Dumler begins jail sentence

Supervisor Christopher J. Dumler arrives at the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail to serve the first weekend of his 30-day sentence.

Albemarle County Supervisor Christopher J. Dumler strode stoically to jail Friday to serve the first two days of a 30-day sentence for misdemeanor sexual battery.

The youngest supervisor in Albemarle history appears to be the first to serve jail time while in office, according to county spokeswoman Lee Catlin.

“Not in our recollection or in any documentation that we can find has there been another board member who has gone to jail in his or her time in office,” Catlin said.

Dumler, 27, will serve weekends on a cot inside the gymnasium at the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail, said Lt. Col. Martin Kumer, assistant jail superintendent.

“Imagine the most boring weekend of your life, then multiply it by two and add 30 other guys,” Kumer said. “There is a TV in there, but it’s small, and a nice, cold hardwood floor and four walls to look at.”

As Dumler faced those prospects, an updated agenda released Friday for Wednesday’s county supervisors meeting listed a closed meeting to discuss removing Dumler from all appointed boards and commissions.

Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker declined to comment on the meeting.

“I’m not prepared to discuss it and I would prefer my comments remain in closed session,” Rooker said Friday. “I want to get the story of the person who put it on the agenda and the other board members.”

Friday's turns were the latest in a saga that began last fall, when police arrested Dumler on a charge of forcible sodomy, a felony. Had he been convicted of that offense, he would have been removed from office under state law after all chances of appeal were exhausted.

Instead, Dumler pleaded guilty Jan. 31 to the lesser charge after two more women came forward with claims they had been victimized. A petition drive is under way to call on a judge to remove him under a section of the state code that cites drug and hate offenses but says nothing about sex crimes.

That portion of the law points to failure to perform official duties because of neglect, incompetence or misuse of office, but legal experts have said a judge would be unlikely to remove Dumler based on a reading of the code. Dumler's removal from appointed boards and committees would have little effect, a local lawyer said.

“I think a judge would see that as part of the political process,” Scott Goodman said. “I don’t think that would be seen by the court as adding to the weight of the petition to remove him. Politicians first act in what they think of as their best interest.”

The removal effort might have been strengthened had Dumler failed to gain court approval to serve his time on weekends and instead been required to serve his 30 days consecutively, forcing him to miss regular supervisors meetings, Goodman said.

Support for Dumler, the Scottsville District representative, has disintegrated even in his own Democratic Party as protesters have turned out at supervisors meetings to voice their outrage. Two protesters showed up outside the jail Friday.

“We want to keep him in the news so that the voters fully understand that he is going to jail on the weekends,” said protester Steve Peters, who lives in Dumler's district. “The Scottsville voters should be aware of his inability to do his job.”

Earl Smith, who lives in the Scottsville District, said Friday that he has gathered 440 to 460 signatures on his removal petition but he still must verify the names as registered voters in Dumler's district. State law requires that the petition be signed by a number of registered voters equal to 10 percent of the total turnout in the public official's district in his most recent election. That calculates to 372 signatures in Dumler's case.

Despite the swirl of scandal, Dumler steadfastly has rejected calls for his resignation coming from, among others, the Albemarle Democratic Committee, state House Minority Leader David J. Toscano and Dumler's two allies on the Board of Supervisors, which unanimously censured him last month.

His circumstances are not unique. Former Chesterfield County Supervisor Ed Barber resigned from his post in July 2006 after pleading guilty a month earlier to two counts of misdemeanor sexual battery.

Barber initially resisted calls to resign.

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