Protesters turned a public hearing on the Albemarle County budget Monday night into a venue to vent their outrage at Supervisor Christopher J. Dumler, the latest lowlight in a scandal that shows little sign of ebbing.
The group began gathering outside Lane Auditorium roughly an hour before the hearing, and more than a dozen sounded off on Dumler inside, one being escorted out of the building after a profane outburst, another waving a removal petition and still others calling simply for a solution.
“I brought three children to this meeting to introduce them to the Board of Supervisors, but I had to ask them to leave the room," said county parent Andrea Heaps. "Please resolve this."
Dumler, 27, pleaded guilty Jan. 31 to misdemeanor sexual battery, and since has faced demands to resign. Authorities arrested him last fall on a charge of forcible sodomy, a felony. Had he been convicted of that charge, he could have been removed from office.
Supervisors unanimously voted to censure him and 3-2 to urge him to resign. A section of the state code allows a judge to remove an elected official for neglect or misuse of office or official incompetence. The law also references drug and hate crimes but says nothing about sex crimes.
In Dumler’s case, the code requires a petition signed by 372 registered voters in his Scottsville District to get the removal question before a judge.
Earl Smith of Keene, who is leading a petition drive against Dumler, challenged the supervisor to sign the document, something he recently said he was thinking of doing, asserting that opponents could not meet the law's standard of proving he'd failed to carry out his official duties.
"Two Saturdays ago, I stood in Scottsville from 8 o'clock to 5 o'clock in the snow and got almost 100 signatures," Smith said. "I am here to ask, ‘Would you like to sign the petition?’ Are you done thinking? I have it right here."
As one protester after another spoke against him, Dumler remained silent and expressionless.
"He's rolling his eyes and playing with his computer," said Jamie Morgan of Charlottesville, weeping and cursing as police led her out of the auditorium.
Of more than 15 people who spoke about Dumler, one supported the youngest supervisor in county history.
"There are many branches of our government, and they are all imperfect, but I think we are better off when we let elections decide who represents us," said Tom Olivier. "I know Mr. Dumler has worked hard to represent [Scottsville]. I value Mr. Dumler as a person and a neighbor and I value his contributions."
Supervisors began taking public comment on the county's more than $321 million budget approximately an hour after the meeting began. Comment on the budget was dominated by requests that the county fully fund the county schools' $155 million funding request.
Supervisors will hold a budget work session at 9 a.m. March 4 in Room 241 of the county office building on McIntire Road. The next public hearing will be at 6 p.m. March 27 in Lane Auditorium.