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
Great letter Carole.
Yes Carole, you presented the brass tacks of the whole situation keenly and minced no words. Thank you for the disinfectant of shining sunlight here.
If the City of Charlottesvile can throw (yes, I said THROW) public appropriated funding at what has been formerly and penchantly (i.e. ornamental fencing on a deteriorating Belmont Bridge, a Vegan/Vegetarian Food Festival, and heaven knows what else) prioritized, what type of pittance would you say having a special election is?!!! There is nothing wrong with ever saving the public money but the city is more known for its noteriety to the persistent contrary.
The Red Flags are up and warning sirens sound. The topic of Albemarle County potentially becoming it own city was discussed on the 10/25/12 Schilling Show and in a post here – http://schillingshow.com/2012/10/22/charlottesvilles-most-wanted-episode-1-the-sign-stealer/comment-page-1/#comment-92851 )
I put a question to Rob’s show guest Neil Williamson, how this might affect the city’s possible reversion to town status. It so practically does to every avenue to do simultaneously. So the next time, it may not necessarily be a councilor gesturing and posturing to revert. The black hole of revenue sharing has shrunk before and could be set for shrinking again. The next time might be the honorable such and such bracing us for declaring the city bankrupt.
So, before the usual suspect smart-aleks remind us, yes. Yes, there are us among the citizenry aware of the last Awards/Recognitions/Announcements Moody’s Triple-A Bond Rating Annual City Budgetary Moment. Which bring us to this point: when “OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY” has totally been cleaned out, how long will our electable respected councilors HOLD OUT TO RESIST grasping that last life preserver of related debt credit? Who can follow the money trail when the source has done dried up and blown away?
This is nothing short of dense disgrace. Voter Disenfranchisement, Vote Fraud, the diluted weakend “one person – one ballot” principle are too commonly taken for granted or lightly dismissed. You can see the chance to start instituting indirect installation of predecessor defactos, to keep the seat of this first and other constitutional treasurers (or what other constitutional officers) warm. Dave Norris had the brazen audacity (Daily Progress article Oct.16,2012) to relegate this as “ridiculous!” Charlottesville needs to stop continuing the political embedment of single party soveriegnty within city hall. The word disappointment is an effort to be polite when a charade likely explains why, council(5-0) can claim culpability by saving the potential bill of expense from this special election.
Several of us over the yrs have been on target. Several of us over the yrs have cross hairs of city hall on us. Several of us over the yrs have our picture hanging in city hall as on their most wanted list. But we continue to fight them for the wrong they do. It is eaisier to spend the tax payer money on free bus servce for election day. It is easier to spend tax payer money on homeless shelther (in turn 3 of individuals are now in jail). Than it is to stand up and do the right things. It is easier to teach high school students that government give us our right to own property or whatever than it is to teach them “One nation under God.”
I am pleased to report that the perseverance of the JATP and others (including author “area 58” – bravo!!) has resulted in Judge Hogshire declining to rubbber stamp City Council’s request and instead call for a special election to be held on April 2, 2013.
Sometime during the six weeks between Council’s public hearing on October 15 and Judge Hogshire’s court hearing on November 28, Buddy Weber with the Charlottesville City GOP was able to find what he called a “qualified candidate” to run for the interim position. Thanks go to Buddy and the as-yet unnamed candidate…and also to “area 58”, JATP president Helen Swift-Dovel, and another citizen (whose name I will refrain from saying here to respect his privacy), who all deserve praise for delivering what Judge Hogshire termed as impressive and professional testimonies at his court hearing.
As I stated on several previous occasions, the actions of the JATP in no way reflect an opinion on the current or potential future performance of Jason Vandever – nor was his familial relationship to former mayor Tom Vandever ever part of our contention. Our motivation has been and remains to preserve elections for our citizens to vote for those who hold constitutional offices.
For the record, I am copying the text of a statement I issued in a media release following a report in The Daily Progress of Judge Hogshire’s decision (which hopefully will be upheld upon review by the U.S. Justice Department):
JATP statement on city treasurer special election ruling.
Charlottesville, VA – November 30, 2012
The Jefferson Area Tea Party (JATP) would like to publicly thank Charlottesville Circuit Judge Edward L. Hogshire for scheduling a court hearing prior to ruling on whether or not a special election should be held to fill the interim term for city treasurer. We are pleased that Judge Hogshire ultimately agreed with us and he has called for a special election to be held on April 2, 2013.
At a public hearing held during the Charlottesville City Council meeting on October 15, the JATP stated concern for Council’s intention to petition the court to suspend the election so it could make its own political appointment. Despite our call to them to uphold citizens’ rights and free elections, City Council voted unanimously to ask that it be allowed to fill the position instead. We sent a letter to Judge Hogshire within 48 hours after the hearing to request that he consider our position.
The argument contained in our letter, in addition to those made by several individual citizens, by record, gave Judge Hogshire enough pause to refrain from granting City Council’s request outright. Instead, he scheduled another hearing in his court on Wednesday, November 28.
At this hearing, JATP president Helen Swift-Dovel, other citizens, and Buddy Weber of the Charlottesville City GOP spoke in favor of holding the election. Mr. Weber told the judge the Republicans had found a “qualified candidate” to run for the interim position, which was likely a pivotal revelation that influenced Judge Hogshire’s decision.
It is vital that elections are preserved for the protection of our citizens. We the People need the line of defense of having constitutional offices, like treasurer and sheriff, accountable to the citizens – rather than filled by political appointees who may feel beholding to governing bodies. This is one important safeguard against the creation of an all-powerful, centralized government which our Founders warned us about.
While the JATP does not take the estimated cost of $30,000-$35,000 for a special election lightly, much greater sums are frequently spent by City Council on items which are not core functions of government. In April, the taxpayers and voters of the City of Charlottesville will be able to choose and entrust the person who will manage their money, and that has tremendous value.
This is a victory for our citizens and the JATP is proud to have played a part in making a special election possible.
About The Jefferson Area Tea Party:
The Jefferson Area Tea Party (JATP) is Central Virginia’s largest tea party organization. Located in Charlottesville, Virginia and founded in early 2009, its philosophy and political agenda is to lead the fight to restore the legacy of this area’s two most famous residents: Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, and James Madison, the Father of the Constitution. The JATP frequently hosts educational and candidate forums, rallies, and special events – and welcomes participation among all area patriots.