVERYONE YOU know, THE BEST WAY TO END THIS CYCLE OF CORRUPTION is to let the responsible individuals know THAT THEY ARE BEING WATCHED!

     
  • At 11/28/2005 4:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sounds to me some individuals are getting upset that yall are crashing their good old boy party down there in Prince Edward.

     
  • At 11/28/2005 6:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Where do these uppity citizens get this crazy idea that they have any rights anyway. There are probably some perfectly logical reasons why the county bosses don't want citizens snooping around in county business. This idea of democracy is all very well and good in theory, but we all know that we need strong leaders to take charge and decide what is good for the little folk.

     
  • At 11/28/2005 6:56 PM, Blogger SouthoftheJames.com said…

    Great post. I hope that you'll continue to probe what's going on in Southside VA like that. As a native of Lunenburg (Farmville was a big city to us!), I know all too well what can happen when the BOS gets full of itself. Here in Chesterfield, I fear that we're about to go through a similar Planning Commission/BOS citizen input battle. Hopefully, drawing attention to this will encourage folks back home (broadly speaking) to start blogs about the goings-on in Southside local politics.

    -- Conaway

     
  • At 11/28/2005 8:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Conaway, I feel your pain. I thought Chesterfield was light years ahead of all this nonesense. But, we too had better be careful. You might get arrested or worse if you question your county government too much. This stuff in southside is where we were maybe a hundred years ago or so but you know how it goes... history repeats itself.

     
  • At 11/29/2005 8:27 AM, Blogger Will Vaught said…

    Conway - I'm glad you read this story, I knew you were from Lunenburg, therefore you know exactly was incompetent, cronysim, government by and for the few, is all about!

     
  • At 11/30/2005 9:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You hit on two really important items here, Will.

    1. The five silent BOV members include the chair and four brain-dead clones. Their silence underlines their absolute commitment to keeping their BOV stipends. Most of them have the unmitigated gall to call themselves "Democrats". Jefferson is clearly turning over in his grave.
    2. The Farmville Herald, from which we've grown to expect much more in recent years, absolutely refuses to touch this issue. The Herald's editorial stance is that it now feels free to blast imperfections in democracy in far-away places, such as Richmond, but criticism of anything or anybody local is still off limits.

     
  • At 11/30/2005 4:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    After 25 + years (?) of unsupervised control, some of the County Bosses in Prince Edward - for the first time - are starting to be questioned. Do they really know what the public interest is, or do they continue whore themselves out to any special interest that walks in the courthouse door?

    Susie Hampton is use to doing business HER way. Let me tell, I have my ear to the ground, and if she's not careful she might be trading in her luxury sweet in the Courthouse's Penthouse, for a 8 X 4 in the Courthouse's basement (aka The County Jail) And belive me, it is overdue!

    But how can you blame Susie and her cabal of currupt minions? There are FIVE BOS members who allow her and her lap dogs to operate with impunity.

    Guess what? The times are a changing, and I'll be the first to celebrate when it does!

     
  • At 11/30/2005 4:54 PM, Blogger Will Vaught said…

    Wow, anon. 4.37 pm - tell me how your really feel?

    Regardless, I feel and understand your pain.

    But in all fairness, this blog entry is about a very, very poor and disturbing decision made by Prince Edward's BOS.

    Any further allegations - though they may be grounded in truth - do not speak to the specific issue that is addressed in this blog entry.

    Now if you have some information you'd like to share with me, then get in touch and we can talk.

     
  • At 12/01/2005 9:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Until moving to Farmville, I had no idea how corrupt many of our so called "leaders" really are. You expect to hear about this stuff in large government situations, but in Farmville and Prince Edward County!!? This whole situation is shameful and what bothers me most of all is that there appears to be no way to stop this blatant abuse of power. Why is there no person/group more powerful than these supervisors--someone who can step in for the protection of the citizen? Why do the supervisors apparently have to answer to no one? It seems that all efforts to expose this cronyism (including letters to the highest ruler of the Commonwealth) have only infuriated more the rulers(dictators) of the kingdom rather than cause some serious investigation into the dubious practices of some local government officials. What can be done to check this uncontrolled, ridiculous behavior? The County is apparently used to strong-armed tactics such as the farsical display of police you mention in your article. Maybe we should conduct a good old-fashioned military coup of our own to remove them from their thrones!

     
  • At 12/01/2005 2:19 PM, Blogger Will Vaught said…

    hmmm, a military coup in Prince Edward? Obviously, there seem to be some people in PE who are frustrated with thier County government, and after they actions of the BOS to deny a PC member to District 701, for no reason at all (or at leat the 5 dissenting BOS members didn't give a reason)I can completely understand this rage.

    But let me offer you something that might keep you going:

    "the blog is mightier than the sword"

     
  • At 12/01/2005 2:22 PM, Blogger Will Vaught said…

    P.S. I'm working on another piece in regards to Prince Edward. Hopefully I'll have it up in a few days...

     
  • At 2/23/2006 4:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I have a friend who was doing some research into previous BOS meeting minutes in the Clerks office where all public records are to be kept. She found the meeting minutes up to the early 1990's but couldn't find any beyond that time. When she questioned where the meeting minutes were, she was told they were kept in the Administrator's office - isn't this a violation of the Freedom of Information Act?

     
  • At 5/14/2006 2:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Your friend would have to file a FOIA request to obtain the records, but that is all that is required.

     
  • At 6/10/2006 11:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The date of minutes doesn't really matter. Nor does it matter where they keep the documents. Most local government documents, including minutes, memos, letters, emails, contracts, etc. are public documents and any citizen of Virginia has a perfect unquestionable right to ask for them.

    You don't even have to live in the jurisdiction and you dont have to say that it is a freedom of information request. County officials are supposed to know that. Prince Edward County officials are a little slow in understanding this.

    There are a few very narrowly defined exceptions where local governments can keep documents secret and those are listed in the law.

     
  • At 3/13/2009 11:09 PM, Blogger HICKS said…

    THANKS FOR THIS INFORMATION !!

    IT IS MARCH 13, 2009
    AFTER RETURNING TO THIS AREA AFTER THIRTY YEARS. I SEE AND KNOW IT HAS NOT CHANGED. THEY ARE STILL SHUTING US OUT LIKE THEY DID THE SCHOOLS IN THE 1950'S
    THEY ARE STILL TURNING THE DOGS AND FIRE HOSES ON US. BUT IN A DIFFERENT WAY NOT JUST ON AFRICAN AMERICANS BUT ALL PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT IN THIS COUNTYS CLICK OR POCKETT. EVEN BLACKS, OUR VERY OWEN PEOPLE WHO SET IN POSTION- WHICH WE HOPE WOULD SPEAK UP KEEP SILENT OR VOTE THE OTHER WAY.
    I HAVE BEEN TO EVERY MEETING FOR THE LAST 3 MONTHS NOW. AND THE SAME PRACTIS CONTINUE.
    BUT !!!!!!
    IT IS CHANGING AND WILL CHANGE
    I MYSELF ALONG WITH OTHERS HAVE FORMED A ORGANIZATION THAT IS MOVING FORWARD WITH HELP FROM THE NATIONAL AND STATE LEVEL.
    IT IS THE FOR THE PEOPLE AND BY THE PEOPLE OF THE COUNTY
    IT IS THE ( PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY COMMUNTIY ASSOCIATION )
    WE ARE ON THE MOVE WITH GOOD SUPPORT. AND WE ASK YOU TO JOIN US TO HELP IN MOVING THE PEOPLE OUT!!! OF POSITON. THROUGH TAKING BACK THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY WHICH THEY USE TO DRIVE AND RIDE ON.
    WE NEED PEOPLE THAT DON'T PLAY BOTH SIDES OF THE PARTY SYSTEM THEY ACT AS DEMOCRATS BUT ARE DEMO-RATS. IF THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS AND THE PLANNING COMISSION CAN NOT BE FAIR TO THE CITIZEN THEN WE THE CITIZEN CAN VOTE THEM OUT. BUT THE PEOPLE MUST KNOW THERE ACTIONS AND MOTIVES ( AND WE DO!!!)
    FROM BAD UNDER THE TABLE DEALINGS TO ON TOP OF THE TABLE DIRT.
    WE NEED YOU TO JOIN THE (PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY COMMUNITY ASSCOCIATION )IT IS NOT A POLITICAL PLATFORM BUT (PEOPLE PLATFORM) TO INFORM AND GIVE LEADERSHIP AND A VOICE TO OUR COMMUNITIES.
    CONTACT INFO:
    434-392-6433 MR.HICKS
    NEXT MEETING IS MARCH 18TH 2009
    7:00PM. 3RD FLOOR BOARD OF SUPERVISORS ROOM
    PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY COURT HOUSE
    FARMVILLE VA.23901

    THANK YOU
    SINCERELY
    PECCA

     
  • At 3/13/2009 11:15 PM, Blogger HICKS said…

    PLEASE :
    JOIN
    THE PRINCE COUNTY COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION.
    THIS IS THE ONLY WAY TO CHANGE THIS OLD PRACTIS AND MOVE NEW PEOPLE INTO POSITION. THANK YOU MR HICKS

     

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