Letter – Pleas should recuse herself from candidate petition investigation

Published 7:10 pm Friday, October 7, 2022

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To the Editor:

Impartiality. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as: “not partial or biased : treating or affecting all equally.” Virginia’s Oath of Office for elected constitutional officers (commonwealth’s attorney, treasurer, sheriff, commissioner of the revenue, etc.) requires the office-holder to swear to “faithfully and impartially discharge all duties” to the best of their ability. Recent actions by Suffolk’s commonwealth’s attorney brings into question whether she is living up to this oath.

Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney Narendra Pleas should immediately recuse herself from any involvement in the matter of the forged signatures on the Bredemeyer candidate petition and request the Suffolk Circuit Court appoint a special prosecutor. I believe Pleas has clear conflicts of interest that call into question the impartiality of her office.

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According to the Virginia Department of Elections’ campaign finance reports, the petition circulator under investigation for the alleged forged signatures, as well as Bredemeyer’s campaign manager, worked for Pleas’ 2021 campaign for Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney. On top of that, Pleas’ campaign accepted donations from companies or partnerships owned by both the former candidate and the Notary, himself a former city councilman, that acknowledged all 17 petition pages that contained forgeries.

Isle of Wight Commonwealth’s Attorney Georgette Phillips recused herself from handling the Windsor traffic stop matter to avoid the appearance of impartiality. Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney Colin Stolle recused himself from handling the Scott Taylor campaign election fraud incident because he was related to some of the forgery victims. Special prosecutors are routinely appointed to ensure the impartiality of the system and avoid actual or apparent conflicts.

I believe it is clear Suffolk Borough residents had a fraud committed against them when a circulator forged 200 names on a candidate petition. As I sat in the Suffolk Electoral Board special meeting on Aug. 16, having had my own signature forged, there was one common feeling — anger. Anger that someone chose to take away our voice and choice on whether to sign the petition. Anger that the board was slow to react. Anger that no one from the city had notified those whose names appeared to be forged.

The Suffolk registrar and electoral board made the right decision in removing the candidate from the ballot. Suffolk’s commonwealth’s attorney should make the right decision in recusing herself and requesting a special prosecutor. Failure to do so will cast a shadow on the investigation and bring into question the impartiality of the justice system in the City of Suffolk.

Will Webb