The Courier-Record

NEW RULES IN NOTTOWAY

County Supervisors seek to eliminate ‘ugliness’

“Everybody in here’s got a history.” John Roark

“Everybody in here’s got a history.” John Roark

CHAIR WARNS COLLEAGUES THEY MAY BE NEXT TARGET

Effective immediately, those wishing to address the Nottoway County Board of Supervisors must confine their remarks only to items on the agenda — or issues discussed the previous month.

At the beginning of last Thursday night’s meeting, Supervisors unanimously adopted “Revised Rules of Procedure.”

The action comes one month after Board Chairman John Roark’s arrest for arson — in 1991 when he was 17 — was made public by developer Slugger Morrissette.

‘UGLINESS’

Roark prefaced Board discussion by saying the new rules were drafted in response to “citizens’ outrage over the way some previous people have expressed themselves…We’re here to do the business for the citizens of this county — that’s what we’re here to do.”

Roark lamented “ugliness” at recent meetings, adding, “It happens everywhere. It’s unfortunate.”

“We need to hold our ourselves accountable as well. Your temper runs high.” Daphne Norton

“We need to hold our ourselves accountable as well. Your temper runs high.” Daphne Norton

Developer Morrissette, Roark reminded the audience, is upset with the County over an ordinance that would require Morrissette to build a state maintained road — estimated at $2 million — for his planned subdivision at Lee Lake. “I’ll NEVER stand by and let that be put on the taxpayers of Nottoway County — NEVER.”

Roark added, “There are a FEW that wish to beat-up on the electeds because they want somebody WEAKER here that they can control — to do their bidding.”

NEW REVELATION

Roark then revealed that in addition to his 1991 convictions for several counts of arson, he was arrested eight years ago for Assault, suggesting that someone was about to “come at me again…I got in a fight in 2016. Both parties were charged, and then the court dismissed it. It happens, okay?…My past is my past and, as I said last month, I don’t live there anymore.”

Roark also said he has intel that his censure after an outburst outside a School Board meeting was about to be relitigated. He said the Courier- Record did a thorough job covering that 2021 episode. “Sometimes we beat-up on the media too much. But it happened and was well-covered. He (editor Billy Coleburn) reported it, and that’s it.”

WHO’S NEXT?

Roark then warned his colleagues that they may be next. “There’s one in the audience tonight who has taken a shot at Supervisor (Dicky) Ingram — saying he won’t talk to women.”

Developer Morrissette wasn’t present Thursday night. Roark is believed to be referring to citizen Sue Yeatts, who was present and who left last month’s meeting in what she called “disgust” with Roark.

Roark added, “I’m sure somebody’s gonna take a shot at Supervisor (Bill) Collins, and someone mentioned some disparaging comments about Bo (Supervisor Bo Toth).” He did not elaborate.

“Everybody in here’s got a history,” Roark declared. “We know each other, we hung-out at parties. If everybody knew what everybody in this room has done, it would be a shameful day, wouldn’t it?”

SAME STANDARDS

Supervisor Daphne Norton, who’s become active with the Virginia Association of Counties (VACo), said several other counties have adopted similar rules. “And they have passed this by their attorneys, and it is legal.”

The new rules apply to “Delegations from the Public,” typically the Board’s first agenda item after adopting minutes of previous meetings.

Supervisor Norton, however, emphasized that rules for “civility and decorum” also apply to Board members. “We need to hold OURSELVES accountable as well….sometimes your temper gets high. We need to hold our OWN selves accountable as well. Do you agree?”

FREE SPEECH

At Roark’s suggestion, Supervisors declined action on a proposed new section that would have banned certain speech and gestures such as profanity, “campaigning for public office,” “cheers and jeers” from the audience, “non-germane or frivolous comments,” or “language which insults or demeans” any person or official when not related to his or her official duties.

Roark said that after reviewing that portion of the proposal, he believes it would be infringing upon freedom of speech.

CHICK MAGNET

Supervisor Dicky Ingram, who successfully moved to adopt the new rules, was the focus of humor later in the meeting .

Attorney Robert Hawthorne, Jr. said he can testify that any reports that Supervisor Ingram doesn’t talk to women are false. “Everytime I see Dicky, he’s around no one BUT women. And he seems to be popular at every branch I visit.”

A retired educator, Supervisor Ingram is employed at Benchmark Community Bank.

PICKING & CHOOSING

The new rules, however, do present challenges at least initially for Supervisors — and already are providing opportunities for broad interpretation and possibly selective enforcement.

During “Delegations from the Public” Thursday night, citizen Warren Wade addressed the Board, in part, to commend County law enforcement for its response to an incident at his home.

Chairman Roark politely halted Wade’s remarks, saying the issue wasn’t on the agenda.

Supervisor Collins, however, found a loophole for Wade to continue speaking: the Sheriff ’s Office is listed on the agenda as a monthly report.

Another speaker, solar engineer Michelle Spruth, came to speak on Nottoway’s proposed solar ordinance. That issue wasn’t on the night’s agenda, either. Collins, however, reminded Chair Roark that the Board was informed at its April meeting that the Planning Commission has recommended approval of the solar proposal. Ms. Spruth would end up speaking for nearly seven minutes — until politely interrupted by Roark. She had exceeded the Board’s five-minute time limit.

Roark said that he’ll have to have a copy of the previous month’s agenda to guide him at future meetings.

Citizen Wade, who ran unsuccessfully last November in a three-way race for District Three Supervisor, endorsed the new rules, saying he doesn’t want Nottoway to “turn into the National Enquirer or Jerry Springer Show.”

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