There is going to be a Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors meeting this week on Tuesday and it is likely to be a contentious one, because of one of the items on the agenda packet. I went to the last meeting in April and did a short post on it, but I didn’t put everything that happened in the meeting and neither did any of the news outlets that covered it. It’s a challenge for people to report on the meetings, because you have to get the information out as quickly as possible and you don’t want to just repeat or pass on things that are complete disinformation and it can take time to figure out which is what.
What happened is that Westover Supervisor Ronald Scearce’s brother, Jim Scearce, spoke at the meeting and made some wild charges against Robin Goard, the Commissioner of Revenue, that really have no basis in reality, even saying that he was launching a campaign to try to get her removed from office through a petition with the court. In past meetings he spoke and spread complete disinformation. For instance, in February he blasted the leadership of the board for firing former County Administrator David Smitherman by claiming that Smitherman was working on a $20 billion industrial development project that had fallen through with his removal.
He didn’t say what this project is. I have no doubt that the county can come under consideration and that proposals can come and go as companies look at multiple sites, that’s how economic development works, it’s a competition, but I seriously doubt something as big as he claimed was in the works, because $20 billion is such a huge figure that it is unbelievable. A $20 billion industrial site would have to be one of the largest in the world, if the not largest. For instance, we have a Goodyear plant in Danville that employees around 2,000 people. Goodyear has 66,000 employees in 48 industrial sites. The entire company has a market capitalization value of of $3.43 billion. So, the idea of a $20 billion industrial site deal is pretty unbelievable when you put it into perspective. No news outlet reported on this statement he made. Who wants to pass on such disinformation?
What is more there is a whole economic team working for the county and another one in Danville, with development boards and joint boards overseeing things, so it is more than just the County Administrator that plays a role in these things. BTW, if you are wondering, it looks like David Smitherman is serving as the interim planning and development services director in Orange County, Virginia. So, he’s doing fine.
Jim Scearce claimed at the last board business meeting that the Commissioner of Revenue is refusing to evaluate 4,800 structures that were supposedly discovered by the Brightminds company when they did the tax reassessment last year. Last year, David Smitherman and the previous board hired this company to carry out tax reassessments. When taxpayers got their reassessments in the mail many found that their properties were marked up over 30%, with many seeing jumps of 100-300%. At the same time, properties that consisted of just land were marked down 20% in value. This all caused an outrage among property owners and the former Board of Supervisors, including the past Chairman, Bob Warren apologized, and so did David Smitherman for the mess Brightminds created. At the time Supervisor Ronald Scearce said the assessments were fine and that they were planning to lower the tax rate so that property owners would end up paying the same as they were before. That didn’t reassure people, and such a plan would have actually meant lowering the taxes drastically for large landowners (reducing their land property value by 20% then reducing their tax rate) and probably raising the overall taxes everyone else pays a bit to pay for their reduction.
Someone wrote an editorial in the Chatham paper arguing that David Smitherman deserved blame for not evaluating the work of Brightminds. Others got angry at the previous Board of Supervisors. Jim Scearce’s campaign against the Commissioner of Revenue appears to be an attempt to take the angst created by the reassessment and turn it on to her. He started it at an April budget meeting by claiming that the reassessments done by Brightminds were not the problem and people only got upset over them, because the Commissioner of Revenue placed doubt on them. But that’s not true at all. She spoke at one of the board meetings last year about them in December, but the people were upset about them weeks before she spoke and anyone who got one in the mail could judge them for themselves.
Anyway, you can see Jim Scearce speak about it here and make his crazy attack on the Commissioner of Revenue at the 2:10 mark.
As of the 4,800 structures, the Chatham Star-Tribune reported that, “Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors Chairman Vic Ingram said he doesn’t know where those numbers came from other than the former county administrator, David Smitherman. The Board fired Smitherman in January and is now in the process of finding a permanent replacement. Ingram said the company that had performed the reassessment used drones and had included old barns and slabs of concrete, among other structures, in its report. ‘It was an exaggerated number. There’s no proof that that exists,’ he said.”
They also contacted the Commissioner of Revenue and reported that “Goard said she has not spoken with Scearce about the reassessment and believes her office went above and beyond in its attempts to work with Brightminds. Goard said Brightminds, on several occasions, failed to pick up maps and other materials and she personally delivered documents herself to the company.”
In the end all of the supervisors voted to invalidate the Brightminds reassessments and find a new company to do them all over again, so to pick and choose parts of it to use now, as Jim Scearce has demanded, doesn’t really make any sense.
Really it seems like nonsense.
In order to understand this you have to put these Jim Scearce attacks in context with prior events.
Last year brought a landslide election that changed the composition on the board of supervisors. That past board was dominated by a block of four supervisors led by Chairman Bob Warren that declared themselves to be a “team” and ruled the county along with County Administrator David Smitherman. After the election a new board came in and fired the county administrator in January at their first meeting and voted for Supervisor Vic Ingram to serve as Chairman.
Supervisor Ronald Scearce reacted to all of this at that meeting in anger, as a remaining member of the Warren “team.”
At the first meeting in January he predicted that the county would go bankrupt with the new interim county administrator and made a call for citizens to come forward and speak against the new board.
The county is in no danger of going bankrupt (Supervisor Scearce even voted to approve a county budget put together by the interim county administrator with the assistance of staff that balances the budget without raising taxes), but when no mass of citizens came forward, Scearce’s brother, Jim, started to come to the meetings.
Supervisor Ronald Scearce also launched a fear campaign against the Fire and Rescue community in January, with wild and unbelievable accusations, that fizzled out despite his relentless attacks against them and Chairman Vic Ingram, both publicly at meetings and through fake Facebook accounts.
Instead of trying to work with the new board, members of the Warren “team” seemed to think it was better for them to make nonstop attacks, even using fear and disinformation, to remain politically relevant. When one campaign has failed to catch on they have simply moved on to trying to create a new one. At the same time they have cast every single decision made by the previous board and county administrator as above reproach, casting him as a miracle man responsible for anything good that happened in the past, and making attacks on people in anyway they can to be relevant.
I think that explains Jim Scearce’s April campaign against the Commissioner of Revenue and it’s already fizzling out like the one he and his brother tried to do against the Fire and Rescue community did.
He’s basically serving as an attack dog for the Warren “team.”
Now Supervisor Ronald Scearce has an item in this week’s Board of Supervisors packet to put his brother on the Department of Social Services Board for Pittsylvania County. Some are complaining that this an example of nepotism, but I think a bigger issue the other supervisors have to ask is whether it makes sense to have someone that spreads disinformation the way he has to even be on any board for the county government. At the last business meeting of the Board of Supervisors he even had to be escorted out by a deputy for interrupting the proceedings.
That last meeting got contentious. In past meetings most of the attacks against Ingram and the other Supervisors came from Warren team member Ronald Scearce and his brother, but at that meeting the mask came down, so to speak, and Bob Warren gave Vic Ingram a warning.
At that meeting Chairman Vic Ingram said he was taking Supervisor Jessie Barksdale’s seat on the Department of Social Services Board, that the two of them had discussed it together and agreed to make this change. This brought an attack from Ronald Searce against him and then Bob Warren joined in, telling Ingram that if he puts himself on that board that he can expect to see “scrutiny” against him and his family, suggesting he should not do this.
He did not listen to that advice and no spontaneous attacks against him or his family appeared on the internet from the public afterwards.
Instead, within 48 hours Supervisor Ronald Scearce launched attacks of his own against him along with one of his friends, and what looks like a fake account run by his brother on Facebook.
So, Warren was right in that attacks would come – they just came from one of his “team” members and allies.
Last week the Director of Social Services, Chris Spain, submitted a resignation letter.
This was also used by them as an excuse to attack Ingram with the claim that he may be resigning, because Ingram decided to go on the Department of Social Services Board. Ingram responded to a Facebook post arguing this by writing that, “his reason in resigning is to move back home to be near his family and had absolutely nothing to do with me. The implication that I had any influence in his decision as reported by a disgruntled board member is a lie. So go ahead and admit that the contents of his letter were leaked to you and let us guess by whom.”
It turns out Spain is actually taking the directors position in Mecklenburg, to be closer to his family. According to Ingram, “before the meeting where I was appointed to the DSS board,” he met with “with my friend Chris Spain who was excited about the change.”
The claim was also made on Facebook that David Smitherman got Chris Spain to be the social services director in Pittsylvania County, but it turned out it was Ingram who actually suggested him for the job and that the two have been friends for around forty years. Someone who was on the DSS board confirmed that for me too.
Now I think you can see why it can be so time consuming to pick through all the tidbits of nonsense that come from Warren “team” members to figure out what is real and what isn’t?
All people want are elected officials who just act normal and are willing to help their constituents when they can, but that doesn’t seem to be what these guys are about. That’s the way they do it in Danville, but with the Warren “team” it’s their way or the highway it seems, and they’ll say anything in order to attack people who aren’t on their “team” no matter how crazy.