Bath County controversy: Petition filed to remove three county supervisors

bath-co-petition-2

WARM SPRINGS (WSLS 10) -The public is calling for the resignation of three Bath County supervisors after an alleged violation of Virginia state code.

Bath County Court house
Bath County Court house

A petition was filed this week in Bath County Circuit Court and the case will now be heard in front of a judge.

This comes after the board made a decision behind closed doors to cut the county’s Chamber of Commerce budget by $75,000 dollars and eliminate the tourism director position held by Maggie Anderson.

The public now has enough signatures in the petition to legally request the removal of three board of supervisor members including Claire Collins, Richard Byrd and Stuart Hall.

Supervisor Eddy Hicklin, representing the Millboro District, who voted against the move, is not named in any complaint.

Originally a petition was started by the community, calling for the resignation of Collins, Byrd, Hall and now former member Matt Ratcliff. That petition gained almost 400 signatures.

Stuart Hall
Stuart Hall
Richard Byrd
Richard Byrd
Claire Collins
Claire Collins

Ratcliff has since resigned.

Bruce McWilliams, a former board of supervisor member in Bath County, said there is a growing amount of distrust and concern in the community.

“There are segments of this community that are feeling very distrustful of our current leadership,” McWilliams said.

The petition currently filed in court has enough signatures to total 10 percent of the votes cast in the last election for county supervisor positions.

In the Cedar Creek district 21 signatures were required and 44 were obtained. In the Valley Springs district, 20 were required nad 49 signatures were obtained. In the Williamsville District, 30 signatures were required and 34 were obtained.

The petition outlines more details about the public’s complaint.

“On September 13, 2016 and other occasions the {supervisor name here} discussed budgetary matters and the structure of Bath County Government in closed session in violation of Section 2.2-3711 of the Code of Virginia……”

“The September 13, 2016 closed session resulted in {supervisor name here} voting for the elimination of the position of Director of Tourism , and de-funding the Bath County Chamber of Commerce, a local tourism industry organization subjects which are not permitted to be discussed and/or acted up in closed session…..”

Collins, Byrd, Ratcliff and Hall all voted in favor of ending funding.

Public concern has also been raised about felony charges raised against Hall.

bath-co-petition-1
Petitions signed by 10 percent of the votes cast in the last election.

In September, Hall was indicted with six felony counts of perjury and election fraud.

The issue revolves around his legal residence. Hall is accused of residing in Highland County, not Bath County, or the district he represents. Hall legally owns a house in Bath County, but is accused of not actually living there. That raises question as to if Hall is legally allowed to represent a county in which he allegedly does not reside.

If found guilty of these charges, Hall could face a fine of $2,500, 10 years confinement, as well as lost the right to vote.

Hall was first elected supervisor for the Williamsville District in 1972 and served as supervisor a total of 36 years.

He recently was re-elected in November 2015 and is serving a four-year term.

“There is a serious gray area there. What is the tone that we are setting here for our community and for the future generation for the community,” McWilliams pointed out.

That matter, however, is separate from the case which will be heard in regards to the petition for the supervisor’s removal.

McWilliams said the public has demanded answers for too long without getting answers.

“When directly asked on multiple occasions in both email formats, on personal contact with them, in public meeting settings, there has never been an attempt to answer and justify why did they take the actions that they took,” McWilliams said.

Phone calls from Stuart were not returned Thursday to WSLS 10. In an email Byrd responded, “No comment.” An email was not returned from Collins or former member Ratcliff.

Attorney Jim Cornwell was retained Thursday to represent the three board of supervisors members during the court hearing which is set for December 14.

County Administrator Ashton Harrison said the county will most likely be responsible for legal frees acquired by the case.

The next board of supervisors meeting is scheduled December 13.

The supervisors will take applications for the vacant supervisor petition until December 2. The appointment will be made during the December 13 board meeting. The appointee will serve until a special election on March 14.

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