Chris Dumler has left the building. Dumler (inset) resigns from the Board of Supervisors June 5, leaving an empty seat beside Ken Boyd (far left).
Betty Sevachko insists her reasons for wanting Dumler gone were never political. "It was moral," she says.
photo by lisa provence
Just days after Chris Dumler fended off a petition to remove him from the Albemarle Board of Supervisors and vowed to continue representing the Scottsville District, the defiant supe resigned from the board at its June 5 meeting, effective immediately.
The unexpected resignation letter was read by an emotional Supervisor Duane Snow at the beginning of the meeting, while Dumler's seat remained empty on the dais.
Supervisors immediately began to discuss the procedure to appoint someone to fill the seat within the 45 days required by law, until a special election can be held November 5 to fill the remainder of Dumler's term through the end of 2015.
"I am so pleased," said Betty Sevachko, who carried a "Dumler must go" sign and has attended eight board meetings and court hearings in support of Dumler's ouster. "It's time we can start the healing process."
According to Steve Peters, head of the Scottsville GOP and another regular Dumler protester, "Chris called Duane on Sunday and chatted with him. He gave him the letter of resignation."
As for what caused Dumler's change of heart over the weekend, he did not respond to requests for comment from the Hook.
The bizarre turn of events began in October, when Dumler was arrested for forcible sodomy, a felony. Under Virginia state code, an elected official convicted of a felony is booted from office, but the only misdemeanor convictions that are removable offenses are marijuana possession/sale or hate crimes. Dumler pleaded guilty January 31 to sexual battery, a misdemeanor that would allow him to remain on the board. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail, most of which he served on weekends.
Supervisors unanimously censured him February 6, and voted 3-2 for him to step down— a nonbinding resolution Snow introduced. And protesters lined up to denounce Dumler at every BOS meeting.
Keene resident Earl Smith began collecting the required 372 signatures for a petition to remove Dumler from office under the state's rarely used statute. He turned in nearly 600 signatures and around 480 were verified as Scottsville District residents.
Lynchburg Commonwealth's Attorney Mike Doucette was appointed to represent the petitioners in the civil proceeding, and on May 31, Judge Cheryl Higgins ruled that not enough evidence was presented that Dumler had neglected his office and created a "material adverse effect" on the conduct of the office.
Outside the Albemarle Circuit Court, Dumler praised Higgins' decision even as sign-carrying protesters squeezed in behind him for the TV cameras, with some shouting "rapist."
After the hearing, in a statement to the Hook, Dumler said he was disappointed that "conservative and tea party elements behind this petition were allowed to waste such a significant amount of taxpayer money and valuable court resources on such an obviously frivolous lawsuit."
That's the statement that outraged Betty Sevachko, who appeared with a sign at the June 5 supes meeting. "This was not political," said the Rio District resident. "It was moral."
She said Dumler showed a lack of remorse. "He was so arrogant," she complained. "As a woman, it insulted me."
According to Steve Peters, both Delegate Rob Bell and state Senator Bryce Reeves have been approached about adding misdemeanor sexual convictions to the list of forbidden crimes for elected officials.
"We are extremely happy the county can now move on," said Peters. "We have no animosity toward Chris."
He added, "We do not want the victims forgotten. I think a lot of times we forget the victims."