Playing Politics in Woodbridge – UPDATED & UPDATED AGAIN!

by Kim Simons

As most of the you know, Denita Ramirez, who long served the residents of Woodbridge on the PWC School Board, resigned from the school board in November.  Shortly after she announced her resignation PWCS issued a press release stating that the election to replace Denita would be sometime in the Spring of 2013.  This struck me and several others as odd, so I contacted Mr James Fagan, the school division counsel, to understand why the election would be in the Spring and not the Fall.

Mr Fagan told me that date of the election had not been set.  He said the school division would be filing a petition for an election with the circuit court around December 14 2012 and that the court would issue a writ calling the election.  He said that the date of the election would be set by the circuit court of Prince William County based on the applicable section of The Code of Virginia (24.2-226).  That section states that the election must be held no later than the next general election, either in November or May, “unless the vacancy occurs within 90 days of the next such general election in which event it shall be held promptly but no later than the second such general election.”

My not-an-attorney interpretation of that is, as Denita resigned on November 30 2012, which was after the November 2012 general elections and was not within 90 days of the November 2013 general election, then the election to fill Denita’s seat would be in the next general election which is in November 2013.  I’m not an attorney, so I could be reading that wrong, but that’s my best non-attorney interpretation.

Subsequent publications by PWCS listed November 2013 and Fall 2013 as the date of the election but those dates have since been removed.

On December 19 Potomac Local published the article “2 Emerge As Favorites for School Board Seat” , which was published without a by-line.  The article states that, “Democrats are also crying foul over a plan to hold a special election during springtime when fewer voters turnout” and quotes Harry Wiggins, the PWC Democratic Committee Chairman, as stating, “If the School Board takes a position to hold an election in April, we’ll see low voter turnout and that tends to favor Republicans”.

Somehow we’re back to a spring election with the date being set by PWC GOP in an effort to secure the Woodbridge school board seat for themselves?

So I picked up the phone, again.  The petition was filed by PWCS and has been received by the circuit court, but the court hasn’t ruled on the petition.  The date of the election, at this time, is still unknown as the circuit court hasn’t issued their ruling.

While I can understand the confusion about the possibility of a Spring election, I’m not sure where April came from and have no clue where the conspiracy Mr Wiggins alleges originated.

The only way you can get to an April election with the school board setting the date is if you assume that the “within 90 days of the next general election” part of section 24.2-226 would apply, in which case the election must be held “promptly”, with “promptly” defined as no later than “the second such general election”.    Even then, however, you’d need a good reason for holding a special election in April as the next general election in PWC will be in November 2013 and there’s nothing in the Code that would require PWC to hold a special election before November 2013.

So I really have no idea where Mr Wiggins’ allegation of political games being played by the PWC GOP came from.  It seems to me that there are a lot of rumors going around and lots of pot stirring and political games, with little effort to ascertain the facts.

I was able to determine that the press release was badly worded and misleading with one phone call to the school division’s general counsel.  I was able to learn about Virginia election law that governs general elections and elections to full vacancies with a simple search of The Code of Virginia.  I was able to read that code, form an opinion on when the election is likely to be held, determine which body has the authority to set the election date, and determine whether the school board, school division, or local political parties have any say in when the election will be held. I was able to determine that the petition had in fact been filed, that the ruling from the circuit court had not been issued, and that the election date has not been set with a phone call to the circuit court.

I, a mere Mom,  was able to figure all of that out with a few phone calls and a google search.

Politicians being what they are, I’m not so naive as to expect Mr Wiggins to do hold back anything that might paint the PWC GOP in a bad light, whether it’s true or not.  And yes, if Mr Wiggins’ allegations are true, then shame on the PWC GOP.

But I do expect the reporter who wrote the article that appeared in Potomac Local to do some research to determine if there is any truth to Mr Wiggins’ allegation BEFORE printing them.

I’ll keep watching this and let you know when the writ is filed by the circuit court.  Until then, anything you hear about this election is, at least in my opinion, nothing more than specious rumor mongering and dirty politics.

UPDATE:

I have received a copy of the writ from the circuit court.  You can read it here===> WRIT-CL12-8536, but the ruling is that the election must be held on or before the general election in November 2013.

UPDATED UPDATE:

This is what I get for being thorough.  I contacted the General Registrar of Prince William County and asked a simple question: when will the election to replace Denita Ramirez be held.  I expected to be told that the date had not been set as the school board was awaiting the writ from the circuit court.  Instead I was told the following:

“The election will be on April 9 2013 as per the request of the Attorney for the Prince William County School Board. “

I asked when the request for the election on April 9 was received, but the person whose job that is had already left for the holiday.  I’ll keep you up informed of what I discover.

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4 Responses to “Playing Politics in Woodbridge – UPDATED & UPDATED AGAIN!”

  1. The Derecho Says:

    You have to read the code section in its entirety, the key phrase is that the court must order the election promptly but “no later than the next general election in November”; meaning that if it is outside of ninety days of the next general election, the court can order it at any time and certainly within the nearly eleven month window provided in this circumstance. The only instance in which this does not apply is delineated in part C “no election to fill the vacancy shall be ordered or held if the general election at which it is to be called is scheduled in the year in which the term expires.”

    § 24.2-226. Election to fill vacancy.

    A. A vacancy in any elected local office, whether occurring when for any reason an officer-elect does not take office or occurring after an officer begins his term, shall be filled as provided by § 24.2-228 or for constitutional officers as provided in § 24.2-228.1, or unless provided otherwise by statute or charter requiring special elections within the time limits provided in this title. The governing body or, in the case of an elected school board, the school board of the county, city, or town in which the vacancy occurs shall, within 15 days of the occurrence of the vacancy, petition the circuit court to issue a writ of election to fill the vacancy as set forth in Article 5 (§ 24.2-681 et seq.) of Chapter 6. Either upon receipt of the petition or on its own motion, the court shall issue the writ ordering the election promptly, which shall be no later than the next general election in November, or in May if the vacant office is regularly scheduled by law to be filled at that time, unless the vacancy occurs within 90 days of the next such general election in which event it shall be held promptly but no later than the second such general election. Upon receipt of written notification by an officer or officer-elect of his resignation as of a stated date, the governing body or school board, as the case may be, may immediately petition the circuit court to issue a writ of election, and the court may immediately issue the writ to call the election. The officer’s or officer-elect’s resignation shall not be revocable after the date stated by him for his resignation or after the forty-fifth day before the date set for the special election. The person so elected shall hold the office for the remaining portion of the regular term of the office for which the vacancy is being filled.

    B. Notwithstanding any provision of law or charter to the contrary, no election to fill a vacancy shall be ordered or held if the general election at which it is to be called is scheduled within 60 days of the end of the term of the office to be filled.

    C. Notwithstanding any provision of law or charter to the contrary, when an interim appointment to a vacancy in any governing body or elected school board has been made by the remaining members thereof, no election to fill the vacancy shall be ordered or held if the general election at which it is to be called is scheduled in the year in which the term expires.

    • pwceducationreform Says:

      Hey Derecho! I got a copy of the writ from the circuit court and attached it as an update. The Circuit Court said the election had to be on or before the general election in November 2013. Interestingly, I called the General Registrar of PWC to cover all my bases, and was told the election would be on April 9 2013 as per the request of the Attorney for the PWC School Board. Unfortunately everyone is off on holiday now, so I can’t do any more research.

  2. Citizen Tom Says:

    Given that Denita Ramirez resigned then her district is not being represented. If the next election is almost a year away, then a special election is in order, and Spring sure beats Winter.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


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