Police, others investigating reports of criminal actions by officials in town of
(January 19, 2008) - -
Officials of this tiny Eastern Shore town are under investigation by more than
one agency for government corruption, relating to destruction of documents,
abuse of authority, and other unspecified potential crimes,
sources tell the Virginia News Source.
to sources close to the investigation, State Police investigators on Tuesday
went to the private workplace
of town clerk Angela Taylor demanding town council records.
source said she told them she was keeping them in her home and accompanied
police there to retrieve them. One key tape recording is missing.
Michelle Cotton, a spokesperson for the State Police said, "We can't
comment on ongoing investigations."
investigations were launched after Hallwood Town Councilman James Dean reported
to the Virginia Beach-based Unalienable Rights Foundation (UARF) numerous
government irregularities, including that he was unable to get copies of minutes
or tapes of town council meetings.
launched an investigation and filed several unsuccessful Freedom of Information
Act requests for documents. UARF President David Lindsey said the town's clerk,
mayor and others stonewalled attempts to get documents.
was then that criminal investigators
said that after being elected to council, a citizen by the name of John Smith, a
Baltimore resident, who has a second hand sales business in
Hallwood, was told that the town had changed the zoning laws and his business
was no longer legal.
one council meeting a member of the council said it was their intent to 'run
Smith out of town,' Dean said. The tape on which that statement was recorded
appears to be the only one missing from Ms. Taylor's possession, Dean said.
started looking into the case because I believed Smith had been done wrong and
public officials were harassing him," Dean said.
said, "My understanding is that the town council changed the zoning and
they are now telling Smith because of the new zoning, his ongoing business can't
continue there and they have denied him a renewal of hisbusiness
pointed out that in an April 20, 2007 case of Alexandria City Council v Mirant
Potomac River LLC, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled "that once a business
is operating and legal, even if the law is changed, the business can continue to
operate as before. In other words the business has a vested right under Sec.
15.2-2307 of the Virginia Code."
told Dean that council member and Hallwood Vice Mayor Alma Poulson was upset
with him because he had outbid her son for the property on which he had his
business and that was why the town was trying to force him out of business.
said the police chief was used to cite Smith for zoning violations and he was
prosecuted by Eastern Shore State Del. Lynwood Lewis, who wrote UARF in July,
" "This is to advise that I am responding on behalf of the Town of
Hallwood as the Town's attorney..."
documents UARF found that "The Code of Virginia section 15.2-1542.d says:
town attorneys can prosecute criminal misdemeanor cases with the concurrence of
the commonwealth's attorney and authorization of the town.." UARF found no
documentation of that authority being given Lewis."
County Commonwealth's Attorney Gary R. Agar, tried to be cute in responding to
Lindsey by putting parenthesises around (UN) in Unalienable Rights Foundation as
though it was spelled incorrectly, and said he hadn't authorized Lewis to
prosecute for the county of town.
irritated by stupidity of legal professionals, sent him a copy of the
Declaration of Independence where the word is written 'Unalienable' and
suggested Agar get his own copy out and read it.
said that all of the criminal cases prosecuted by Lewis for the town are illegal
and all convictions, obtained by Lewis, therefore are subject to being
V. Chisum, clerk of the Accomack County General District Court, in a letter to
Lindsey said, "As a practical matter, it is extremely rare for a county of
town attorney to prosecute a criminal or traffic case in this court. We cannot
recall any such cases in the year 2007."
said, "We know that's a lie. Lewis prosecuted 4 cases against John
this finding by UARF, Lewis revised his previous statement of being the town's
attorney, writing, "While I from time to time represent the Town of Hallood
in legal matters as requested by them, I am not on permanent retainer as the
town atrtorney. I have a separate office and a completely independent practice
of which they (the town) are but one of many."
had requested a $5 FOIA fee from Lindsey, but when Lindsey sent it to him and
after deciding he wasn't the town's attorney really, Lewis returned Lindsey's $5
bill saying, "I do not collect bills outstanding for any of my
said he had to file FOIA requests to get copies of town meeting records and was
unable to get the tape about running Smith out of town. "Taylor
acknowledged making the tape, but said she subsequently destroyed it," he
approached by the state police this week, Taylor said she wasn't aware that all
records of cities, counties, and towns are governed by the state's public
records law - which not only requires they be maintained by such governments,
but copies must be filed with the Virginia State Librarian in Richmond for
heard she turned white as a sheet when the police showed her that law,"
Dean said, "saying she really didn't know she had to do that."
said the investigations are far from over and there could be criminal