Augusta County Seeks Special Prosecutor in Criminal Investigation of Supervisors Garber and Slaven
Written by: Sam Orlando
Special Prosecutor to Investigate Board Members Gerald Garber and Jeffrey Slaven
Augusta County, Virginia – Augusta County Commonwealth’s Attorney Tim Martin has opted to appoint a special prosecutor to take over the investigation into allegations against two Augusta County Board of Supervisors members, according to reporting broke by the Augusta Free Press. This decision arises from charges that the supervisors engaged in retaliatory actions, which may violate Virginia's ethics laws as they pertain to public officials.
Accusations Against Supervisors Gerlad Garber and Jeffrey Slaven
The criminal complaint, filed by Sheryl Helsel against Supervisors Gerald Garber and Jeffrey Slaven, outlines conduct that potentially breaches § 2.2-3103 of the Virginia Code, specifically subsection 10. This section prohibits any state or local government officer or employee from using their public position to retaliate or threaten retaliation against individuals for expressing views on matters of public concern or for exercising any right protected by law. Garber and Slaven are accused of using their public positions to pressure the State Veterinarian, another public official, to fire Helsel for blowing the whistle on a scheme where county leaders charged animal owners illegal fees, and in some instances killed the dogs of owners that couldn't pay fast enough.
"This One Alleges a Crime"
Addressing the gravity of these accusations, Tim Martin stated, "Because I know many of the players personally, I am going to let someone else look into it." This step is seen as an effort to preserve impartiality in the investigation of a complaint that "is different than most of these conflict-of-interest matters, which only involve advice giving. This one alleges a crime," according to Martin. Martin made it clear he wasn't taking a position on the complaint by appointing the special prosecutor.
If the allegations are substantiated and result in convictions, Garber and Slaven could face serious consequences under § 18.2-11 of the Virginia Code. As Class 1 misdemeanors, the offenses carry a penalty of up to twelve months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500, either or both.
This case underscores the critical nature of ethical conduct within government roles and the legal boundaries established to protect public servants and the integrity of their positions.
The appointment of a special prosecutor promises a comprehensive review free from potential conflicts of interest, casting a meticulous legal eye over the events in question.
As this investigation moves forward, it holds significant implications for the standards of behavior expected from public officials in Virginia and the legal repercussions of breaching these standards.