Thursday, August 4, 2016

Supreme Court of Virginia: PWC School Board Must Choose Replacement

Last month, the elected member of the Brentsville District on the Prince William County School Board, Gil Trenum advised his colleagues that he had received orders to report for active duty service for twelve months.  However, he attempted to condition his notice on being able to choose his temporary successor.

Virginia Law provides that when any local government official is called into active duty, they do not forfeit their position for serving our country, but only take a temporary leave of absence.  Confusion arose as to whether Mr. Trenum could select his replacement or the School Board could choose.

In light of the confusion about the process, I requested an Attorney General's opinion.   You can read my request and the response below.

The opinion was drafted by career staff at the Attorney General's Office.  It is not signed by the Attorney General because it is not an official opinion - those can take many more months of review, and I wanted to get something quickly. 

The opinion notes that in 2005, the Supreme Court of Virginia (opinion also below) decided this issue in a case involving the Commonwealth's Attorney in Floyd County.  In that case, the Commonwealth Attorney was called to service in Iraq and wanted to hire a deputy prosecutor (Floyd County only had one prosecutor) who he would supervise.  The local Circuit Court disagreed and appointed his temporary replacement.  The Supreme Court held that the attorney's call to active duty authorized the Circuit Court to choose his replacement.

The Attorney General's Office believes this opinion controls interpretation of the state code and that the Prince William School Board has the discretion to appoint Mr. Trenum's temporary replacement and that upon return from service, Mr. Trenum will be restored his position.

I was told there was a press conference today by several members who demanded that the School Board refuse to follow Virginia Law or Supreme Court opinions or that they allow the seat to remain vacant. 

From my perspective, this issue is not a political one - it's solely a matter of process.  Now that we have a clear process, the School Board needs to choose a replacement.  Whether they use Mr. Trenum's list or their own is up to them and if the voters do not like their decision, they have a remedy.

What is most important is that the 52,000 people of the Brensville District continue to have active representation on the Prince William County School Board.  All of the children, families, taxpayers, and voters who live in that area deserve representation and service from a School Board Member while Mr. Trenum serves our country.

It is my hope this opinion has clarified the process so that the School Board can move on to their role in this process.

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