Petition calls for removal of supervisor

Published 6:53 pm Thursday, December 9, 2021

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More than 100 citizens in the Bacon/Saxe District are seeking to have Charlotte County Board of Supervisors Vice-Chairman Will Garnett removed from the board.

Last month, George Toombs and 120 other citizens in the district petitioned the Charlotte County Circuit Court for Garnett’s removal citing neglect of duty, misuse of office and incompetence in the performance of duties.

Garnett said he could not comment on the case due to ongoing litigation.

The petition for removal stems from Garnett’s alleged actions surrounding the much-debated Randolph Solar facility, an 800-megawatt solar site proposed for Garnett’s district.

According to court documents, in January 2020, following Garnett’s swearing-in, he signed documents stating he did not have any business interests or rental property. Garnett, however, did acknowledge he had an interest in agricultural property in the county with his father, Kirk Garnett. “On numerous public occasions, he referred to this property as ‘his father’s farm,’” the court document states.

Documents also state that on May 10, Garnett made a motion during a Board of Supervisors meeting to place a moratorium on solar facilities seeking to develop in the county.

According to the petition, on May 27, SolUnesco, the developer of Randolph Solar, paid Kirk Garnett for an option on his farm.

In addition, documents filed alleged that Kirk Garnett does not own the property; rather, it is owned by Will Garnett and his siblings.

On Friday, Dec. 3, the Board of Supervisors held a special called meeting to decide as to whether the county would cover attorney’ fees for Garnett since VACORP had originally denied coverage after previously agreeing to pay $2,500 towards Garnett’s legal fees on this case. 

According to County Administrator Dan Witt, state code allows for a locality to pay for an elected officials’ attorney’s fee.

“We are just about to vote on writing a blank check to cover this,” said Supervisor Donna Fore. “I don’t think it is fair to the citizens… If Mr. Garnett is found guilty, how will we recoup those funds?”

Board Chairman Gary Walker spoke up to defend Garnett.

“I know Will to be a person of integrity and honesty,” Walker said. “I know on these votes he’s voted with the intention of doing the best for Charlotte County as a whole, and I’m sorry that he finds himself in a position of being sued.”

On a motion for the county to cover Garnett’s legal fees, the motion failed with a 3-3 vote.

Garnett abstained from voting.

On Monday, Dec. 6, Witt received a call from VACORP stating they would, in fact, cover legal fees.

“Today, I received a call from VACORP, and after an internal review of the language in the policy and the coverage provided, they have agreed to amend the language in the policy and to cover such cases,” Witt said. “This will be effective immediately, and Supervisor Garnett’s attorney’s fees will now be covered.”