Amidst concerns over electoral impropriety and institutional nepotism, Charlottesville’s all-Democrat City Council voted unanimously on October 15 to forgo a special election for the replacement of city Treasurer, Jennifer Brown, who recently took a health-related early retirement. Councilors substantiated their pro-appointment position by expressed desire to save taxpayers the estimated $35,000 election cost.
Deputy Treasurer, Jason Vandever—son of Tom Vandever, a former Charlottesville Mayor and a former Chairman of the Charlottesville Democrat Committee—is in line to assume Brown’s position without voter confirmation, should the council’s decision be upheld. Notably, Jason Vandever also is listed by the Charlottesville Democrat Party as a Tonsler Park precinct chair.
Judge Edward Hogshire will make the final “election or appointment” determination based on his consideration and on evaluation of public input received. Citizens are invited to contact the judge at the following address:
The Honorable Edward L. Hogshire, 16th Circuit
C/O Clerk of the Court Llezelle Dugger
Charlottesville Circuit Court
315 East High Street
Charlottesville, VA 22902
To wit: Following is a letter to Judge Hogshire, signed by Carole Thorpe on behalf of the Jefferson Area Tea Party Executive Board:
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
To the Honorable Edward L. Hogshire:
I am the spokesperson and former chairwoman of two years for the Jefferson Area Tea Party (JATP) in Charlottesville. My organization was one of several that received direct notice of the public hearing held last night on the topic of a special election for city treasurer of Charlottesville. I understand that you requested input from City Council and the public before making a decision as to how to fill the post in the interim before the next regular election.
I addressed Council to inform them of the JATP’s position to support the call for a special election. While our opinion was in the minority of those expressed during the hearing, it was not the only one wanting to retain election rights for our citizens. As you likely know this morning, either from Council itself or via media reports, there was a unanimous 5-0 vote by Council to request that the City forego a special election and appoint Chief Deputy Treasurer Jason A. Vandever to remain as interim treasurer instead.
Our advocacy for a special election is in no way intended as a reflection on Mr. Vandever’s performance thus far. We have no evidence that leads us to suspect he is incapable of fulfilling his duties. However, we are greatly concerned that every reasonable avenue to honor the public’s right to elect the treasurer has not yet been exhausted.
According to the resolution passed by Council, the period of interim service extends from October 1, 2012 to December 31, 2013. If the interim period was short – say, sixty to ninety days - our concern would not likely be as great as it is. But fourteen months is a long time to suspend taxpayers’ action on who they will entrust with the enormous responsibility to collect city taxes and fees, oversee investments and retirement funds, and other important duties.
The code which empowers citizens to vote to fill constitutional offices, such as treasurer and sheriff, is a crucial one. It prevents the government (in this instance, City Council) to make political appointments which can primarily benefit those in power instead of the people. Our community needs to have its treasurer accountable to the voter – and not ”beholding” to the government - so that the interest of our citizens is his or her guiding agenda.
Therefore, the JATP does not take a proposal to transfer the power from taxpayers to the city government lightly. And apparently neither do you, as evidenced by your reluctance to make a decision without public input. I commend you for that.
So it is with shared concern that I write you today to contemplate other alternatives.
I know the JATP and others could more easily support the suspension of a special election if we were confident that no one other than Mr. Vandever wanted the position. The JATP certainly couldn’t justify spending an estimated $30,000.00 to hold an election with only one candidate on the ballot.
Before a final ruling is made, I wonder if we could determine interest via a City-issued announcement calling for anyone who would like to run for election to come forward? Such a call could have a short window of response time – perhaps no more than one or two weeks. Then if no one expresses interest, Mr. Vandever could be appointed without reservation.
I will appreciate if you will give this some consideration along with any other ideas you are contemplating to reach the best conclusion possible.
Thank you for your time and attention. I look forward to a reply at your earliest convenience, if it is appropriate for you make one.
Spokesperson on behalf of the Executive Board
Jefferson Area Tea Party (JATP), Charlottesville VA
Filed Under: Government and Governance
About the Author: Rob Schilling is founder of The Schilling Show Blog and News; host of WINA's The Schilling Show, heard weekdays from noon to 2 PM; husband; father; and community watchdog.