Email threatens to lynch former Cumberland supervisors

Published 6:00 am Thursday, July 16, 2020

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The Tuesday, July 14, Cumberland Board of Supervisors meeting ended in a manner that left many citizens shocked after District 1 Supervisor Brian Stanley read aloud an email to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) allegedly sent by a Powhatan citizen appearing to threaten to lynch three previous board members over the controversial Green Ridge Recycling and Disposal Facility.

During the Board Member Comments portion of the meeting, Stanley told citizens that county administration had been forwarded a disturbing email from DEQ officials, who received the letter in an email folder created to accept citizen comments and concerns regarding the proposed Green Ridge landfill. The email was also addressed to Powhatan County Supervisor Karen Carmack.

Stanley read excerpts from the email, signed with the name Charlie Pratt, to a deeply silent audience. The writer called out previous Cumberland supervisors William “Bill” Osl Jr., David Meinhard and Parker Wheeler, stating the board’s ultimate approval of the landfill would turn Powhatan County into a “dumping ground.”

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In one part of the email, Pratt writes, “The landowners need to make examples of these people to avoid emboldening other minor officials. A tree, three ropes, a winch and a sign should do it.”

Meinhard, one of the previous board members mentioned in the email, felt people who write such threatening letters should be held accountable.

“I think somebody should hold some of them responsible for what they say.”

Meinhard was particularly angered by a line in the email that claimed he and other supervisors had been bribed in relation to the landfill’s approval. He felt Pratt should have to prove the matter in court or issue a public apology.

“I resent greatly these people making accusations like that,” he added.

“I think it’s unfortunate that citizens have to resort to threats of violence as opposed to expressing their opinions and having open dialogue and public debate, but it happens when people aren’t getting their way,” said Osl.

Wheeler had no comment regarding the email.

Cumberland County Administrator Don Unmussig said Wednesday Powhatan County Commonwealth’s Attorney Richard Cox opted not to pursue charges against Pratt on behalf of Powhatan.

The Herald sent an email requesting a response from the address the email was sent from. No comments had been received as of press time.

Both Meinhard and Osl said they did not recognize the name attached to the letter.

Stanley said officials believe Pratt may be involved with the Cumberland County Landfill Alert (CCLA), a local group in opposition of the landfill.

“Cumberland County Landfill Alert disavows any connection with the crude reference to lynching in the message to the Cumberland County Board of Supervisors and the individual, whoever he or she is, who made such a statement,” a statement from CCLA said.

After reading the email, Stanley then shared a statement he prepared in reference to the email, criticizing attempts by Powhatan citizens and government officials, such as Senator Ghazala Hashmi, to influence economic opportunity and “stifle growth” in Cumberland.

“The prospects for working adults in this county are zero … To have another county decide whether Cumberland County will prosper or suffer is not justice,” Stanley said. “We have the right to determine our own future and prosper. We need these industries … The elected officials of Powhatan County are improperly trying to impose their will on a less affluent adjoining county. This is unforgivable, and it needs to stop.”

Stanley asked his fellow board members to join him in signing his statement as a show of unity, saying he believed the board should send the document to state legislators. District 2 Supervisor Ron Tavernier was the only supervisor to abstain from signing the document.