Mystery group seeks to unseat Frydl

By Susan Gibbs

Jim Frydl

Jim Frydl

An effort is underway to remove Greene County Supervisor Jim Frydl (Midway) from office before his term expires at the end of 2017.

Gail Breeden of Stanardsville, speaking for the group that is bringing the action, said, “We’re taking our county back,” though she did not explain who “we” is, or who it is her group is taking the county back from.

Frydl, reached by phone earlier today, had no comment.

In Virginia, grounds for the process, known as recall, are: Neglect of duty, misuse of office, or incompetence in the performance of duties when that neglect of duty, misuse of office, or incompetence in the performance of duties has a material adverse effect upon the conduct of the office, or upon conviction of a drug-related misdemeanor or a misdemeanor involving a “hate crime” or various forms of sex crimes.

The process begins with a petition presented to the circuit court and signed by at least 10 percent of the number of voters in the jurisdiction who cast ballots in the last election.

In the Midway District, in the last election for supervisor, held in 2013, 1,536 votes were cast, with Frydl beating his opponent, Steve G. Keene, by 32 votes, or 782 to 750.

The petition to recall Frydl was filed with the clerk of the Greene County Circuit Court on August 6, 2015, but to date is signed by just one person, Betty Jo Shifflett of Ruckersville, “for Midway registered voters.”

It is unknown at this time when the remaining 150 or so necessary signatures will be presented. However, the petition, which is available for public viewing at the Greene County Circuit Court Clerk’s office, does list the allegations against Frydl.

They are: Frydl had not provided a reasonable and sufficient explanation of actions pertaining to the handling of an allocation of public funds in the amount of $19,394.52 to Virginia Retirement System (VRS), and that the actual disbursement of a sizeable part of that allocation was misdirected as a loan ($5,713.46) to Greene County Administrator John C. Barkley; Frydl has seemingly entered into some form of clandestine agreement with Barkley as it relates to financial compensation his retirement plan; and general compensation; Frydl and Barkley are seemingly engaged in overt refusal to adequately render answers and required documentation to sufficiently supply answers to the inquiries of the citizens of Greene County; Frydl appears not to desire to reestablish the trust and confidence of the citizens by his continuing failure to provide documentary evidence with an appropriate explanation of his actions … and a seeming inability or unwillingness to take corrective action of any kind, to return the standard operating procedure of the county to its prior condition; and has repeatedly made false statements at public meetings of the Board of Supervisors pertaining to this situation.

The petition concludes: “Now, therefore, be it resolved, that we, the undersigned citizens of Greene County of the Commonwealth of Virginia, for seeking to abridge the rights of speech and petition of government, and whose actions were active in keeping in secret, the actions surrounding the misallocation of public funds; and can no longer trust Mr. Frydl to act in the best interest of the County for the citizens of Greene.

The process for removal of elected and certain appointed officers by courts is covered by the Code of Virginia § 24.2-233-§ 24.2-238.

Once the petition is filed with the court it will issue a rule requiring Frydl to show cause why he should not be removed from office. He will have 10 days to respond, and unless good cause is shown for a continuance or postponement to a later day in his term, the case shall be tried on the day named in the rule and take precedence over all other cases on the docket. If it is found that Frydl is subject to removal under the provisions noted above, he will be removed from office.

The circuit court may also enter an order suspending Frydl pending the hearing. It also may, in its discretion, continue the suspension until the matter is finally disposed of in the Supreme Court or otherwise. During the suspension the court may appoint some suitable person to act in Frydl’s place.

Breeden said her group already has someone selected to take Frydl’s place, though just as she did not identify the members of her group, she did not identify its selectee.

But removing Frydl from office prematurely might not be all that easy.

According to the Code, he has the right to demand a trial by jury. The attorney for the Commonwealth, who in this case would be Greene County’s Ronald Morris, would represent the Commonwealth in any trial. Both the Commonwealth and the defendant would have the right to apply for a stay of proceeding until the case can be heard by the Supreme Court.

No person who signs a petition for the removal of an official pursuant to the Code or who circulates such a petition will be liable for any costs associated with removal proceedings, including attorney fees incurred by any other party or court costs, but if the case is dismissed in favor of Frydl the court can require the political subdivision which he serves—the Midway District—to pay court costs or reasonable attorney fees, or both, for Frydl.

In addition, Breeden’s group might want to consider the case of four-term Loudon County Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio.

In January of 2014 an effort to recall Delgaudio was launched. According to the Washington Post, numerous allegations made against the supervisor included “neglect of duty,” “misuse of office” and a lack of distinction between the work of his public office and his nonprofit organization, Public Advocate of the United States, which frequently draws media attention for its campaigns against gay rights.

A year earlier Delgaudio had been investigated by a grand jury after allegations that he was misappropriating funds surfaced. He was not indicted, but the grand jury released a detailed report outlining numerous alleged problems with Delgaudio’s conduct in office, including the potential misuse of county resources; neglected constituent services; a hostile work environment; campaign funds that might have gone unreported; and an “indistinct association” between the work of his county office and Public Advocate. The report also suggested that the supervisor escaped criminal charges in part because Virginia law governing the use of public assets only applied to full-time employees.

The report prompted the county Board of Supervisors to vote to formally censure Delgaudio and strip his authority over his district budget, and citizens in his district to collect 686 valid signatures, more than enough to trigger a recall trial of Delgaudio. But within a week of the filing all Loudoun judges had recused themselves from the case without stating their reasons. The Virginia Supreme Court had to appoint a judge to hear the case and five months later the appointed judge dismissed the case because it lacked “clear and convincing evidence.”

After the dismissal, a participant in the trial noted “Two years, hundreds of hours, and thousands of dollars have been spent investigating this matter … a much better use of the petitioners’ time–and that of the lawyers who represent them—might well be to identify and recruit a candidate … to run against Mr. Delgaudio in the next election.”

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