Corrupt County Says No to Discovery in Pitchfork Protest Farmer Lawsuit

Mark J. Fitzgibbons
Martha Boneta, the farmer of pitchfork protest fame, was fined by Fauquier County, Virginia for selling farm produce and hosting a birthday party for eight 10-year-old girls.

Her tiny farm store was shut down during prime harvest season.  Because she could not sell her vegetables, she donated them to a local food bank.

Nice lady; rotten county.

She subsequently filed a ten-count lawsuit in the county's court alleging violations of the Constitution, state and county zoning laws, and the Freedom of Information Act.  The defendants include the board of zoning appeals that ruled against her, the county's unelected zoning bureaucrat named Kimberley Johnson, and the county's five elected supervisors.

It was pretty apparent for the world to see that zoning czar Johnson violated the Freedom of Information Act when she handed documents to Boneta's lawyer at the zoning appeals hearing, days after they were due, and not in time for Boneta's lawyer to study them to argue Martha's case.

Fauquier County is also being sued by wineries that were subjected to a new police-state ordinance passed at the time the county was abusing Martha the farmer.  The winery ordinance compels a 6 p.m. closing time, defines what "private personal gatherings" are allowed on private property, and gives zoning czar Johnson broad discretion over which wineries get special permits.  Johnson was even given discretion to determine what constitutes a violation of the ordinance.

Faced with unprecedented media attention to their corrupt ways, the county's elected supervisors have gone dumb.  The chairman of the board of supervisors told Virginia Watchdog that on advice of counsel he would not comment on these matters.

The unelected county bureaucrat clearly violated FOIA, and its elected officials refuse to answer questions from the press.  That's governing by arrogance.  Actually, it's corruption.

It may come as no surprise, then, that the county's responsive pleading to Martha the farmer's lawsuit is that her case should be dismissed based on sovereign immunity.  That's right.  The county did not deny allegations; it simply said, more or less, that it was entitled to violate the law.

Sovereign immunity is a holdover doctrine from the times when kings ruled.  The king might be wrong, but the subjects could not sue the king.  That's the governing mentality we face.

The kicker, though, is that the county also claimed Martha the farmer is not even entitled to discovery in the case.  The county filed a motion actually suggesting to the court that no discovery should take place -- no depositions or written interrogatories -- which is essential to litigation.

So, violations of FOIA, no speaking with the press, and no discovery.  Huh.  Makes you wonder what they're so anxious to hide.

Government officials seem to show a growing sense of entitlement to their corruption whether at the federal, state or local level.

Martha Boneta, the farmer of pitchfork protest fame, was fined by Fauquier County, Virginia for selling farm produce and hosting a birthday party for eight 10-year-old girls.

Her tiny farm store was shut down during prime harvest season.  Because she could not sell her vegetables, she donated them to a local food bank.

Nice lady; rotten county.

She subsequently filed a ten-count lawsuit in the county's court alleging violations of the Constitution, state and county zoning laws, and the Freedom of Information Act.  The defendants include the board of zoning appeals that ruled against her, the county's unelected zoning bureaucrat named Kimberley Johnson, and the county's five elected supervisors.

It was pretty apparent for the world to see that zoning czar Johnson violated the Freedom of Information Act when she handed documents to Boneta's lawyer at the zoning appeals hearing, days after they were due, and not in time for Boneta's lawyer to study them to argue Martha's case.

Fauquier County is also being sued by wineries that were subjected to a new police-state ordinance passed at the time the county was abusing Martha the farmer.  The winery ordinance compels a 6 p.m. closing time, defines what "private personal gatherings" are allowed on private property, and gives zoning czar Johnson broad discretion over which wineries get special permits.  Johnson was even given discretion to determine what constitutes a violation of the ordinance.

Faced with unprecedented media attention to their corrupt ways, the county's elected supervisors have gone dumb.  The chairman of the board of supervisors told Virginia Watchdog that on advice of counsel he would not comment on these matters.

The unelected county bureaucrat clearly violated FOIA, and its elected officials refuse to answer questions from the press.  That's governing by arrogance.  Actually, it's corruption.

It may come as no surprise, then, that the county's responsive pleading to Martha the farmer's lawsuit is that her case should be dismissed based on sovereign immunity.  That's right.  The county did not deny allegations; it simply said, more or less, that it was entitled to violate the law.

Sovereign immunity is a holdover doctrine from the times when kings ruled.  The king might be wrong, but the subjects could not sue the king.  That's the governing mentality we face.

The kicker, though, is that the county also claimed Martha the farmer is not even entitled to discovery in the case.  The county filed a motion actually suggesting to the court that no discovery should take place -- no depositions or written interrogatories -- which is essential to litigation.

So, violations of FOIA, no speaking with the press, and no discovery.  Huh.  Makes you wonder what they're so anxious to hide.

Government officials seem to show a growing sense of entitlement to their corruption whether at the federal, state or local level.