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Montpelier Descendants Committee pitches candidates for Montpelier board as tensions continue

Published: Apr. 28, 2022 at 10:15 PM EDT
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ORANGE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Tension between the Montpelier Foundation and the Montpelier Descendants Committee is reaching a critical point.

The foundation had requested a list of candidates to fill 12 spots on a 25-member board by May. Now, the descendants are responding with a list that has a few more than that.

MDC gave its pitch to move forward Thursday, April 28, during a virtual press conference. It presented a lengthy list of people: 14 ready to be nominated, five waiting for clearance, and three who are currently serving on the board. This list includes professors, historians, and lawyers.

“This is a long-overdue day,” MDC Chair James French said.

Even if the foundation taps the nominated members from MDC to the board, there is still a potential power struggle looming for the historic estate.

MDC says its suggested board members may not have a vote for months after being appointed.

“Comes from a... and I don’t say this slightly, it comes from a place of intense racial bias,” MDC General Counsel Greg Werkheiser said.

In a statement released Wednesday, April 27, the foundation said, ”The new members will be seated on the board in two waves, with both waves fully empowered by the fall board meeting.”

NBC29 asked Werkheiser how confident he is the members will immediately get voting powers and what happens if they don’t: “Well, those were the two questions I was hoping not to get today, so congratulations to you,” the attorney said. “It would be [an] error for us to speculate what we’ll do if they fail to take the very obvious chance to recover from their previous errors.”

Those taking part in today’s virtual press conference say this power-sharing is necessary to help Montpelier tell the stories of descendants, as well as provide context to “Madisonian” principles and teaching of the Constitution.

“Obviously, first we must repair the damage that was done: The recent decision-making by the current board. But our goal really is to create the pre-eminent cultural institution in this country,” French said.

Montpelier CEO Roy Young tells NBC29 that he is pleased to see the list of names proposed by MDC and that they’ll be up for a vote on May 16.

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