Recall efforts are partisan power plays
Published 2:11 pm Thursday, January 20, 2022
By Dr. Judith Brooks-Buck
“… There comes a time when a position is neither safe, polite, or popular. But one’s conscience tells one that it is right.” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
An article titled “No change in School Board leadership roles” began as if written simply to document the 2022 reorganization of the Suffolk School Board. However, it became clear that the article was written as a “How to reverse the election results of locally elected officials.” While the November election has been hailed as one of the fairest and most accurate historically, certain groups have overtly and covertly attempted to do whatever they could to rewrite the election narrative. This was different, but no less destructive.
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This writer believes that the Suffolk Citizens IV Accountability, whose names appear prominently in the “comments section” on their Facebook page, only speak anonymously for certain published articles. The attorney whose name and address currently appear on the Facebook page, but is not representing the group, may be receiving unsolicited donations. Why? In an earlier check, one of the page administrators had the same name as the current leader of the Suffolk Republican Party. Seemingly, a step-by-step article on what could be done to reverse election results might include a bit more details about the people who want the information.
Although most people in Suffolk want to move on, there are those who want to continue making circular arguments. They argue about the need for a School Board audit when audits paid for by the City of Suffolk have revealed no deficiencies. The first Story Virginia Freedom of Information Act (VFOIA) lawsuit has not been resolved. The Virginia Supreme Court recently issued an opinion that the School Board did not violate VFOIA in its certification of closed meetings. The case is being sent back to the circuit court to determine whether the School Board should pay Story’s legal fees. The second Story lawsuit was settled in hopes of moving on with the business of the Board. The Story attorney received $15,000 from the School Board, and $5,000 from the insurance carrier. The Wahlstrom lawsuit is still undetermined, as the Board waits to see if the Virginia Supreme Court will hear the appeal. The Wahlstrom/Story attorney (same attorney) has not been paid. In the Wahlstrom lawsuit, the VFOIA Council indicated that the School Board did not violate the VFOIA. In neither the Story nor Wahlstrom lawsuit did the court find that any of the actions of the School Board Chair or School Superintendent were willful. In truth, the School Board Chair was innocent of purposefully violating the VFOIA.
On the other hand, the cost to the taxpayers in the Story harassment of the School Superintendent was $56,000, down from the original cost of $142,627.50. The law firm worked with the Board to adjust over $86,500 of the bill. The public investigative report confirmed Story’s egregious behavior. However, Story refused to apologize, accept responsibility for her actions, follow the recommendations of the independent investigators, or the School Board. If the group members were really concerned about accountability, transparency, and doing what is right, one wonders, who would need to be recalled?
The Nansemond and Whaleyville Boroughs are diverse communities that represent all segments of Suffolk. The citizens understand the issues. Almost 12,000 people from the two boroughs voted in a free and fair election. Those individuals voted their incumbents in for a third and a fourth term, respectively. They know who they want to represent them. The most visible leaders of the anonymous movement do not appear to live in the two boroughs that are under attack. Incumbent leaders have simply been targeted. This is the time to take a position, whether or not it is “safe, popular, or polite.” The Suffolk School Board has to make decisions for thousands of children, families and employees in the middle of a pandemic. Pitiful, partisan, power plays consume unnecessary time and energy. “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence of the good people … conscience tells one that is right!” — Martin Luther King Jr.
Dr. Judith Brooks-Buck can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is the sole opinion of the author.