Wilford Kale has been nominated to fill a seat on the Williamsburg Regional Library Board of Trustees four years after submitting an application, but one James City County supervisor has deemed his former colleague unsuitable for the job.
Supervisor Jim Kennedy (Stonehouse) pushed the discussion of the board appointment to open session when he asked the Board of Supervisors for a deferral on the matter, which had been scheduled for discussion in closed session Tuesday night, before the open session adjourned.
Kennedy said he was concerned the four applicants being considered to fill a seat on the library board had government affiliations; he wanted additional candidates to consider, but asked the supervisors if they were looking at a specific applicant.
Supervisor Andy Bradshaw (Powhatan) put forward a motion to nominate Kale to the library board. Kale, a published author, served on the Planning Commission from 1999 to 2007. He served as the interim supervisor for the Jamestown seat in 2012.
Kennedy took issue with the nomination, saying he has concerns about Kale due to an incident at the Williamsburg-James City County Courthouse earlier in the year.
Kennedy remained vague about the incident during Tuesday’s meeting, but said he would like the board to gain more information on what happened.
Williamsburg-James City County Chief Deputy Dave Hardin, who was not present at the courthouse in January when Kale visited for an appointment, told WYDaily he had been alerted of the incident earlier this year and reviewed the surveillance video.
“Mr. Kale came into the courthouse and when he came to the front door he got upset about being screened coming in because our guys didn’t know he had a meeting with the judge,” Hardin said. “He got into a little verbal incident with our people at the front door, and that’s kind of where it was left.”
Hardin said a police officer was in the courthouse at the time and indicated he would have stepped in if Kale didn’t calm down, but the incident settled and Kale kept his appointment with the judge.
“I like Wilford. I’ve dealt with him several times … when I saw who it was I was completely blown back because I’ve never known him to be that way,” Hardin said
Kale was not charged with anything related to the argument.
Kale did not speak to the details of the incident in an interview, but called Hardin’s account fair.
In an interview with WYDaily on Wednesday, Kennedy said the details of the incident made him concerned about how Kale would handle himself on the library board.
“I know his demeanor is very abrupt and he’s not a very pleasant person,” Kennedy said. “… The man’s a legend in his own mind and I’ve never had a use for him.”
During the meeting, Bradshaw said he had not previously heard about an incident with Kale at the courthouse. He said discussion of the library board appointment began weeks ago — it had originally been slated for discussion in closed session Sept. 24, but was deferred due to Kennedy’s absence for a family illness— and said Kennedy could have raised that specific concern ahead of Tuesday’s meeting.
Kennedy then raised another concern about Kale as a nominee, saying he has heard Kale may have been donating to a political action committee aimed at working against Republican candidates for the Board of Supervisors, Kevin Onizuk and Michael Hipple for the Jamestown and Powhatan seats, respectively.
In an interview Wednesday, Kale said he understood PAC James City Citizens for Good Government to be nonpartisan and worked to support various principles of good government — not work for or against specific candidates. He also said he has been asked to contribute and would probably comply, but has not yet made a donation.
The conversation about Kale in open session also brought on a discussion of whether a public conversation on personnel matters is appropriate. Typically, personnel matters, such as board appointments, show up on the board’s closed session agendas. The board sometimes decides to make nominations in open session.
“We’ve had this issue about closed session, and there are legal reasons why we have closed sessions and there are maybe courtesy reasons why we should have closed sessions,” Icenhour said. “We can do as we’re doing today, we can do this in open session. It’s very open, it’s very transparent. The public gets to see exactly what goes on, but it also allows for the opportunity for things to be said about the individual that we do not know are correct.”
He continued to say he’s more comfortable having discussions about more uncertain issues during closed session.
“I think we have done a great disservice to the four applicants and we really have not done a good service to the public by conducting our business the way we have this evening,” Icenhour said.
Ultimately, Supervisor John McGlennon (Roberts) said the issue should be deferred. He said raising an allegation rather than a proven fact in an open setting is not a good thing to do when considering people to serve on boards and commissions on a voluntary basis. He said these matters should be discussed in closed session with a nomination made in open session afterward.
Kennedy said there has been inconsistency in the way appointments are done, and he could not remember the last time the board talked in a closed session and then voted on the topic of discussion during an open session.
“Whenever we have a closed session scheduled, these guys don’t want to go into closed session, they want to do this on the dais,” Kennedy said Wednesday. “It has been nearly two years since we went into a closed session to make an appointment and came out … where there was a video record.”
Kennedy said Tuesday’s meeting was another clear indication Democrats like to practice politics in the sunset; he said he proposed all closed sessions be taped but McGlennon and Bradshaw were opposed “and I just believe it’s because they have something to hide.”
“I didn’t think last night was called for. I asked for a simple deferral,” Kennedy said.