How Augusta Sheriff Donald Smith Went from Vocal Supporter to Fierce Critic of More School Deputies
Written by: Michael Phillips
AUGUSTA COUNTY, VA - In a developing scandal, new evidence suggests that the Sheriff of Augusta County, Donald Smith, made inconsistent statements regarding school safety, raising concerns about the adequacy of security measures at county schools. Breaking Through News obtained information via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that paints a complex picture of the Sheriff's stance on School Resource Officers (SROs).
Sheriff Smith has long championed the need for additional SROs in public comments, yet documents obtained through the FOIA request reveal a discord between his public statements and private communications. These revelations have further inflamed an already tumultuous situation in Augusta County where a scandal over recorded closed session meetings continues to brew among the Board of Supervisors.
On February 8, 2022, SRO Thomas Pultz sent an email to both the School Board and the Augusta County Board of Supervisors, pleading for their support in increasing the number of SROs. Pultz highlighted the need for additional officers to safeguard students, particularly in Beverly Manor Middle School, which currently stands isolated and has a longer response time in emergencies.
Pultz's impassioned plea was forwarded by Sheriff Smith to both boards, but with an appended message expressing his reluctance to increase the number of SROs, contrary to his publicly professed stance. The Sheriff cited a preference for flexibility in utilizing his deputies as the reason for this discrepancy. To add a layer of intrigue, Smith concluded his email with the phrase "NO FOIA", a presumed attempt to ensure his private sentiments remained undisclosed.
The Sheriff's inconsistent statements are under scrutiny, and the lack of comments from all parties involved allows the email evidence to stand on its own. While Smith publicly advocated for additional SROs, his contradictory private communications are likely to fuel further questions about his intentions and the overall safety measures in place for Augusta County's schools.
This comes against the backdrop of an ongoing controversy surrounding the Augusta County Board of Supervisors and their public freak out after discovering that their executive sessions had been recorded. The unanswered questions about these recordings have kept Augusta County in the spotlight, raising broader issues about transparency and accountability among local officials.
As the controversy continues, Augusta County's citizens and, more importantly, its school children, are left to wonder where the truth lies and who they can trust to ensure their safety.
Contacted by Breaking Through News, the Augusta County School Board, the Board of Supervisors, and Sheriff Smith have declined to comment on the issue.