Albemarle County Supervisor Chris Dumler has resigned from the Board of Supervisors, despite saying last week after surviving a petition effort to remove him from the Board that he planned to keep serving.
Dumler was absent at the start of the county’s regular meeting Wednesday morning, but immediately after the pledge of allegiance, Samuel Miller District Representative Duane Snow said Dumler had met with him Monday and given him a letter, which Snow proceeded to read aloud: “‘I hereby resign the office of Supervisor, Scottsville District, for the County of Albemarle. Signed, Chris Dumler.’”
Snow, his voice choked with emotion, then offered his own brief statement.
“I want to thank Mr. Dumler for making the decision to step down,” he said. “ It’s my prayer and hope that we as a community will forgive and move forward. To those most affected and others that have been sexually abused, we offer you our support.”
Dumler had faced harsh criticism from some constituents and censure from his fellow supervisors after he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor sexual battery in January 2013. The plea followed an October arrest on the charge of felony forcible sodomy. Scottsville resident Earl Smith spearheaded an effort to remove Dumler from office by petition for neglect of duty, collecting the signatures of 470 registered Scottsville voters. But Albemarle County Circuit Court Judge Cheryl Higgins threw out the petition on May 31, and after her ruling, Dumler said he felt he still had work to do on the Board.
Rio District Representative Dennis Rooker said Dumler was right to fight the case to remove him.
“I think it was important that he stayed through the time that his petition case was running, because that case was a case of first impression in Virginia,” Rooker said shortly after the resignation announcement. “I think it was important that the decision be rendered not just for him but for public officials statewide, so that they had some guidance as to.. what the circumstances are for which a public official can be removed for neglect of duty.”
But he said he thought it was appropriate that Dumler had finally stepped down and closed the book on the legal battle and ongoing protests.
“I’m pleased we are where we are today,” he said.
County Executive Tom Foley told the Board it now has 15 days to request a special election for Dumler’s seat, which will take place in November. Board members will have 45 days to appoint a temporary fill-in, he said, and and offered a tentative plan for that process: Supervisors can advertise for the position from June 6-20, and from June 21 to July 2, the Board and members of the public can review any applications submitted by candidates. At a Board meeting on July 3, the candidates could then offer public comments and respond to supervisors’ questions, and the Board could enter a closed session either that day or at a regular meeting a week later, on July 10, to discuss and make their choice. Their appointed temporary supervisor could then join them on the dais July 10 or at the following meeting August 7, Foley said, and would serve until the November election. Whomever is elected to fill the seat would serve until what would have been the end of Dumler’s term on December 31, 2015.
Steve Peters, the district chair of the Scottsville GOP and one of the loudest voices of protest over Dumler’s continued presence on the Board, said he and others who pushed for the young Democrat to leave office were glad that he’d finally resigned.
“Up until this point, Chris has done what was best for Chris—not what was best for the victims, not what was best for the county, and not was best for constituents,” Peters said after stepping out of the County Office Building’s Lane Auditorium as Wednesday’s meeting continued. The protests weren’t political, he added.
“This isn’t a Tea Party issue or a GOP issue,” he said, pointing out that many of those who signed the petition to remove Dumler were Democrats.
It’s possible the balance of power on the Board will change with a temporary appointment, he acknowledged, as Dumler’s departure leaves one independent, one Democrat, and three Republicans still sitting. But, he pointed out, “we find ourselves in this position because of what Chris did.” And whomever takes his seat initially will serve only briefly, said Peters, “and then the people will make their selection.”