New Kent Charles City Chronicle

News for New Kent County and Charles City County, Virginia | February 24, 2024

Legality of appointment of interim New Kent supervisor challenged by Attorney General’s Office

By Robb Johnson | January 11, 2024 9:27 pm

Only one month into the new election term, New Kent’s Board of Supervisors are facing an internal battle stemming from the legality of the appointment of Amy Pearson.

Pearson was appointed by the previous board in Dec. 2023 after the passing of the late Patricia Paige. That appointment, however, was challenged by the office of Virginia’s General Attorney Jason Miyares.

For the last several weeks, questions have arisen about the previous board’s decision to appoint Pearson as the representative to District 3 for the county. At the Jan. 10 meeting, District 1 Supervisor Thomas Evelyn spoke about the issue.

“Miss Amy Pearson was appointed to fill a vacancy left by Ms. Paige,” he said. “Both me and Mr. [Ron] Stiers voted to appoint her.

“Miss Pearson is exceptionally qualified to serve on this board,” Evelyn continued. “She is the chief financial officer for the statewide agency that serves all of Virginia and for nine years, she was the assistant to the director of financial services for New Kent County.”

Evelyn angrily commented about the situation, saying forces from outside of the county were trying to control what was going on in the jurisdiction.

“We should send them a strong message that this county is not for sale,” Evelyn commented, reminding them that the appointment took place three weeks ago.

New board member and District 5 representative Jordan Stewart commented that she did not have any animosity towards Pearson, but believes the previous board placed them in a situation that violated current law.

“I am a little frustrated that the previous board put us in this position and put Miss Pearson in this position,” she said. “I feel that it was an attempt to rubber stamp the actions of the previous board that were clearly a violation of Virginia’s law.”

At issue was that after the passing of Paige, New Kent County announced its attempt to collect applications for an interim supervisor for District 3. Applications were collected until Dec. 15, 2023, where they were reviewed and vetted by the county.

However, previous board chairman Tommy Tiller, County Administrator Rodney Hathaway, and County Attorney Joshua Everard received a letter from the state that articulated language that alleged that appointing a replacement was a violation of the law. The county received approval from New Kent Circuit Court to hold a special election on Nov. 5, 2024, for a new representative, and on Dec. 18, 2023, held a special session that saw Pearson appointed to fill the vacancy left by Paige.

On Dec. 21, 2023, the Attorney General’s office proclaimed the board violated the law, with another letter being sent to the county on Jan. 5 from the Deputy Attorney General.

“I reiterate this is not personal,” Stewart said. “I think we as the current board have an opportunity to pursue openly in accordance to the law.”

Stewart added that she received the names of the applicants yesterday and that they would still have 35 days for the appointment to take place with the new board making the decision.

Stiers agree that the process was the issue, not the person.

“I fully support Amy and is well qualified, but I think we’re going about it the wrong way,” Stiers said. “If we get sued and we’re going to prison, I don’t think anyone is going to bring us donuts on Sundays.”

Stiers proposed an idea to have new members review the applications of the individuals who applied over the next two weeks and appoint an interim supervisor for citizens of District 3, with a possible special election in January.

Evelyn motioned for Pearson’s reappointment to the District 3 seat as the interim supervisor. Votes in favor were cast by Evelyn and District 2 supervisor John Moyer, while votes of opposition were made by Stewart and Stiers. With Pearson abstaining, the vote failed at 2-2.

The vote also prompted Everard to speak on what he called an unusual situation.

“Ms. Pearson was appointed on Dec. 18 to fulfill the vacancy and swore her oath,” said Everard. “Her appointment was effective immediately.”

Everard read the code section of the law that referred to her appointment and was done according to the Virginia Constitutional Law.

“These legal authorities are consistent with my experience, serving four counties, three cities, four towns, in my career serving as a local government attorney,” Everard added. “It is also the experience of my brothers and sisters who serve as chief legal officers to counties, towns, and political subdivisions throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

“Mr. Miyares conclusion reads that ‘An individual appointed to a local governing body to fill a vacancy may remain in that office until such time that a majority of the remaining members of the body vote on the appointment for the new term of office.’,” added the county attorney. “No person has yet been appointed by a majority of the remaining members of this board for this term. Therefore, until the board appoints an interim board member of this term, or until the results of the election in Nov. 2024, Ms. Pearson has the authority under Virginia law to serve as the District 3 supervisor.”

During the public comment period, District 3 resident Milton Hathaway addressed the situation involving the appointment.

“With all due respect, I only want to hear from people in District 3 about the representative that will represent us,” he said. “I am a leader in District 3; not a black people leader, but a leader of the community.

“We have chosen our leader and that is Amy Pearson,” Hathaway continued. “The code of Virginia says that the local government can only do what they are authorized to do by the code; and the vacancy occurred under the last board and a majority on that board had the authority to fill the position.

“I am concerned that our legislators in the General Assembly have not weighed in and asked the residents of District 3 who they want,” Hathaway said as he wrapped up his commented. “We have clearly chosen the candidate to represent District 3 and we don’t appreciate any other district making that choice for us.”

In other board action:

–Unanimously approved the increase of the BPOL tax license from $30 to $50 for gross receipts between $10,000-$50,000. The BPOL tax fee of $30 was removed when gross receipts were less than $10,000. The new fee also applies to businesses that gross ove $50,000.

–Approved the equalized rate on real property tax for FY2024-25 at 57 cents per $100 of assessed value.