The saga that began with a sex charge last fall ended Wednesday when Christopher J. Dumler quit as Albemarle County supervisor, five days after a judge rejected a petition to remove him.
Supervisor Duane E. Snow read Dumler's resignation letter in a supervisors meeting with several protesters and a phalanx of media looking on. Dumler, 28, did not attend.
The undated letter, typed on county letterhead, read simply, "I hereby resign the office of Supervisor, Scottsville District, for the County of Albemarle. Sincerely, Christopher J. Dumler."
A murmur spread through the room after Snow read the words.
“It is my prayer and hope that the community will forgive and move forward,” Snow said. “To those most affected by sexual abuse, we offer you our support.”
Dumler's tenure ended 17 months after the once-promising Democrat became the youngest supervisor in county history. He said a desire to stand up to the removal effort kept him on the board in the face of a petition drive launched following his Jan. 31 guilty plea to misdemeanor sexual battery.
"I wasn't prepared to even grant the petition the appearance of validity by resigning while it was pending," Dumler said.
The scandal in recent months formed a chaotic backdrop to supervisors meetings, the residue of it evident Wednesday. Several Albemarle police officers stood watch, as they have since protests began in February. Two signs calling for Dumler's resignation were placed in a window.
“In the sense of trying to heal, can we take the signs down?” said Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd.
“I’ll be glad to do it now that Chris is no longer here,” said Steven Peters, a Scottsville District resident who has attended several meetings to protest.
Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker thanked Dumler for taking the action.
“I think it clearly is in the best interest in the county, and in his personal best interest because it allows him to move on and build a new life,” Rooker said.
Authorities charged Dumler with felony forcible sodomy last fall after a woman told investigators he'd assaulted her, police said. Had he been convicted of that charge, he would have been automatically removed from office pending appeals under state law.
After he pleaded to the lesser charge, a steady wave of opposition built against him, sweeping up Democratic allies and political foes alike. On Feb. 6, his fellow supervisors unanimously censured him and voted 3-2 urging him to step down. That call soon was echoed.
The petition drive was based on a section of state code that allows a judge to remove people from elected office for misdemeanor drug or hate crimes that affect the performance of official duties. That section says nothing about sex crimes.
The drive netted more than the 372 signatures required under state code to allow a removal effort. "Once the recall petition attempt began, I realized I had to see that process through to the end, because of the nature of the allegations being made," Dumler said.
"It's one thing to dislike me politically, or believe that I shouldn't maintain my seat because of the misdemeanor I entered in to a plea agreement for, but it's another entirely to forgo the seat I was democratically elected to under the shadow of an allegation of neglect, incompetence, or misuse of office," Dumler added.
Judge Cheryl Higgins rejected the petition last week, saying the prosecution had failed to prove that Dumler's actions as supervisor had been affected by his crime.
"Since I was elected, I've put over 60 hours a week into county business, put thousands of miles on my car and sent thousands of e-mails, made hundreds of phone calls and had countless meetings with constituents, applicants, elected officials and Albemarle County staff on the issues I was elected to advocate for," Dumler said.
Dumler touted what he described as his success in preventing the consolidation of several grade schools in his district and helping secure money from the Virginia Department of Transportation for safety improvements on Route 20 Now, he's starting over.
"For the next little while, I intend to take a vacation, visit with family and friends and plan the next stages of my life," Dumler said. State law gives the board 45 days to appoint an interim supervisor until a special election can be held. The winner would serve until the end of 2015, when Dumler's term was set to expire. The most likely time for a special election is Nov. 5, during the general election, said county Executive Thomas Foley.
There now will be races in four of Albemarle's six districts in the fall.
The county will advertise for applications for the Scottsville District vacancy with a June 20 deadline. Applicants are scheduled to address the board July 3, and supervisors then plan to meet privately to appoint a replacement.
“I think we’re looking for a placeholder and not someone who is looking to run for election in the fall,” Snow said.
“I want this to be as transparent as possible for the residents of Scottsville,” Boyd said.
It's been more than a quarter-century since a county supervisor resigned, according to county spokeswoman Lee Catlin.
Charlottesville Tomorrow is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization covering land-use and transportation issues in Charlottesville and Albemarle County.