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Within the days following James City County Administrator Robert Middaugh’s termination, citizens mobilized an effort to recall one county supervisor.
James City County residents have banded together to recall the Board of Supervisors Chairman Jim Kennedy (Stonehouse), launching a Facebook page to support the effort.
Since its launch Wednesday, the Facebook page titled Recall Jim Kennedy has garnered 153 “likes” as of 7:30 p.m. Monday.
The recall effort follows the supervisors’ vote, split along party lines, to terminate Middaugh without a public explanation. Kennedy, along with fellow Republicans Mary Jones (Berkeley) and Michael Hipple (Powhatan), voted in favor of his termination.
But organizers say the vote is just one example of Kennedy’s questionable behavior in recent months. In October, Kennedy clashed with county police officers over an incident outside his New Town restaurant, Dudley’s Bistro. Kennedy said the incident is indicative of a larger problem with teenagers in the New Town area. The officers — along with Police Chief Emmett Harmon — disputed the claim New Town has a crime problem, and the officers also refute Kennedy’s recollection of incidents.
Master Police Officer Robert McKenzie, one of the two responding officers to that October incident, said Kennedy made inappropriate comments about the teenagers involved in the incident.
“He then stated we should just, ‘shoot the little bastards.’ He said he gives us permission to. He then continued stating he had a, ‘Cadillac, a shovel, and could get a bag of [lyme]. No one would miss the little bastards,’” McKenzie wrote.
The other responding officer, MPO Keith Campbell, also quoted Kennedy making the comments.
“I believe by recalling Jim Kennedy we’ll send a message to rest of the Board of Supervisors that they need to listen to the people of this community,” said Will Melton, a marketing consultant with Proximo Marketing Strategies, who created the Facebook page.
It is unclear how many people are involved in the group trying to recall Kennedy, as the effort extends beyond the Facebook group. Melton, who said there is not one leader of the effort, would disclose the one member who has so far agreed to have his name made public: Steve Rose, owner of Williamsburg Event Rentals.
“I’m in New Town a lot of the time and I was appalled at what had happened with regards to Jim calling the police over the kids in New Town … and I kept things to myself but I think this just kind of pushed things over the top,” Melton said, referring to Middaugh’s termination as the final straw.
Rose echoed Melton’s sentiments, saying Kennedy’s comments have affected traffic at New Town businesses because it has been portrayed as dangerous.
“I feel like as a business person he can make those comments … but as an elected official, he can’t,” Rose said, explaining Kennedy should be trying to help businesses. “… I’ve worked very hard for 15 years to create a business here, not to let someone make comments … that will make the community worse.”
Rose’s business, Williamsburg Event Rentals, is located on Ironbound Road next to New Town.
“I’m not politically motivated in this. I don’t think a member of either party is going to do a better job just because they’re part of that party,” Melton said. “We’re not out for blood, we just think it’s time for a change.”
Rose also said he is not politically motivated; he would feel the same way if a Democrat were involved in same incidents as Kennedy.
So far, the group has launched the Facebook page and has reached out to an attorney for assistance in recalling Kennedy. Melton said he has not found many attorneys who have experience with recalling elected officials.
“This is really preliminary. I think everybody that’s involved at this point is being cautious to not move too fast,” Melton said.
According to Virginia law, a circuit court can remove any elected official from office once a petition is completed. The petition would need 217 signatures from registered voters in the Stonehouse District, which is 10 percent of the total number of votes cast in the last Stonehouse District election, which was in 2011. According to the results of the election on the Virginia State Board of Elections site, 2,168 people voted in the 2011 Stonehouse District election, which Kennedy won in an unopposed race.
A court can remove officials from office for “neglect of duty, misuse of office, or incompetence in the performance of duties when that … has a material adverse effect upon the conduct of office,” according to state law. Additionally, if an elected official is convicted of a misdemeanor or hate crime found to be selling, giving, possessing or manufacturing drugs, a judge could remove the official from office.
James City County Registrar A.J. Cole confirmed Virginia’s recall process is solely through the court system, not through recall elections.
Separate from the Facebook page, a MoveOn.org petition was launched Wednesday. The petition, called “Recall Election for James City County – Vote of Confidence,” had 410 signatures by 7:30 p.m. Monday.
“This is a first step in a series of activities by the Board of Supervisors that are cause of concern. Within a couple weeks of an election and the shifts, if you will, in the Board of Supervisors to dismiss and terminate Bob Middaugh without cause and any stated reason just smacks of politics,” said Bob Tubbs, owner of The Cedars Bed and Breakfast in the City of Williamsburg, who started the MoveOn.org petition.
Tubbs said it is his intent to recall all the Republicans on and elected to the board, including Kevin Onizuk who will take his seat on the Board after Jamestown Supervisor Jim Icenhour’s term ends.
“It seems they have been emboldened by the fact that they are now the majority, and that’s what I’m trying to put an end to,” Tubbs said. “You’re not going to redirect the herd if all you’ve done is injured one of the herd members. In this case, the direction of the herd needs to change.”
Tubbs said he also wants to have Middaugh reinstated to his position as county administrator if that is something Middaugh wants.
An online petition has no legal effect on whether Middaugh is reinstated to his position as county administrator, said County Attorney Leo Rogers in an email.
“… The Board of Supervisors hires the County Administrator. The County Administrator serves at the pleasure of the Board,” Rogers wrote.
Rogers went on to say the board can choose whomever it wants to serve as county administrator.
Tubbs said his next step is to consult with the circuit court to start the recall process; he said he used the online petition to see if there was enough support to do so. He said he is not involved with the group behind the Recall Jim Kennedy Facebook page.
“I’m not going to go down this road unless there is momentum for it,” Tubbs said.