Several protesters faced the Board of Supervisors with this poster February 25.
Ken Boyd, right, wants Dumler to resign; Dumler says he can still do his work on the board. The two were at a county budget presentation February 22.
photo by lisa provence
More than a month after Scottsville Supervisor Chris Dumler pleaded guilty to sexual battery and steadfastly refused to resign from the Albemarle Board of Supervisors, igniting a firestorm that's jumped the pond to the Daily Mail in Britain, the Democratic committees of Albemarle and Charlottesville have called for him to leave, as did Dem Delegate and House Minority Leader David Toscano.
And as he readies to spend his first weekend in jail March 8, Dumler faces additional repercussions. A captain in the U.S. Army Reserve Legal Command, he's the subject of an "administrative process" in which penalties can range from "a counseling statement to an other-than-honorable discharge," according to an Army spokesperson.
Even under pressure that might turn coal into diamonds, at press time, Dumler insists he's not going to resign– and that he's "looking forward to working on the budget on behalf of the folks who elected me."
On February 27, he released a statement and made the rounds of media interviews, apologizing for what he calls "inappropriate" behavior.
The next day, Dumler spoke to WINA's Coy Barefoot, who beseeched Dumler to "do the right thing and resign." A caller named Meredith said she was the victim and found his apologies insincere and his statements a "slap in the face." Said Meredith, "I want my voice."
Dumler is a cad. He doesn't like that description– and he's been called worse– but says, "I wouldn't say that's an unfair characterization." He admits he has a history of treating women badly, including his girlfriend, whom he cheated on in the encounter that led to him being charged with forcible sodomy last fall. "I've been disrespectful and discourteous," he says of his M.O. with the opposite sex. "My current girlfriend– I obviously treated her very badly."
And then there's the victim. "The legality or illegally of any of this notwithstanding, I acted inappropriately and I would like to make a formal apology to her," says Dumler, who is himself a criminal defense attorney. "Obviously, my actions– as evidenced by her reaction– left her upset and distressed, and I certainly never meant for that to happen; I am sincerely sorry."
The apologies don't stop there. There's also one for his fellow board members and Albemarle County staff. "I'm very sorry for having put them in that situation," he says, referring to the recent board meetings that started with a line-up of citizens urging Dumler to resign in appeals ranging from the well-modulated to a tirade containing the f-word that resulted in the woman speaker being hauled out of Lane Auditorium.
Finally, there's remorse to his constituents. "I know I have violated that public trust," he says. "All I can do is work to mend those fences and rebuild that trust."
Since Dumler pleaded guilty to misdemeanor sexual battery January 31, the outrage– and drama– continue to swell. Following the February 25 meeting from which protester Jamie Morgan was ejected after running to the podium and screaming, "He's rolling his eyes. He's rolling his f**king eyes," Dumler's usual allies on the board, Democrat Ann Mallek and independent Dennis Rooker, both now say it's time for him to go.
"I think their concern is a valid one," concedes Dumler.
Nonetheless, he's adamant that he's not resigning when he talks to the Hook on February 27. "That would be unfair to the citizens of the Scottsville district to be punished for my lapse in judgment," he says.
"When he says he has a responsibility to the people of Scottsville," said WINA caller Amanda on February 28, "that was before he raped my sister. Let me tell you straight up– that man raped my sister."
There's been some buzz that Dumler would resign if he could choose his successor. "I can't comment on that," he says. "I decided not to go that route."
Instead, he explains, it would be unfair to his constituents to leave them with an unelected official unfamiliar with much of the critical county business that needs to be conducted, such as the $300-million budget and the comprehensive plan.
While he's clearing the air on the criminal charges that spawned this unprecedented mess, the beleaguered supe maintains he would have been acquitted at trial if he could have afforded another $40,000 to defend himself.
"I would rather be bankrupt having fought for my name than to take a plea deal," said an impassioned Barefoot on-air. "I would rather be on the street asking for food and money than take a plea deal."
Fluvanna Commonwealth's Attorney Jeff Haislip, who was appointed special prosecutor on the case, calls it "unfortunate" that a month after the plea agreement, Dumler is still releasing information to the press and making claims that he would have won the case.
"To say he only pleaded guilty because of the money is disrespectful of the victims," says Haislip.
"All I'll say from the commonwealth's attorney's office is, we only bring charges we believe the person accused committed," says Haislip. He also acknowledges, "He-said she-said cases are very tough."
According to the plea agreement, there are two additional victims and no other charges will be brought against Dumler in those cases. Haislip says the two women who contacted him were kept apprised of and agreed to the plea– and that Charlottesville Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Chapman signed off on it as well.
"It's disrespectful to them to make it seem like they were silenced," maintains Haislip.
He also says the requirement Dumler have a psychosexual evaluation and apologize were necessary "so the victim wouldn't feel like it was a baseless claim."
Haislip explains the difference between forcible sodomy and rape. "From a statutory perspective, they're interchangeable," he says. "It depends on the orifice."
Misdemeanor sexual battery means "sexually abusing someone against their will, touching private parts without consent," says the prosecutor.
Although the criminal matter is settled, lawyer Dumler also could face disciplinary action from the Army and from the Virginia State Bar.
"There are repercussions, especially for something serious like this," says Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Lawrence, who says an Army review is underway. The sexual battery conviction could affect security clearances, for example. "It reflects on their abilities and their character," he says.
The Virginia State Bar cannot confirm or deny whether it has a case against Dumler, says professional regulator Ned Case in an email. He points to the misdeeds that get a lawyer's license suspended or revoked, which include convictions of crimes that are felonies or "any other offense involving theft, fraud, forgery, extortion, bribery or perjury," a list that does not include misdemeanor sexual battery.
"Nonetheless the bar routinely investigates other attorney misconduct," adds Case.
Supervisor Ken Boyd is one of those not swayed by Dumler's apologies. "He looks a little phony," says the Rivanna supe. "The more I look at it, it seems disingenuous. He seems like a disingenuous person."
Dumler is causing problems for the other supervisors with all the email they're getting, says Boyd. "We've never had to remove someone from the auditorium before," he notes of the February 25 ejection.
"His constituents are bypassing him," continues Boyd. "We're already seeing he can't do his job. That'll be important when it gets to a judge."
Victim Meredith told Coy Barefoot that watching her personal trauma become a political fiasco has been devastating.
"The way the Democratic party of Albemarle has reacted to this is sickening to me," she said, noting that she has voted all-Democrat in every election and feels betrayed by the party she believed stood for women's and victims' rights. In particular, she calls out Ann Mallek and Cynthia Neff for standing up for him– although Mallek called for his censure. Meredith did not respond to requests for comment from the Hook.
By March 3, both city and county Dems issue statements for Dumler to resign.
County Dems have suffered back-to-back convictions of an elected official and their vice chair, Neff, for DUI. Neff, who posted $50,000 bond for Dumler, is no longer listed on the party's website, and chair Valerie L'Herrou is moving to Richmond.
Their statement commends Dumler for his work on behalf of the citizens of Scottsville and of Albemarle County, but notes his behavior "does not reflect Democratic values and standards, nor the standard to which we hold our elected officials."
City Democrats are more forceful in declaring that they "abhor all forms of sexual exploitation" and "find it inappropriate for someone who has pleaded guilty to a charge of sexual battery to hold the office of supervisor in our neighboring county."
Some have wondered why it took weeks for Democrats to reach that conclusion.
"We didn't want to be hasty about telling a neighboring jurisdiction who could serve," says city Dem chair Jim Nix. "A lot of people felt strongly about this. There was a growing unhappiness in the party. We couldn't remain silent."
Dumler declines to comment on the repudiation by his party.
As for working a deal to appoint a Democrat to keep the board's 3-3 split and entice Dumler to resign, says Republican Supe Boyd, "I'm totally opposed to that. I'm opposed to anything but an open and transparent process. We go through that process all the time with appointing people to the planning commission or architectural board. We don't ask political affiliation."
"It's fine for Ken to say there won't be a deal," says independent Supervisor Dennis Rooker. "But he can't make Chris resign."
Rooker says he's always privately encouraged Dumler to resign. "It would be better for Chris and the county for him to resign," he says. "I've told him that several times."
Rooker believes that if a replacement were found who will uphold issues Dumler supports and has promised to champion, such as limiting growth in the rural areas, "in my opinion, he will be comfortable and resign," says Rooker.
The day he speaks with a reporter, Rooker gets a message from someone who says, "Thank you for keeping Chris Dumler on the board until a suitable replacement is found so all your work isn't undone."
The calls and emails Rooker has received reflect a variety of viewpoints, he says. And of the 13 people who spoke out against Dumler at the February 25 meeting, observes Rooker, "I think those who were most vociferous were city residents."
He adds, "The ball is in Chris's court."
In the court of Earl Smith, the originator of the petition for removal, are 299 signatures of Scottsville district citizens to fire Dumler– 73 short of the minimum required for legal action, he tells the Hook on February 28. Smith admits he's a little frustrated that with all the people calling for a Dumler ouster, only a handful are actually helping him collect the signatures needed to do so through the only avenue afforded by Virginia law.
"I'm not stopping until I get all I need," he vows. On March 4, news outlets reported that Smith had around 460 unverified signatures.
Smith says he doesn't belong to a political party or group, including the Occupiers or Tea Partiers, who want Dumler out.
The Keene resident saw Dumler on television apologizing. "I won't say he wasn't sincere, but I didn't get that feeling," says Smith. "When he says no one can take his place, that's self-serving. My reaction? That arrogant rascal is at it again."
Victim Meredith isn't buying the apologies either, which she calls "emotionless and insincere" on WINA and says he's only doing it because it's part of the plea deal that he requested.
"One of the biggest regrets I have right now is not going through the trial," she says.
This story originally was published March 1 as "Apology tour: Can Dumler remorse salvage supe seat?" and has been updated with new developments.