'Fire of indignation': Dumler controversy-- and questions-- continue
While the budget was on the agenda at the February 25 Albemarle Board of Supervisors meeting, the resignation of Scottsville Supervisor Chris Dumler was the agenda of 13 people speaking during the public comment portion of the meeting, one of whom was escorted out after dropping the f-bomb.
Indeed, the controversy surrounding Dumler since he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor sexual battery January 31 has not diminished, with an odd coalition of Tea Party and Occupy protesters united in demanding that he step down.
The Board of Supervisors unanimously censured Dumler at his first meeting after the plea, and voted 3-2 that he resign– a purely symbolic gesture since they don't have the power to remove him. A petition is circulating to remove him from office, and his appearance at a February 16 Democratic breakfast was canceled following a death threat.
The issue is putting pressure on county Democrats from those who say the party is placing politics over supporting victims of sexual assault to maintain the board's 3-3 split and avoid the chance of a Republican being appointed to Dumler's seat, which would give the GOP a 4-2 majority.
Dumler, 27, spoke to the Hook before the February 25 supes meeting and says he's received more emails of support than against him– and that he's not going to resign. "The decision to resign is between me and people in the district," he says.
"I can publicly be remorseful for things I've done in my private life," he says. "Most people can differentiate between my private life and my duties as a supervisor."
More quietly, some are wondering exactly what went on that caused a forcible sodomy charge– a felony carrying a five-year minimum sentence– to be pleaded down to misdemeanor sexual battery with 30 days in jail and a psychosexual evaluation.
Dumler, who plans to make a public statement in the near future, says he's limited in what he can say due to the plea deal. The absence of detailed information has led to rampant speculation.
"It could be any number of reasons we don't know," says Hook legal expert David Heilberg. "Even if he is otherwise defendable, [a plea] is a certain outcome. It doesn't ruin the rest of his life, he doesn't lose his law license. He won't be a registered sexual offender.
"From the commonwealth's perspective," continues Heilberg, "it's either a flawed case or they are wanting to spare the victim. Some just can't go through testifying."
Other factors could play into the plea decision, such as credibility, says Heilberg. "I've heard that there are disgruntled girlfriends. Some of these [incidents] were delayed reporting. That doesn't make the commonwealth's case stronger."
"That's something that's troubling, not knowing the facts," says Scottsville School Board member Steve Koleszar, a Democrat. "Since there wasn't a trial, we don't know what's the underlying situation."
Despite the petition going around for Dumler's removal, Koleszar says he's not aware of a groundswell in Scottsville for Dumler to resign. "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone," he adds.
"There is minimal outrage," agrees Scottsville Weekly publisher Bebe Williams.
That wasn't the case at the Monday night Board of Supervisors. Jamie Morgan, who protested at the February 16 Dem. breakfast, was the first speaker after board Chair Ann Mallek warned that citizens should address the entire board, not individuals, and there would be "no tolerance for disruptive behavior."
"I demand rapist and perpetrator Chris Dumler's resignation," said Morgan. "You are a disgrace to your community, your gender, and your position."
"Please address comments to all of us or sit down," said Mallek.
"You will resign, Chris Dumler," said Morgan. More than two dozen people in Lane Auditorium stood up in support, some of them carrying signs that read, "No sexual batterer on board."
Thirty minutes later, plainclothes police removed Morgan from the meeting at the end of public comment after she dashed up to the microphone and tearfully screamed, "He's rolling his eyes. He is rolling his f##king eyes."
Marijuana reform activist Jordan McNeish told the board it was a conflict for Dumler to vote on the budget because one of the items was funding for Offender Aid and Restoration, which will monitor Dumler following his 30-day jail sentence that begins March 8.
"A convicted sexual batterer is not fit for public office," said Rio District resident and mother of a college-age daughter Constance Stevens. "A fire of indignation has been lit and is burning out of control."
Earl Smith, who is gathering signatures on a petition in the Scottsville District to remove Dumler from office, mentioned that Dumler previously remarked he might sign the petition. "Chris, would you like to sign the petition?" asked Smith, holding up a clipboard.
Republican Randolph Byrd admitted he was trying to politicize the situation, and suggested the board come to an agreement to replace Dumler with a Democrat to retain parity.
"Every meeting, we're going to show up over and over," threatened Byrd. "You can be recalled for material adverse effects."
Of 14 people commenting to the board about Dumler, Tom Olivier, the former chair of Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club and a southern Albemarle resident for 30 years, was the only person who spoke in support of Dumler.
"I think we're better off when we let elections decide who represents us," said Olivier. "I know Mr. Dumler has worked hard to meet with constituents." He added, "I value Mr. Dumler as a person, and as a neighbor, and as a supervisor."
After 35 minutes of overwhelming anti-Dumler comments, the hearing for the budget began.
Last week, Supervisor Ken Boyd, who voted for Dumler to resign, said he'd had two people ask him to look into issues in Scottsville because they didn't want to deal with Dumler. "It's awkward," says Boyd. "It's uncharted waters for us, and it is disruptive. I'm afraid we're going to have protesters." That was before the February 25 meeting.
"Personally, I've lost confidence in Chris," says Boyd. "I didn't know him that well. You have to believe people are sincere and honorable, and I'm not sure I believe that about Chris."
Despite three of his board colleagues symbolically voting to oust him, Dumler says his interactions with Republicans Boyd, Duane Snow and Rodney Thomas are professional. "They've been very courteous to me," he says.
He insists he can continue his job as supervisor, despite the line-up of citizens at the meetings calling for him to go. "It's not easy," he concedes."I don't think that impacts my ability to do my job."
And he points out, "Ninety percent of the work doesn't get done at public meetings.
At the February 6 meeting at which Dumler was censured, several people said they were irked by Dumler's smile .
He wasn't smiling Monday night.