Case to Remove Albemarle Supervisor Dumler to Go to Trial
Chris Dumler outside of Albemarle County Circuit Court Monday
Albemarle County Supervisor Chris Dumler's battle in court is far from over. Monday, a judge ruled the case to remove him from office will move ahead.
In January, Dumler pleaded guilty to misdemeanor sexual battery - after being originally charged with forcible sodomy. Despite a wave of calls for his resignation, Dumler refused to resign from the board. A petition to remove Dumler was organized, and enough signatures were gathered for it to be legally binding. Now, it will be up to the court to decide whether or not he can keep his job on the Board of Supervisors.
Monday morning, the court reviewed two motions. First, Judge Cheryl Higgins denied a request to dismiss the case. Second, she ruled the prosecution has enough specific allegations - as outlined in a filing - to take this case to trial.
The court ultimately denied the defense's motion to throw out the petition against Dumler - saying it does relate to the arrest and conviction.
"I thought that Judge Higgins was very fair. Of course, we don't have a great deal to go on with the laws. We're not breaking new ground here, but we kind of are," said Earl Smith, Scottsville man who organized the removal petition.
Dumler previously argued that the petition is too broad – but Judge Higgins ruled differently.
"You didn't have anything to go on. When I tried to look up stuff, I couldn't find it. I don't have the great wealth of knowledge that's obtainable just to the normal person besides Google. So we left it kind of broad like that," said Smith.
Special prosecutor Mike Doucette agrees that there's little history for cases that involve a removal petition.
"I was in my office all day yesterday trying to find what is the definition of a material neglect of duty. I can't find that, so what are the duties and what does common sense tell you, when one's duties are when someone is the member of a board of supervisors and that's where the argument comes from?" said Doucette.
Smith believes the argument has a simple solution.
"If I'm a leader and I can't lead anymore, then I should step down and that's been my whole premise for this the whole time," said Smith.
The judge cited Dumler's jail time, recusal from board votes, and canceled town meetings as examples of his actions that will be allowed at trial.
Dumler will be back in court for trial – by judge, not jury- on May 20.
Now that the case against Dumler is moving forward, the Albemarle County Registrar's Office will be busy verifying signatures.
Smith collected 584 signatures before filing the petition in circuit court. To meet state law, 372 signatures were required - that's 10 percent of the total number of voters in the Scottsville District.
Albemarle's Voter Registrar Jake Washburne says he spoke with Smith before the petition was submitted.
"If he got over 500 and there are 372 required, I would be very surprised if he did not meet the requisite threshold, but we won't know until we check all the signatures and make sure they're registered voters in the Scottsville Magisterial District," said Washburne.
Washburne says with a full staff, the verification process should take no more than two days.
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