Saturday, December 31, 2011

Taking stock

A year of contrasts

The first post at Goochland on my mind went up in late November, 2008. Since then the world has shaken a bit both literally and figuratively.

One of the first posts lauded the announcement that Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) had decided to build a hospital in West Creek. Three years later, the West Creek Emergency Center is nearing completion.
Although the facility under construction on the east side of Rt. 288 is a modest one, about half the size of the Centerville Food Lion, it is a great beginning.

Emergency medical care is closer than ever to Goochland residents. This will save lives and reduce suffering. We envision its success will soon encourage expansion.

The last post of 2008 urged Goochland to “Ring in the year with a clean house.” It took a while, but 2012 will see the results of a hardworking broom wielded by county voters.

For the first time in decades Districts 1, 2 and 4 will have new supervisors. We have an entirely new school board. All of our newly elected officials have already rolled up their sleeves and started crafting strategies to move Goochland toward a brighter future.

Their task is daunting. The incompetence and mismanagement that have plagued county government for years cannot be reversed overnight.

Although the arrival of Rebecca T. Dickson as county administrator in July, 2009 was the start of some changes, it is pretty evident that she did not have the full understanding and support of all the supervisors.

The school board also has a great deal of unraveling to do.

We will be watching closely but wish them well in their endeavors.

Over the years, GOMM has reported and commented on many topics of local interest ranging from the devil monkey to the downfall of Brenda Grubbs.
The Tuckahoe Creek Service District (TCSD) was the subject of many posts and will be in the future.

At the start of each year, certain subjects loom large, but are often replaced by matters that were not anywhere near our radar screen. This time last year, everyone dreaded the budget cuts portended by declining real estate valuations. Before the budget was finalized, the treasurer had been arrested.

Last year was one of contrasts. We had drought, flood, cold weather, hot weather, an earthquake in the ground and at the polls, and our terrific Bulldogs coming within a few points of winning the state football championship.

No one knows what sort of surprises 2012 will bring. May your 2012 be filled with love, laughter and good health. Thanks for your support. If you keep reading, I’ll keep writing!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Quack quack

Fat lady mute on CUP

Goochland’s outgoing board of supervisors met in an extremely rare called meeting on December 22, 2011 to approve the minutes of its December 6 meeting. They also voted to ratify their findings of December 6 to grant a conditional use permit (CUP) to allow Benedictine Preparatory High School to move to Goochland.

Such an extraordinary action seems to indicate that the outgoing board wants to ensure that the December 6 vote cannot be challenged on technical grounds.

This adds credence to the notion that the bitter controversy over moving the private high school to property on River Road is not over. It seems likely that parties as yet unknown may be planning litigation against the county about the CUP.

The vote remained unchanged with only returning incumbent Ned Creasey District 3 dissenting. A motion to approve the CUP was made by Malvern R. “Rudy” Butler District 3 and seconded by Andrew Pryor District 1.
District 5 supervisor James Eads, who bitterly opposed the CUP and abstained in the December 6 vote, was absent.

Creasey took a few minutes during the very brief meeting to explain his concerns about the matter. He said that after speaking with a Mr. Butler of VDOT that the turn lane and taper proffers in the CUP do not agree with those required by VDOT.

Creasey said that in order to comply with the VDOT turn lane and taper requirements BPH would need to either widen the bridge over State Route 288, which abuts the property on the west, relocate its existing entrance or obtain additional rights of way on River Road.

It is believed that landowners to the north and east of the subject property are adamantly opposed to ceding any of their land to BHP for this purpose.

Given the strong property rights beliefs of our new supervisors, it is highly doubtful that there would be any support to use eminent domain on behalf of BHP to obtain additional land for rights of way for the school.

The county zoning ordinance states that failure to comply with the requirements of a CUP can lead to its revocation. It will be interesting to see who blinks first should any confrontation over this matter arise in the future.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas came early

Oaths administered

Judge Timothy K. Sanner swore in newly elected officials during an investiture held in the venerable Goochland Circuit Court on December 22, 2011. This was an early Christmas present for those who thought they would not live to see widespread change in Goochland County government.

Clerk of the Court Lee Turner said she could not recall a time that the courtroom had been filled to capacity.

“This is a ceremonial and joyous occasion,” Sanner said in brief opening remarks before administering the oath of office to each official, whose terms begin on January 1, 2012.

Although applause followed each oath, there was an underlying acknowledgement of the gravity of the words spoken by those entrusted by the citizens to run local government for the next four years.

Our new supervisors are: Susan Lascollete District 1; Manuel Alvarez, Jr., District 2; Ned Creasey District 3; R.H. “Bob” Minnick District 4 and Ken Petersen District 5.

Our new school board members are: Michael Payne District 1; W. Kevin Hazzard District 2; John Lumpkins District 3; E.A. “Beth” Hardy District 4 and John Wright District 5.

Constitutional officers are: Pamela Cooke Johnson, Treasurer; Claiborne H. Stokes, Jr. Commonwealth’s Attorney; Jeanne S. Bryant Commissioner of the Revenue and James L. Agnew, Sheriff.
Goochland Treasurer Pamela Cooke Johnson

Monacan Soil and Water District Commissioners Jonathan Lyle and Ronald Nuckols were sworn in as were deputies of Constitutional Officers.

Although the new supervisors and school board members do not take office for another week or so, they have been hard at work preparing for their new roles.

Supervisors left to right:Petersen, Alvarez,Lascollette,Creasey and Minnick.

School board left to right:Payne,Hazzard, Hardy, Lumpkins, Wright.

Congratulations to all of our new officials. Thank you for your commitment to public service.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


The end is near

Tuesday, December 6, 2011 marked the end of an era as four members of the Goochland Board of Supervisors attended their last regular monthly meeting
At the start of the afternoon session, county administrator Rebecca Dickson presented the four outgoing supervisors— Andrew Pryor District 1; William Quarles, Jr. District 2; Malvern R. “Rudy” Butler, District 4 and James Eads, District 5 — with plaques honoring them for their service, a total of 80 years in office, on behalf of county staff.

That’s an average of 20 years, about a generation, per supervisor. Pryor was first elected 40 years ago when Nixon was in the White House and many of us thought it was a good idea to wear lots of plaid.

Only Eads, who declined to seek reelection after three terms, was not defeated at last month’s election.

Quarles, who has served as chairman for the past two years, and Eads had something of a disagreement over the status of the board. Eads contended that the current board members, with the exception of Ned Creasey District 3 who was reelected, were lame ducks and should address only routine matters of board business.

Quarles, on the other hand, contended that the board was elected to oversee county government until December 31, 2011 and had a responsibility to conduct all county business until then.

The audit committee, comprised of Butler, Quarles and several department heads, met two hours before the start of the regularly scheduled board meeting. The main purpose of the meeting was to receive the preliminary report of the certified annual financial report (CAFR) from KPMG, the County’s outside accountants. (The CAFR is posted on the county website under the Finance Department.)

The composition of the audit committee, which meets only a few times per year, was also discussed. It was agreed that the committee should include representatives from the schools. That was certainly a reasonable decision, but why did they bother to make rather than leave any changes to the incoming board? The meeting should have been cancelled.

The outgoing board did properly address the county’s legislative agenda, which must be presented to our General Assembly delegation as soon as possible.

The legislative agenda is a list of issues causing the county some heartburn that need remediation at the state level. As Goochland will be represented by an entirely new delegation—Tom Garrett in the State Senate and Peter Farrell and Lee Ware in the House of Delegates—in the General Assembly next year timeliness is especially important. Newbies Garrett and Farrell will be far too busy discussing abortion and finding the restroom to be of any use to their constituents. Ware is our best hope for meaningful representation in the General Assembly in 2012.

Items on the legislative priority list include: changing the method used to calculate the composite index; creating a regulatory environment attractive to entice private sector high speed internet providers to underserved rural areas; imposing minimum qualifications county treasurer candidates; making urban development area zoning optional rather than mandatory; giving localities greater flexibility in land use taxation designations and permitting amendment of service district ordinances to adjust their boundaries.

(To see the full text of the complete list go to part A of the December 6 board packet on the county website at

Only Pryor voted against this item citing concerns about forcing property owners out of land use taxation status within the Tuckahoe Creek Service District. Eads ranted that land use taxation is designed to discourage economic development and permitting it inside the TCSD, allegedly created to attract new business to the county, is absurd and counter-productive.

Butler said that if some TCSD landowners were denied land use taxation they might put their property into a conservation easement, which would remove it from the tax rolls permanently.

Once again Eads moved to defer board action on the Benedictine conditional use permit application until February to saddle the incoming board with the onus of the decision. Eads contended that the outgoing supervisors were lame ducks and had no business voting on the matter. His motion died for lack of a second.

This prompted Quarles to launch into a smug soliloquy about the term. “Lame duck,” said Quarles, is a term coined at a time when there was a long interval between elections and the start of a term of office. Those who had been voted out got up to all sorts of mischief before leaving. Goochland, he contended is different. “We will be your board of supervisors until December 31, 2011,” he said.

Quarles said that if another natural disaster, for instance, should occur before January 1, the sitting board has the responsibility to take action to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the citizens.

Also on the agenda was a request to refer two land use items to the planning commission.

The first was a conditional use permit for a drive through window on the new pizza place in Courthouse Commons. The supervisors dissected the referral information as though they were being asked to site a nuclear missile silo. It seemed like they did not want the meeting to end.

Proposed new zoning categories for high density residential development, to be located primarily in West Creek and Centerville, areas served by public utilities, also received intense scrutiny. The proposed ordinances would increase permitted density in West Creek to 15 units per acre and in the TCSD to 14 units per acre well up from the existing maximum density of 2.5 units per acre. The board seemed to realize that would be its final opportunity to opine on a matter it has sidestepped for at least a decade.

Eads said that the high density has is necessary to save the TCSD, which he characterized as on “life support.” He said that the conversation has to take place and that he is shocked at how much this will drive taxes up, or something. He snarkily opined that the new board “in its wisdom” will make these decisions.

Creasey said that people who own the land in question should be part of the discussion. Principal Planner Tom Coleman indicated that will be part of the process.

Pryor, who cast the only vote against the referral said that he is opposed to adding this many rooftops to areas served by public utilities is not the answer to the problem “by a long stretch.”

Friday, December 16, 2011

Go to jail

Pay $80,000

Goochland Circuit Court Judge Timothy K. Sanner sentenced former County Treasurer Brenda Grubbs to 20 years in prison with all but four suspended on December 13. The sentencing ends more than ten months of public embarrassment for Goochland’s government and citizens following revelations that Grubbs had her hand in the county till to the tune of about $180,000.

“This is a very sad day for Goochland,” Sanner said.
He said he could not imagine a more substantive breach of public trust than that caused by Grubb’s crimes. The oath she took as a constitutional officer is a serious thing and represents the trust of the people who elected her to office. “You failed them in the most miserable way you could,” Sanner told Grubbs.

In addition to the active incarceration, Grubbs will serve five year of supervised probation during which time she will have no access to the internet and was ordered to make restitution to the Commonwealth of Virginia for the balance of the amount she took, about $80,000.

Goochland County collected the amount of Grubbs’ theft from a state treasurer’s bond earlier this year, which is why she was ordered to repay the Commonwealth.

In his sentencing remarks, Sanner alluded to the victim impact statement, a sealed document, prepared on behalf of the county by Rebecca T. Dickson county administrator.

Grubbs’ actions, said Sanner, affected more people than just herself. They caused “real trauma to real people” including her chief deputy who Grubbs coerced into making wire transfers. That person, explained Sanner, was incorrectly suspected of being part of the embezzlement. She has resigned from her job in a bad economy.

Goochland government has been maligned about things that were Grubbs’ responsibility, said Sanner. County employees who pitched in to keep the treasurer’s office operating suffered scathing attacks from citizens outraged over Grubbs’ actions.

The amount Grubbs stole, said Sanner, could amount to three or four teacher or deputy positions, especially important in the current lean budget environment.

Sanner said that Grubbs apparently got to middle age and was dissatisfied with her life and troubled by health concerns and reacted in a very bad fashion by seeking comfort on an internet dating site. Many people face similar situations, said Sanner, but they do not resort to crime to assuage their misery.

As is typical of sentencing proceedings, various witnesses testified in open court as to the character of the accused and to offer an explanation of possible mitigating circumstances of the crime.

Grubbs sentencing was no exception. Her attorney James Maloney called psychiatrist Dr. James Selman to the stand. He said that Grubbs suffered from depression, which was improperly treated by medications that exacerbated rather than relieved her condition.

Maloney told the court that Grubbs suffered from chronic pain, headaches, diabetes and depression, which began to manifest itself around the end of 2008.

Selman said that Grubbs was mentally ill and on the wrong medication, which interfered with her ability to solve problems. When she first made contact with Bobby Johnson, characterized by Sanner as a “crazy Nigerian,” Grubbs core identity was vulnerable to an attack by someone who convinced her to take actions contrary to her core beliefs.

Yet, somehow she figured out how to get money out of county accounts and send it via wire transfer to Nigeria. That certainly took a bit of focus and ability to follow through on a complex task.

Maloney said that Johnson’s pleas for money, which Selman described as “mind control,” included a promise of repayment. He also pointed out that Grubbs exhausted personal and family funds of about $70,000 before she began to embezzle public funds to send to Johnson.

Selman said that once Grubbs was placed on appropriate medication and received counseling to address her self-esteem and gain insight into the issues of her complex childhood she will be able to function well.

Fluvanna Commonwealth’s Attorney Jeff Haislip, acting as special prosecutor in the case, was skeptical of Selman’s characterization of Johnson as a master manipulator citing the clumsy language of the emails that allegedly ensnared Grubbs’ affections.

Grubbs’ husband Gerald, her son Jason and her pastor Tim Wilson of Perkins Baptist Church took the stand to testify about Brenda’s goodness and generosity.

Gerald Grubbs said that he forgives his wife for her actions, which included borrowing against their home without his knowledge. He also said that he had not read the email communications between his wife and Johnson.
An unsophisticated man, Gerald Grubbs clearly understands the “for better or for worse” clause in his marriage vows.

At the August hearing where Grubbs pleaded guilty to the embezzlement Haislip said that Grubbs “met” Johnson on an internet dating site on Valentine’s Day 2009.

Maloney said that the Grubbs raised $40,000 after selling most of their possessions except for the basic equipment needed to operate their 70 acre farm. Grubbs also turned over the cash value of her state pension, about $60,000 as restitution. No mention was made of Maloney’s fee, which was undoubtedly first in line for payment.

Maloney argued that because this was Grubbs’ first offense; that she is receiving medical treatment and has no access to public funds she should not have to serve active incarceration. He also pointed out that Grubbs readily confessed when confronted with her transgressions and pleaded guilty rather than force Goochland to incur the expense of a trial.

He also reiterated that Johnson fed on Grubbs’ vulnerability and craving for affection filling a “black hole of neediness” by calling her “wife” in the emails.

Haislip disagreed citing the magnitude of Grubbs’ offenses. Sanner concurred.

Sanner indicated that he believed that Grubbs’ crime was the result of her loving the mythical Bobby Johnson and giving him any money she could get her hands on. Even though Grubbs told those she inveigled into helping her that the money was being used to build a church in Africa, she was preparing to “chuck it all” for a new life with Johnson, Sanner contended.

The judge rejected a plea from Maloney to permit Grubbs to begin her sentence after the holidays citing Grubbs’ suicide attempt last summer when she took an overdose of oxycontin and emotional pitfalls of the season.

Grubbs was permitted to make a statement before pronouncement of sentence, but after getting out “I’m very sorry,” her words were drowned out by sobs.

The sound of handcuffs clicking around Grubbs’ wrists was clearly audible after the court session ended.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The party's over

The party’s over

A panel of three judges from the Virginia 16th Circuit, appointed by the Virginia Supreme Court, denied a recount request made by District 4 supervisor Malvern R. “Rudy” Butler.

The ruling followed about two hours of deliberation after a hearing on the matter held in Goochland Circuit Court on December 8. Butler appeared at a special hearing on December 2 without a lawyer but was represented by Darvin Satterwhite at the second hearing.

Butler, who lost the November 8 supervisor election to challenger R. H. “Bob” Minnick by six votes, was entitled to a free recount under state law, but only if that recount was requested according to the law. Recounts are not automatic in close elections.

Minnick’s counsel Brad Marrs, a former member of the House of Delegates, argued that Butler’s recount request was not filed properly or in a timely manner. State law requires that a recount petition for a local election must be filed with the circuit court and served on the other candidate within ten days of the certification of the election, which happened on November 9.

Marrs said that the notice must be served with a summons form attached and contain the total number of votes cast in the subject election and the ballots received by each candidate. Butler’s request, which he mailed, and was subsequently served by the Goochland Circuit Court, reportedly stated only that Minnick had a six vote margin.

Minnick received notification of the recount request on November 28.
Marrs said that Minnick’s motion to dismiss the petition did not question the validity of Butler’s request but rather that the court did not have the power to act on the petition because it was not filed within ten days of certification of the election.

Satterwhite tried mightily to find loopholes in a tightly crafted statute. He contended that a recount differs from a challenge and the judges have the power to extend the filing deadline. The three judge panel rejected his arguments.

According to comments made by Robin Lind secretary of the Goochland Electoral Board at its December 12 meeting, the judges ruled that they had no jurisdiction to overturn the filing deadline specified by state law. Their decision is final and not subject to appeal.

The decision saved the Goochland electoral board the cost of the recount, which would have required reprogramming of the machine used to count absentee ballots.

Minutes of the November 9 meeting of the Goochland Electoral Board, at which election results were certified, reflect that Butler was “advised to seek counsel.”

Given the integrity and competence of Goochland election officials and registrar Frances C. Ragland, it is highly doubtful that a recount would have changed the election results.

Butler lost the election and bungled his attempts at securing a recount.
It’s time to move on.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

March of the pengiuns

Benedictine hearing

As their last official act defeated Goochland supervisors Andrew Pryor District 1; William Quarles, Jr. District 2 and Malvern R. “Rudy” Butler District 4 voted to approve a conditional use permit to allow a Benedictine Preparatory, a prestigious area private high school, to relocate to Goochland. Ned Creasey, District 3 voted no and James Eads, District 5 abstained.

The vote followed the second public hearing on the matter on Tuesday, December 6. There was no singing this time.

Happily the floor in the park and rec gym, site of the public hearing, was covered with protective tarps because lots of mud was thrown during more than three hours of mind numbing public comment.

The hearing began with a presentation of the details of the application by the county’s principal planner Tom Coleman and Benedictine’s side given by its attorney Darvin Satterwhite.

Someone needs to review documents associated with this matter. Unless the cadets have a lot more fun than a military style education would indicate, they begin their day with reveille rather than revelry.

Issues of contention for the land use application were mainly appropriateness of the site for use as a school; increased traffic; noise; soundness of the existing on site wastewater treatment plant and the ability of the site’s 10,000 gallon per day water allocation to support a future student body of up to 550 students.

Some supervisors seemed skeptical about the amount of water various activities at the school were expected to use. Satterwhite countered each objection with charts supporting his allegations.

Given the water pressure problems that have plagued the River Road corridor for years the lack of discussion of water pressure seemed curious. On the surface, it would seem as though peak water use for the school would when residential use is low. Remarks from county engineer Gary Duval about this would have been helpful.

A reduction in water pressure for residents in the River Road corridor is a valid reason for concern and there should have been some mechanism requiring Benedictine to remedy any drops in water pressure it causes in the CUP.

Swirling in the background was a schism between factions of Benedictine alumni caused by the very notion of moving the school from its venerable location on Sheppard Street in Richmond where it has educated young men for a century.

Many of the comments addressed issues that had little to do with the land use matter at hand. Board chair Quarles did nothing to keep the comment on point. Internecine alumni conflicts do not concern Goochland government and should not have been part of the discussion at the public hearing.

Luminaries, including Tom Bliley former mayor of Richmond and U.S. Congressman and outgoing Virginia delegate Bill Janis, spoke in favor of the move.

Janis also repudiated darker allegations made about the school. (A recording of the hearing will soon appear on the county website under the supervisors’ tab.)

Many speakers lauded the integrity and character of the cadets and that the school will be an asset to the community that will have a net positive impact on nearby property values.

Opponents contended that River Road is the wrong place for this school and too intense a land use for a residential area.

Many raised concerns about an increase in already objectionable traffic levels as a reason to deny the application, which included a detailed route that all cadet traffic will follow.

Here again it would seem as though residential traffic would be going in the opposite direction from the Benedictine traffic. Several residents complained that Blair Road, which cadets are proscribed from using, is narrow, unsafe and already overburdened.

Creasey is believed to have voted against the application due to concerns that Benedictine will fail to comply with all of the conditions in the CUP.
Eads, who has been against the move from the start and opposed to the outgoing supervisors voting on the matter, made long and rambling remarks on the matter in which he repeated himself several times.

Benedictine Preparatory High School is moving to Goochland. It is now up to the organization to illustrate its honor and integrity by complying with all building permit requirements and living the matters agreed to in the CUP. If that happens, Benedictine will settle in as a valued member of the committee and folk will wonder what the fuss was all about.

The ball is in the cadets’ court.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Burden or blessing

The Benedictine matter

On Tuesday, December 6, the Goochland Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on an application for a conditional use permit to allow Benedictine High School to move its operations to property owned by the Benedictine Society of Virginia. The site in question is on the south side of River Road, just east of Rt. 288.

The facility, which was built about 50 years ago, before Goochland adopted zoning, began life as a preparatory high school for seminary bound students. A dwindling interest in the priesthood among other things, led to its closing.

For a time after that, the property was used to rehabilitate those with chemical dependency problems and is currently used as an abbey for Benedictine Monks. The grounds are used as athletic fields for Benedictine High School, which has been located on Sheppard Street in Richmond’s museum district for a century.

Benedictine has owned the property in question for some time and the cadets regularly engage in athletic and other activities on the site.
About four years ago Benedictine leadership began to explore moving the school to the Goochland property. Two groups, some residents of the River Road corridor and a faction of Benedictine alumni, expressed strong opposition to the move.

Those opposed to the move are not happy. During the public hearing held by the planning commission in July, whose minutes are on the county website under the planning commission tab, those factions expressed themselves at length.

Before that meeting county residents were inundated with mailings and robocalls from unidentified sources claiming that Goochland taxpayers would be forced to fund the extension of water and sewer lines to the Benedictine property and that the influx of these students would place an unacceptable burden on county law enforcement and fire-rescue resources and drastically increase traffic on River Road.

The property has a finite water allocation of 10,000 gallons per day. At the July hearing, representatives for Benedictine contended that the cadets actually use less water than state department of education amounts used for comparison. Unfortunately, no supporting evidence such as current water bills from the Sheppard Street facility and student enrollment was presented to back up the claim.

The information in the December 6 board packet, which is available on the county website, states that Benedictine expects its corps of cadets to grow to more than 500 in future decades even though the finite water allocation will support fewer than 400. No alternate water sources are mentioned.

The supervisors held an initial public hearing at their September meeting after acceding to a request by Benedictine to defer a vote for 90 days. That hearing was quite a show complete with original banjo music.
All sorts of “facts” are swirling around right now. Opponents cite a 2007 from the late Don Charles former Director of Community Development stating that the county does not permit private wastewater treatment plants.

At its June 3, 2008 meeting, the board of supervisors unanimously voted to adopt an ordinance allowing alternate on- site sewage systems that included stringent maintenance and inspection requirements.

The issue with the existing Benedictine wastewater plant is what will happen if it, for whatever reason, stops working. The costs for any repair or replacement will be the sole responsibility of Benedictine. Goochland County does not fund repair or replacement of any utilities belonging to private entities.

The real question is will the county close the school if its wastewater treatment plant stops working and does Benedictine have the funds to quickly resolve the situation.

Also, as the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) will be keeping careful watch over any discharges made by Benedictine into the James River violations on that front should be treated seriously.
Although the county seems to indicate that Benedictine cannot move its school to Goochland without the CUP, the school’s website seems to indicate that the move is a done deal. Renovations on the facility are in progress. A section on the Benedictine website entitled “the next hundred years” is set in Goochland.

Benedictine contends it will cause students and parents to access the school from the western terminus of River Road at Rt. 6. According to one of several pro move pamphlets mailed to Goochlanders in the past weeks, Benedictine contends that moving all school operations to Goochland will actually reduce the traffic on River Road because there will be no back and forthing to Sheppard Street.

Local residents contend that a high school has no place in their community. They fear Benedictine could pave the way for Collegiate and St. Catherine’s to complement their area athletic facilities with schools.
Should the CUP be denied, Benedictine will continue to use the River Road property for athletic events.

So, what’s in it for Goochland?

Supporters of the move claim that having a prestigious private school in our midst is a good thing. The school will provide a local option for those who wish to send their sons to a private school. They believe home values will be enhanced by proximity to Benedictine.
Opponents of the move cite traffic, noise, strain on utilities and other county resources. They believe the school will have a negative impact on nearby home prices.

Regardless of the vote on the CUP, it seems likely that the losing side will take legal action.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Fair and square

District 4 recount

John G. Berry chief Judge of the 16th Virginia Judicial Circuit in a special appearance in Goochland Circuit on Friday, December 2 dismissed a motion made by Robert Minnick to reject a recount request made by District 4 incumbent supervisor Malvern R. “Rudy” Butler.

According to election results certified by the county electoral board on November 9, Minnick received 842 votes, Butler 836.

Under Virginia law, because Minnick’s margin was less than half a percent of the total votes cast for both candidates, Butler is entitled to a free recount. The law requires that he file the request with the Circuit Court of the jurisdiction in which the election occurred within ten days of certification of election results.

Brad Marrs, Minnick’s lawyer, a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates who lost an election by a small margin, argued that Butler’s recount request was not filed properly nor in a timely manner.

Marrs said that Minnick received notice of Butler’s request for a recount on November 28, well beyond the ten day deadline. He also contended that because Butler’s petition for a recount was not attached to the summons form attached to all notice of civil legal actions, it was improperly served and should be disallowed.

The Judge stated that a recount is not quite a civil action.
Marrs said that the issue must be resolved by December 22, the date of supervisor investiture.

Butler, although he is believed to have been urged to retain counsel by a county election official, represented himself.

Butler contended that he mailed a letter requesting a recount to the State Board of Elections, Goochland Circuit Court and Minnick’s home in “due time.” He argued that state law does not specify how the notice is made.
Judge Berry told Butler that a recount petition is served like any other paper used to start a court case. (A recount is conducted by a recount court, in this case,comprised of Judge Berry and two other judges, appointed by the Supreme Court of Virginia.)

Butler seemed a bit put out by all the fuss. “If I’d a won by six votes, I’d agree to a recount,” he told the judge. “The public needs to know. This was the closest election in Virginia this year.”

Judge Berry concurred stating that court is committed to safeguarding the integrity of the election process in an expedited manner.

A preliminary hearing to determine the details of recount process will be held on December 8 at 1 p.m. The actual recount will take place on December 15 at 1 p.m.

As votes were electronically cast at the polls on November 8 and their tally is unlikely to change. The focus of the recount will be the 91 paper absentee ballots, which are counted by an optical scanner. The recount court will decide if the absentee ballots need to be physically examined during the recount.

A copy of the tally tapes for the electronic voting machines in the possession of county registrar Frances Ragland was transferred to the custody of Lee G. Turner, Goochland’s Clerk of the Court until the recount. The absentee ballots have been in the clerk’s vault since the canvass on November 9.

Minnick and Butler will each designate two election officials and one observer to conduct the recount under supervision of the recount court.
This is a very delicate matter. As new kid on the block Minnick must tread lightly while standing his ground and insisting on proper procedure for the recount to avoid being snookerd by the good old boys. His win at the polls must be well documented and above reproach.

Butler’s actions illustrate all too well the pseudo competence, baseless arrogance and penny wise and pound foolish attitude that characterized Goochland government operations for decades. The recount will show that he did not lose to one of those pesky imports on a technicality.

Butler must have known on election night that he wanted a recount. A proper request for a recount should have been in the hands of the proper parties no later than November 14.

It is curious that the Republican Party seems to have provided Butler with no support legal or otherwise. You’d think that the Republican Party of Virginia would have some sort of legal aid available for its standard bearers who lose by tight margins.

The recount will be held. It will set the record straight and clear the air of any doubt about who won the election.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

On to the state finals

Bullgdogs keep a zero in the loss colum

The Goochland Bulldogs beat Augusta County's Wilson Memorial High School in the state semi-final football game 47 to 21 at home this afternoon.

Goochland scored six offensive touchdowns and one interception return. Except for "taking a knee" at the end of each half, the Bulldogs scored every time they had possesion of the ball.

The Bulldogs made the Green Hornets work hard for their scores.

Next Saturday Goochland will play Gretna at Salem City Stadium at 4:30 p.m. for the state championship.

Go Bulldogs, bring the championship home. Thank you for your hard work and dedication to excellence.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The shape of things to come

SBE on the job, unofficially

On Tuesday, November 29, the Goochland School Board Elect (SBE) comprised of our five newly elected school board members met with school superintendent Dr. Linda Underwood for some orientation about school operations. The informal informational session was open to the public but was attended mostly by school staff.

The SBE is comprised of: Michael Payne District 1; Kevin Hazzard District 2; John Lumpkins District 3; Beth Hardy District 4 and John Wright District 5.

Hardy, acting as spox for the group, began the session with a brief statement thanking everyone for their support during the election. “We are truly humbled,” she said.

Humble is undoubtedly a word and concept unfamiliar to the vanquished incumbents. Its use by the SBE is a clear indication that things have already changed radically for the better.

The SBE hit the ground running by attending the Virginia School Board Association Conference the week after the election. They attended a total of 27 different sessions collectively, and are sharing the information gleaned.

Hardy added that the SBE is working hard to ensure a smooth transition when it officially takes office. Also, the SBE is actively engaged in preparation of next year’s school budget, which will be presented to the new supervisors on January 3.

That too is good news. There will be no repeat of Underwood metaphorically waving her PhD at the supervisors and saying she knows best how to craft a school budget. Indeed, some of those who took issue with past school budgets will be her bosses next year.

Underwood began her presentation with excerpts from the Code of Virginia outlining the duties and responsibilities of local school boards.
Much of the information was inside baseball. The SBE focused on Underwood’s every word.

The organization chart, which Underwood indicated has been in place for about four years, would give Rube Goldberg a headache. She said that, although it seems confusing, everyone “works the work that needs to be done to make it work for our kids” or something.

Unfunded federal and state regulatory reporting requirements burden most aspects of the school system, said Underwood.

Obtaining accurate information about many aspects of the school system seems to be cumbersome at best.

To further complicate matters, the school system and county do not seem to have compatible accounting software, which requires data to be moved from one system to another manually. This wastes time and increases the possibility of error.

“We have to fix that,” Hazzard said.

Throughout Underwood’s presentation, the SBE paid careful attention and took copious notes. They asked on point questions about cost centers, budget classifications and other matters. There were more than a few discreetly raised eyebrows, subtle shudders and head shakes among the group at some of her statements.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Wright urged those present to contact any of the SBE with questions and comments. The days of unreturned phone calls and unanswered emails are over. No longer will school board members respond to parental queries with “it’s complicated and you wouldn’t understand” arrogance.

The path ahead for the SBE is amply strewn with challenge and opportunity. This fine group of citizens is up to the task and already at work.

Email for the SBE are:;;;;