- Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 June 2009 20:27
- Published on Wednesday, 10 June 2009 20:27
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O’Gara group has until July 1 to buy the properties from Bryan Chandler and the Westmoreland County government, but people are prepared to fight and lawsuits are being filed against key members of the county government.
On Monday Dennis and Norma McGuire began the action with a petition and affidavit for good cause and for writ of mandamus, alleging that county administrator Norm Risavi has violated Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act. A mandamus orders a public agency to perform a duty, already required by law, that it has refused to or failed to do.
A second litigation was filed on Tuesday by several of the proposed O’Gara site’s closest neighbors. That petition for mandamus and injunction and declaratory judgment names the Westmoreland County Industrial Development Authority, the Westmoreland Board of Supervisors and the county as defendants and also alleges Freedom of Information Act violations.
Monday’s suit asserts that Risavi failed to provide public documents that were requested in accordance with the act. As a result, the McGuires maintain that the county administrator violated their rights and privileges when he contended that such documents did not exist.
“It is implausible that no documentation or correspondence of any sort was generated for this significant transaction,” the McGuires complained in reference to the $679,000 O’Gara is expected to pay for the county government’s unoccupied industrial shell building and surrounding 25 acres.
As a result, the McGuires allege that Risavi deprived them of their rights to review and possibly act on the information associated with their Freedom of Information Act requests.
The court is asked to issue an injunction that will prohibit Risavi from consummating the sale of the referenced property to O’Gara until the information the McGuires has been provided and a reasonable period has passed to allow those documents to be appropriately reviewed.
Tuesday’s lawsuit from owners of land immediately adjacent to the proposed O’Gara site asserts that those neighbors will be deprived of their ability to enjoy the quiet and rural nature of their land if the O’Gara deal goes through.
They assert that the O’Gara gunfire and other military-style activities will be a disruptive and incompatible land use that will lower the value of their own properties, create uncertainty about future development, and even encourage further development of paramilitary training establishments.
The petition expresses additional concern that O’Gara’s training activities will result in misplaced ordinances, stray gunfire, transient trainees and the storage and transport of explosives that will adversely affect the community and the value of their land.
Such a facility, they assert, belongs in a more remote location. Despite their direct interest, they said they have been denied access to information discussed in closed meetings by their own elected officials.
The petitioners allege that Westmoreland’s Industrial Development Authority and Board of Supervisors violated the Freedom of Information Act and ask the court to rule that the January 12, 2009, closed meeting of the Industrial Development Authority and Board of Supervisors was an illegal meeting that violated the Freedom of Information Act.
The court is subsequently asked to void all actions that were taken as a result of the illegal meeting, including the O’Gara sales contract.
The court is additionally being asked to issue a mandamus to the two public bodies that would compel full disclosure of public documents that have alleged been improperly withheld.
A final consideration is the petitioners’ request to recover attorney and other costs associated with the petition, as well as any sanctions Virginia law allows.
Prior to the conclusion of the Supervisors’ June 8 meeting, board members Darryl Fisher, Lynn Brownley and Russ Culver met in closed session with county administrator Norm Risavi and county attorney Tom Bondurant in order to consult “with legal counsel pertaining to actual or probable litigation.” The Virginia Code Section referenced was 2.2-3711.A7.
“If you get sued, you just get sued,” board chairman Darryl Fisher told county residents during Monday night’s discussion of the O’Gara topic.
“You bring it on!” supervisor and former county attorney and Commonwealth’s attorney Lynn Brownley told the people.
“I love a good fight, but you make sure you get you a good lawyer, too,” he warned the county residents.
District 2 Supervisor Russ Culver made no comment. Supervisors Woody Hynson and Larry Roberson were absent from the June 8 meeting due to health issues. Hynson was recently injured in a farm accident. Fisher related that Roberson was indisposed as the result of a bad cold or the flu.