Last month, on August 16, a disagreement among a few members of the Pittsylvania County Department of Social Services Board turned into a public spectacle when the next day, in what some called a “clown show,” two members of the board gave public remarks at a county Board of Supervisors meeting in which they made accusations against DSS Board member and BOS Chairman Vic Ingram. The disagreement arose out of a conflict with the composition of the board and its bylaws discovered by Robert Carlberg, who was chosen to be the Staunton River District member of the DSS Board by BOS member Tim Dudley. Carlberg found that the DSS Board bylaws, which had been written more than ten years ago, say that there should be one member on the DSS Board from each of the seven districts in the county, with one of them also being on the Board of Supervisors. The DSS Board has had eight members, with one of them being a voting member from the Board of Supervisors, for all of these years.
He made the argument that the person representing the Board of Supervisors should not be a voting member of the DSS Board in order to insure that there are not two voting members from one district. This created a disagreement at the August DSS Board meeting and the board voted to table the issue for later by a 6-2 vote. At that meeting, Ingram said that he would get attorney Matt Evans to study the potential problem and also get the way other boards are run in the county examined for the Board of Supervisors.
The next day, DSS Board member Jim Scearce, who had been picked by his brother, Westover Supervisor Ron Scearce, used this issue to publicly attack Vic Ingram in public remarks at the Board of Supervisors meeting, charging that he had been holding “multiple secret meetings” with other DSS Board members to create the 6-2 vote outcome and was a “liar.” Carlberg spoke after him and asked of the public and other supervisors, “Will you allow evil to be triumphant or will you do something?”
At the September DSS Board meeting, held yesterday, the members voted to change the way the board is composed in its bylaws by a 7-0 vote. Member L. Dawson said that she saw no need to make changes for these bylaws. She noted that she had been on the board for over a year and it had always been smooth and congenial until last month. It seems confusing when the bylaws say you need one member from each district and one member from the Board of Supervisors. Jim Scearce said the way to do it is to make it so that the Board of Supervisors representative is an advisory one and with no vote. This is how the Fire and Rescue Commission operates. Ingram said that he would support making this change, and joined in the 7-0 vote to do just that. The member who said that she saw no need to make a change abstained.
After that vote, Vic Ingram gave a presentation to the board that he said he is also going to take to Richmond to the Virginia Department of Social Services, some members of whom were in attendance at this meeting, to advocate for the removal of Jim Scearce from the DSS Board. The presentation went on for roughly an hour and contained videos of past statements that Jim Scearce made at the Board of Supervisors meetings attacking Ingram, other board members, and Commissioner of Revenue Robin Goard, who in one of the videos he said he was going to petition to recall, on what were baseless attacks against her. It is obvious from the last supervisors meeting that Scearce used the issue of the DSS Board composition and its bylaws as an excuse to make a public political attack on Ingram. Ingram asked the other DSS Board members during his presentation if he had been having any secret meetings with them and they all said no. The only meeting he had was with Chairwoman Nancy Eanes and Tim Chesher, the Supervisor in her district, and it was before Scearce was chosen for the DSS Board by his brother, so there were no “multiple secret meetings” as Jim Scearce charged at the August Board of Supervisors meeting.
After Ingram gave his presentation, he had a bit of a heated exchange with Jim Scearce and Chairwoman Nancy Eanes. In response to remarks Ingram made towards the motives of Jim Scearce, DSS Board member, and Vice-Chairman, C. Cameron said that he “does not want the board to be a circus.” Judging by these comments, and those of member Dawson at the start of the meeting, and a letter read to the board by a member of the public in attendance, DSS Board members and employees are not happy with how the August DSS Board meeting became a controversy that spilled out into the public and into this meeting too. They probably don’t want what happens on the DSS Board being used for county BOS politics and do not want BOS politics becoming a monthly topic of DSS Board meetings either. I attended this DSS meeting yesterday, as an audience member, and could see no evidence that Ingram was putting influence somehow on other board members and controlling the board. The way the DSS Board membership is composed and its bylaws was brought up at the August Board of Supervisors meeting seems like a lot of hyperbole, but if you have been closely following county BOS meetings in person or watching the videos of it you know that it’s been an almost monthly occurrence by Jim Scearce since the start of this year.