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Resident who sued Prince William Supervisors over meeting law strikes out in court

Fairfax County Judge Dennis J. Smith on Wednesday moved to strike, effectively tossing out a case against five sitting Democrats on the Prince William Board of County Supervisors. 

Brett “Alan” Gloss, a  Prince William County resident, sued the Democrats individually, claiming they violated Virginia’s open meetings law when all five gathered at a 1 p.m. meeting of the Prince William police Citizens Advisory Board on Sunday, May 31, the day after five people were arrested, and multiple businesses were smashed during riots that took place at the intersection of Sudley Road and Sudley Manor Drive outside Manassas. 

Smith heard the case after all Prince William County Circuit Court judges recused themselves. 

Patrick McSweeney, one of Gloss’ attorneys, argued the sitting Supervisors discussed public business during the meeting, specifically about how police used teargas to disperse rioters. With no Republican members of the Board of County Supervisors present during the meeting, it would be easier for Democrats to put pressure on the police department not to use teargas in the future, Gloss’ legal counsel argued.

Chris Kachouroff, who is also legal counsel to Gloss, cited a Facebook post written by Woodbridge District Supervisor Margaret Franklin where she stated she didn’t approve of the use of tear gas on the rioters. The post appeared on Franklin’s Facebook page on May 31, prior to the start of the 1 p.m. advisory board meeting. 

But the only concrete argument the Gloss’ team could establish is that Occoquan District Supervisor Kenny Boddye asked acting police chief Jarad Phelps if information about teargas, deployed by the Virginia State Police that was called in as back up, would be included in an after-action report that detailing the police response to the riots, at the intersection of Sudley Road and Sudley Manor Drive.

Judge Smith said that Boddye was gathering information about the incident and was not asserting his opinion.

During the 1 p.m. advisory board meeting, emails started flying between Supervisors and county staff, talking about holding a 4 p.m. emergency meeting of the Board of County Supervisors. Republican members of the Board of Supervisors first learned about the 1 p.m. after the 4 p.m. emergency session started.

The Democrats who attended the 1 p.m. meeting all left early to meet with their Republican colleagues at the McCoart Government Center in Woodbridge. Phelps provided the same report on the police response to the riot he had given earlier to the full board.

The 1 p.m. advisory board meeting had been called by now-retired police chief Barry Barnard. They leaned on NAACP Prince William County Chapter President Cozy Bailey, the husband of one of the defendants, Potomac District Supervisor Andrea Bailey, to invite members of the minority to the community to attend the meeting. 

Andrea Bailey overheard her husband’s phone conversation with Barnard about the 1 p.m. meeting and then called Woodbridge District Supervisor Margaret Franklin and asked her to attend. Franklin then notified Boddye about the meeting.

None chose to inform their three Republican colleagues, including Peter Candland, who represents residents and business owners in the Gainesville District, where the riot occurred.

Neabsco District Supervisor Victor Angry learned about the meeting from his mentor Micheal Futrell, a former member of the House of Delegates.

During a Board of County Supervisors meeting on video, Boddye characterized the meeting as being held for minorities only.

Prior to the 1 p.m. meeting, the county’s top elected official wanted an explanation as to why the Virginia State Police used teargas. 

“I thought we could do better, and Virginia State Police were a little aggressive,” said Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chair At-large Ann Wheeler on the witness stand. 

At 12:08 a.m. on May 31, Wheeler said she texted County Executive Christopher Martino and asked for a meeting with the police department to discuss the riots. She met with Martino, Barnard, and Phelps at the Western District Police Station outside Manassas at 12:30 p.m. Afterward. She attended the 1 p.m. advisory board meeting, which took place inside the same building.

“I didn’t think about it as Supervisor Candland’s district, I thought about it as where the riots took place,” said Wheeler on the witness stand. “[Candland didn’t reach out to me, and I didn’t reach out to him.”

Prince William police sent multiple email updates to supervisors about the riots as they were occurring. The supervisors’ lawyers argued Republicans chose not to contact their Democratic board members about the incident and became angry when they weren’t invited to 1 p.m. meeting.

“It seems like someone was upset because they weren’t invited. Well, this isn’t high school,” said Julia Judkins, Wheeler’s attorney.

Gloss told PLN that, while he’s disappointed with the outcome of the case, he is happy that more people are talking about transparency in government. “It’s very important to me that our government is transparent,” he said.

The lawsuit comes after nearly a year of tension among members of the Prince William Board of. County Supervisors. On January 6, Democrats took control of the Board previously dominated by Republicans.

Since then, Democrats have made a string of party-line votes, often shutting down initiatives introduced by the Board’s GOP members. Many meetings begin at 2 p.m. and don’t adjourn until after midnight. In July, a facilitator was hired at taxpayer expense to teach the Board to work together as a team.

“We’re working for the people of Prince William County,” Wheeler said as she walked out of the courtroom. “I don’t know. I can say we’re working together, but we are working.”

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