Hearing continued in case to recall board chairwoman

Published 7:19 pm Friday, April 22, 2022

A show-cause hearing scheduled for Friday morning in Suffolk Circuit Court regarding a citizen effort to recall School Board Chairwoman Dr. Judith Brooks-Buck was continued.

No new date had been set as of Friday afternoon.

The petition, which has more than 800 signatures, was filed April 12 by Margaret Rankin of the group Suffolk Citizens for Accountability, with a show-cause order issued two days later.

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The show-cause order requires Brooks-Buck to “appear before this court … to show cause, if any can, why Dr. Judith Brooks-Buck should not be removed from the office of City of Suffolk School Board for the Nansemond Borough.”

It alleges that Brooks-Buck “has knowingly, willingly and purposefully violated the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, and allowed the City of Suffolk School Board to do the same, on repeated occasions,” and also “repeatedly silenced any critic” of the board and the school division, “including threatening the removal and arrest of citizens exercising their Constitutional rights as School Board members.”

The petition also alleges that Brooks-Buck has censored and restricted other board members from questioning her actions, and “has deflected her own responsibility for the School Board’s failures.”

Brooks-Buck has publicly defended herself against the recall effort. At the hearing, Brooks-Buck will also have the right to demand a jury trial in the matter. Recall petitions in Virginia do not automatically result in a new election, but rather go to a judge to rule on the merits of their claims. The judge will decide whether to proceed with a trial.

State law allows for a circuit court, upon petition, to remove any elected official, or someone appointed to fill an elective office for several reasons, including neglect of duty, misuse of office or incompetence in the performance of duties when it “has a material adverse effect upon the conduct of the office;” a misdemeanor drug conviction, a misdemeanor hate crime conviction or a misdemeanor sexual battery conviction.

The petition must be signed by at least 10% of the total number of votes cast in the last election held by the person being recalled.

Circuit Court Judge Matthew Glassman has recused himself from hearing the case. Carl Eason Jr., chief judge of the Fifth Judicial District, has designated Lawson Wayne Farmer, another Fifth Circuit judge, to conduct all the hearings in the case. Eason himself recently dismissed a petition to recall Isle of Wight School Board member Michael Vines.

According to online court records, Brooks-Buck will be represented by attorney Melissa Y. York, and Hampton Commonwealth’s Attorney Anton Bell will be representing the petitioner in the case.

The results of the trial can be appealed to the state Supreme Court.