The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth

   Written by on November 22, 2017 at 12:00 pm

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.  John Adams 1770

Supervisor-elect Kay Pierantoni is angry with the Southside Messenger because we have not included her monthly tirades to the Board of Supervisors in our publication. We have offered to print her opinions as Letters to the Editor on our opinion page, but she has not submitted anything.

The Messenger seldom prints citizen comments to the Board for multiple reasons. In some cases, nothing of substance is said. Others are factually incorrect, and we refuse to perpetuate a lie or misinformation. In other cases, a speaker would be embarrassed to find that what they actually said is not what they intended to say. This may have a tendency to stifle citizens’ sincere comments and public involvement in meetings.

Frankly, some speakers are malcontents who love to hear themselves talk and love to attack anyone who disagrees with them and for the smallest mistake. We call these people short on facts and long on attacks. Although giving the attackers recognition would be profitable, we believe protecting the county and its citizens from misinformation is more important than sales numbers.

In the recent election, Kay Pierantoni won a seat on the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors. She is now a public figure and can no longer be protected from justified correction of misinformation and attacks. Her opinions and decisions will now affect every citizen of Charlotte County and misinformation must be challenged.

See below for her latest Facebook rant and the corrections required.

On the Subject of Rights
and Wrongs
-Evan M. Jones

A recent Facebook post (on a page that appears to be operated by newly elected Supervisor Kay Pierantoni) purports to identify some Rights and Wrongs in relation to a meeting of the current Board of Supervisors on November 14th.

The author of this post is, in many ways, wrong in their assessment of what happened at the meeting, makes numerous claims that falsely represent the facts presented in the recording that the author provides and shows a lack of understanding about the way in which local government meetings function.

The author begins by stating, “I believe this is the first motion ever made by Mr. Weston. To me, he seemed ‘coached”. His motion was “To turn over all County Advertising to The Southside Messenger”; make The Messenger the “total advertising people”. This motion was out of order. Whether you agree with the motion (I do NOT) or not, he was out of order.”

In researching the first claim, Mr. Weston has made numerous motions (Jan. 2017, Dec. 2016, March 2016, July 2015, to name a few) and seconded dozens more motions during his tenure on the Board. While the author only offers their belief that Weston has never made a motion,  thirty seconds of research (http://bfy.tw/F986) on the County website proves this belief to be wrong, wrong, wrong.

To the second claim that Mr. Weston “seemed coached,” the author offers no evidence or even a claim as to who coached Mr. Weston. It would appear that the author takes issue with a line of questioning by Gary Walker in which Mr. Weston clarifies his motion further.  If one listens to the audio provided by the author, Mr. Weston’s statement was, “I’d like to make a motion that we solely make the Southside Messenger our total advertising people. You know, the Charlotte Gazette no longer has got ties with anybody in the county. Mr. Jones, he is here in the county with us and I’d like to make a motion to turn all our county advertising over to the Southside Messenger.”

Mr. Weston discussed his motion with Mr. Walker and other members of the Board and offers a clarification to his motion that the newspaper of record be changed to the Southside Messenger and that the advertisements continue to be placed in both newspapers.

If Walker is “coaching” Weston in order to clarify Weston’s intent, Walker offers the same sort of assistance to Dr. Nancy Carwile later in the meeting during her substitute motion. It is commonplace in local government meetings for motions to be made, significantly clarified through discussion, and then be voted on.

The author then contends that this motion was “out of order.” The author offers no explanation as to what specifically is out of order in regard to Weston’s motion.

  

The author continues: “Another WRONG: Whoever seconded this motion. I can’t tell if it was Haywood Hamlet or Butch Shook. If it was Haywood Hamlet; after 26 years of serving on the Board, four times as Chair, he should have known better. You would think the last thing he would want at this point is more controversy. It might have been Butch Shook. Mr. Shook should have also known better, he has served for 10 years. As a business owner in struggling Charlotte County, I am sure Mr. Shook can appreciate how much the business the County has done with him has helped his business.”

Again, referring to the audio file that the author provides, it is later clearly stated that the motion is seconded by Haywood Hamlet. The author’s opinions that members “should have known better” is little more than an opinion with no evidence to back it up.

The author continues: “Finally, a RIGHT: Dr. Nancy Carwile, Mr. Butch Hamlett and Mr. Royal Freeman voted against the motion. Dr. Carwile made a substitute motion to leave things alone for now. The Charlotte Gazette was accused by a staff person of not doing their job correctly. Dr. Carwile’s motion was basically to give the Gazette, and the Supervisors, time to look into this. Mr. Butch Hamlett strengthened the motion. Their motion failed but I am thankful to Dr. Carwile, Mr. Butch Hamlett and Mr. Freeman for trying to do the right thing.”

The author appears to be getting things out of order. Again, referring to the recording that the author purports to have listened to, Mr. Weston discusses his motion with Mr. Walker and offers a clarification to his motion that the newspaper of record be changed to the Southside Messenger and that the advertisements continue to be placed in both newspapers. (See Side Note 1 for explanation of the term “newspaper of record”.)

Jenni Shook, Administrative Assistant on the Charlotte County Administration Staff, states that public notice advertisements sent to the Gazette are not being published as required by law. If the advertisements are not published as required, public hearings must be rescheduled and the hearing must be re-advertised in order to give the proper legal notice to the citizens of Charlotte County.

Dr. Carwile offers a substitute motion: “that we let it be known that if it’s not going to be published two weeks before, we cannot continue to have the paper of public record, instead of, instead of working to solve a problem rather than just do things.” The motion is clarified (coached, if the author takes issue with Weston’s original motion) through discussion. (See Side Note 2 for a transcript of the discussion) The motion that was voted on was a motion that “it be left alone.”

On a roll call vote on the substitute motion, Dr. Carwile, Garland Hamlett, Royal Freeman vote yes. The remainder of the board, Gary Walker, Warren Weston, Butch Shook, Haywood Hamlet, vote no. The motion fails to carry. The Board then returns to Weston’s original motion as clarified through the discussion. In another roll call vote, the board members vote (again, 4-3) to accept Weston’s original motion.

The author’s representation of the events at the meeting, at best, places the events out of order. At worst, it appears to be an attempt to represent the events in an entirely different frame of reference that casts doubt on the validity of the proceedings.

The author continues: “A WRONG: If this action stands, Citizens who wish to read the legal notices of the County will be forced into buying The Southside Messenger. In my opinion, The Messenger can be biased in their coverage of County affairs. Example? In the summer of 2016, there was little (if any) coverage of a petition signed by over 800 taxpayers/citizens! Why?? Could it be because the People were demanding simple things (more transparency and accountability) from the powers-that-be? Here’s a question for Mr. Jones: Is he a reporter for the People? Or the powers-that-be? Ask him and you decide.”

This paragraph is entirely inaccurate. If one listens to the recording (as the author claims to have), the motion that passed was not the original “make the Messenger the total advertising people.” It was that The Messenger be made the newspaper of record for the county and that the advertisements still be placed in both newspapers. The author then contends that there was “little (if any) coverage” of a petition. There is a difference between “little” and “any.” Since the author didn’t specify what petition they’re referring to or if that petition was ever delivered to the Board of Supervisors, we are unable to say whether The Messenger covered this petition or not. As for questioning Mr. Jones, we are available at the office in Keysville from 9AM to 5PM, Monday through Friday and available for any inquiries.

The author concludes: “WRONG, WRONG, WRONG: The actions of Chairman Gary Walker. He has many years of experience of Boards (Supervisors since 1996, School Board 1987-1995, Heartland Industrial Development Authority, etc.) Many of the time he has served as Chairman. He can’t play dumb. In Virginia we operate under something known as “The Sunshine Law”. How the meeting is conducted is also governed by Robert’s Rules of Order. Unless an item in on the approved Agenda, it can NOT be brought up for vote. Why? Because the Citizens (and other Board members) have a right to know what will be brought up for vote in the meeting. The Agenda is voted at the beginning of the meeting. After that, you can’t just “bring something up”. Mr. Walker knows that. Who else knows that? The long time County Attorney, Frank Slayton. A lot of our tax dollars are paid each year to him to represent the County. He isn’t at every meeting but he was at this one. At one point in the discussion, Mr. Clark even mentions about him weighing in on one part of the argument that was transpiring. He could have easily noted that the motion was out of order. I am disappointed he did not. Also weighing in was the oh-too-long (in my opinion) County Administrator, R. B. Clark. After serving for too-many-years, he knew this was out of order. He’s not dumb either. The maybe biggest WRONG: Again, Mr. Walker. Since the motion on the floor will give Mr. Walker’s brother in law (Mr. Jones) exclusive advertising; thereby strengthening his business while hurting the Charlotte Gazette; well….come on, Mr. Walker. You know you needed to recuse yourself. Even if you don’t presently have, nor ever have had, any financial interest in The Southside Messenger, he is your brother in law. It’s called conflict. You know that. Actually, the last time the “powers-that-be” tried to bring something similar up, Mr. Walker, did recuse himself. Why not this time? Because it would have been a 3 to 3 vote this time and a failed motion. Is that call winning no matter what? Is that called conflict? Yes, in my opinion, it certainly is. So, I pose this to you the People. What do you think? Is it time for a change? Mr. Weston and Mr. Haywood Hamlet have only one more month to serve as they were voted out. Mrs. Donna Fore and I will take those seats. How about the others who committed what I view as “WRONGS”? Is it time for a change there?”

The author (for the first time mentioning “I will take those seats,” indicating that the post allegedly is written by new Supervisor Kay Pierantoni) begins by mentioning “The Sunshine Law” and Robert’s Rules of Order.

Searching for “The Sunshine Law” in the Code of Virginia yields no results. The only mentions of the word “Sunshine” in the entire body of the Code of Virginia are in § 33.2-3101 (creation of the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission Interstate Compact) and in § 53.1-176.2 (creation of The Interstate Compact for the Supervision of Adult Offenders). Both code sections indicate that the interstate commissions created by their respective code sections will adhere to the “Government in the Sunshine Act,” a 1976 law that only refers to the federal government, Congress, federal commissions and other federal bodies, not local governments. Ms. Pierantoni is mistaken in her assessment.

Perhaps Ms. Pierantoni is referring to the Freedom of Information Act created by Code of Virginia § 2.2-3700. Ms. Pierantoni fails to indicate how this meeting failed to meet the requirements set forth in Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act or the federal “Government in the Sunshine Act” for that matter. The Freedom of Information Act’s only mention of “agenda” is that the agenda be made available to the public. Even the entirety of Title 2.2 (that contains FOIA as well as 59 other chapters of regulations) only mentions agenda in two code sections. Ms. Pierantoni is mistaken in her assessment.

Moving on to Robert’s Rules of Order, the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors typically adopts Robert’s Rules of Order for Small Groups at their organizational meeting, typically the first meeting of the year. According to this year’s minutes from the January 3, 2017 meeting, a “Motion was made by Nancy R. Carwile, seconded by Warren E. Weston and carried with all other members present and voting yes, to adopt Roberts Rules of Order for Small Groups amending the section governing board procedures to require a second for all motions and to require that any board member be recognized by the chair in order to speak or make motions.”

Robert’s Rules of Order offer seven amendments to be used in smaller, less formal groups. The Board’s January motion accepts five of those amendments, making changes to the two mentioned in the motion.

Robert’s Rules of Order does not contain any restrictions that an item not on agenda cannot be brought up or voted upon. Ms. Pierantoni is mistaken in her assessment.

Finally, the motion passed at the November 14 Board of Supervisor’s meeting does not give the Messenger “exclusive advertising.” While the minutes for the meeting will not be available until they are approved at the next board meeting in December, Mr. Weston’s motion was clarified and amended throughout the discussion and only made the Messenger the “newspaper of record,” a legally meaningless term. Public notice advertisements will continue to be placed in both the Messenger and the Gazette. Ms. Pierantoni is mistaken in her assessment.

Throughout her inflammatory tirade on Facebook, Ms. Pierantoni either distorts the truth or is flat-out “wrong, wrong, wrong” in her assessment of the November 14th Board meeting. She appears to not understand Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act or Robert’s Rules of Order.

Based on her comments on her Facebook page, she may not even understand the rules of human decency. In one exchange, a Drakes Branch man disagrees with her and asks questions of her. Pierantoni posts: “I’m not sure Mr [redacted] even exists. He may be a “Troll” hiding behind a name, with a hidden agenda. Click on his Page: does it look real? EMT? I can find no such person listed under the Va Dept of Regulations for Lynchburg General or anywhere else. A search of property records in Charlotte County does yield any proof. So–maybe he’s just another attempt by the powers-that-be to discredit me. To that I say: Good luck!!! The TRUTH is on my side.”

To be clear, Ms. Pierantoni scoured the Internet, searching multiple databases as well as the individual’s Facebook page for the personal details of someone that disagreed with her in an effort to make sure he was “real.” She checked both the Charlotte County Property Records and the “Va. Department of Regulations” for his information. In the series of posts to the person, Pierantoni (this time from her personal account instead of what appears to be her campaign account) says, “I have heard from many Citizens that they are afraid to speak up. Isn’t that troubling?”

Yes, Kay. It is deeply troubling that you would go out of your way to search through property records to find out where someone who disagreed with you lives. We cannot imagine why a citizen might be concerned about speaking out when the official the citizen is speaking to indicates they’re looking for the citizen’s home address. Again, you are wrong, wrong, wrong.

If we take Ms. Pierantoni’s tirade and mark through the statements that are misleading or outright wrong, we’re left with almost nothing. We expect more from our elected officials than has been shown by Ms. Pierantoni’s actions over the last week. We expect our elected officials to treat others with respect and represent our county with honor and dignity, not with tirades, attacks and a blatant disregard for the truth.

Side Note 1:

In Virginia, “newspaper of record” is a term not defined in the Code. In the Code of Virginia Section 8.01-324 titled “Newspapers which may be used for legal notices and publications,” several criteria are set forth but the term “newspaper of record” is never used. Those criteria mandate that the newspaper: “have a bona fide list of paying subscribers; Have been published and circulated at least once a week for twenty-four consecutive weeks without interruption for the dissemination of news of a general or legal character; Have a general circulation in the area in which the notice is required to be published; Be printed in the English language; and Have a second-class mailing permit issued by the United States Postal Service.” There is no requirement in Section A of § 8.01-324 that the newspaper be approved by any entity providing that they meet the above five requirements.

However, the United States Post Office no longer uses the term “second-class mailing permit,” instead issuing periodical permits to newspapers instead of the second-class permit mentioned in the Code. Newspapers concerned about this have attempted to cover their bases by following the instructions in Section B of the Code: petitioning the circuit court in the jurisdiction for the authority to publish the notices mentioned. In the opinion of the lawyers the Messenger has retained to study this matter in past, this is unnecessary.

Side Note 2:

Transcript from the recording available on the Charlotte County Administration website: http://www.charlotteva.com/Audio%20Files/[11-14-2017][13_29_10].mp3 Skip ahead to 1 hour, 20 minutes.

Jenni Shook, Administrative Assistant: “Mr. Walker, could I add a little point of reasoning to that? With the public hearing that we had today, with the Charlotte Gazette being our paper of record, we’re required to advertise for two weeks prior to that. If the Southside Messenger had not advertised that for two weeks like they did, the Charlotte Gazette did not do it. And that could have caused us to have to reschedule the public hearing or any other type of hearing or anything we have. And that’s happened multiple times.”

Walker: “It has?”

Shook: “Yes sir.”

Dr. Carwile: “We don’t send it in to them or we send it in and the Gazette is not running it?”

Shook: “Right, we’re sending it in, it’s emailed, it’s in writing, it goes to several different people within the paper but it’s not always published as asked.”

Walker: “Does that information go to… what office does that go to? Does it go to Drakes Branch, does it go to Farmville? Does it go to…?”

Shook: “Yes sir, to both.”

Walker: “Any other discussion?”

Dr. Carwile: “Well I think we should try to correct that problem. And I don’t think just changing the paper of record corrects the problem but I think that if we are unable to correct that problem then we will have to change it, we’ll have to by law to change it but I would make a substitute motion that we let it be known that if it’s not going to be published two weeks before, we cannot continue to have the paper of public record, instead of, instead of working to solve a problem rather than just do things.”

Garland Hamlett: “Second”

Walker: “Alright, does everybody understand we have a substitute motion on the floor. The substitute motion is basically to leave it alone? Is that…?”

Carwile: “No, to solve the problem.”

Male voice: “Well, it’s to leave it alone.”

Walker: “I think Mrs….”

Carwile: “Leave it alone for now and…”

Male: “I have a question, who is the paper of record today?”

Walker: “The Charlotte Gazette, Mr. Clark?”

Kathy Liston, from the audience: “You all did that last year.”

Walker to Liston: “Excuse me, you’re out of order.”

Clark: “The terminology ‘paper of record’ is sort of an antiquated terminology. The Code of Virginia says that you have to advertise in a newspaper of general circulation in the area so my understanding of that would be, and since Russell is here, maybe he’ll correct me if I’m wrong, but my understanding of that would be that either one of them have to be used to advertise in, both of them do not. But with the internet and the website and postings and all that stuff, there are other ways to do it. So technically speaking, you can, as Mr. Weston was suggesting, you can just put the ads in one of the two papers and pay for one and that satisfies the statutory requirements for the advertisements. So then, beyond that, is a discussion of how much you want to advertise. The issue, as it pertains to the publishing dates, the Charlotte Gazette is, of course, is published once a week and the Messenger is published twice a week.”

A chorus of voices correct Mr. Clark, the Messenger is only published once a week.

Clark continues: “What was Jenni talking about then? She sent it in and they didn’t put it in there?”

Shook: “Right.”

Clark: “Oh Lord, Well anyway, I can’t solve that.”

Walker: “We have a motion on the floor and a second. And the motion on the floor and the second you said, Mr. Freeman, was to just leave it alone?”

Freeman: “Yes sir.”

Walker: “You want to call the roll, Mr. Clark?”

Clark: “Sure, if you want me to.”

Male Voice: “Is this the substitute motion?”

Walker: “The substitute motion.”

Clark: “You’re voting on the substitute motion, Dr. Carwile’s motion, seconded by Garland Hamlett.”

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