ABINGDON, VA (WJHL) – An Abingdon, Va. councilwoman used a public meeting Monday night to accuse three fellow council members — Mayor Cathy Lowe, Vice Mayor Rick Humphreys and Councilman Bob Howard – of acting in secret in an attempt to “discredit her.”
According to a news release from Councilwoman Mary C. “Cindy” Patterson, she became aware of an effort by Lowe, Humphreys and Howard to contact the circuit court in attempt to get information about her divorce.
In a letter made public Monday night by Patterson from Circuit Court Judge Sage Johnson, he notified her on June 22nd that Lowe, Humphreys and Howard had contacted him about her. Patterson says that letter was the first time she became aware of the request for information and guidance by three of her fellow council members.
“The three Council members instructed Town Attorney Deborah Icenhour to dig up personal details of my divorce proceedings as part of that effort,” Patterson wrote in the release. “Then, at the direction of the three council members, the Town Attorney put her findings in a letter that she sent to the Court. In her letter, the Town Attorney also invited the Court to contact her ex parte if the Court had any questions.”
Patterson gave reporters a packet of information just before Monday’s meeting which contained three letters.
In one letter — sent on May 17, 2017 – the three council members empowered Icenhour to request records on Patterson. The letter, signed by the three council members, said:
“This letter hereby directs and authorizes Deborah C. Icenhour, Town Attorney, to request any and all records as needed regarding Councilwoman Cindy Patterson from the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court of Washington County, Virginia and requests a written opinion from the Washington County, Virginia Circuit Court regarding same.”
A second letter from Icenhour was sent to Judge Deanis L. Simmons at the Washington County Circuit Court.
In the letter, Icenhour explained that the three council members requested that she reach out to the court for guidance with regard to Patterson.
Icenhour said in the letter that “issues of concern which are apparently arising in part from Ms. Patterson’s personal life but have increasingly impacted her ability to perform her duties professionally as an elected Council member. These concerns continue to have adverse effects upon the other Council members, appointees and staff and conducting town business.”
Icenhour asked the Judge for guidance on 11 points of concerns ranging from professional and personal matters concerning Patterson.
Proctor added that Patterson was charged with misdemeanor assault after an incident with her husband and that issue is still working its way through court. He said Patterson’s divorce is final.
The final document released Monday by Patterson was a response from Judge Sage Johnson denying Icenhour’s request.
“At this time, the Court will take no action on your filing, because Mary Cynthia “Cindy” Patterson has not been served,” Johnson wrote. “Once Ms. Patterson has been properly served and afforded the statutory time allowed to file any response, the parties may contact the Court to schedule any hearing as may be necessary.”
Along with releasing the documents, Patterson issued a press release condemning the actions of her fellow council members and the town attorney.
“These actions by the three members of the Abingdon Town Council represent an underhanded personal attack on me that violates the Council’s Code of Ethics,” Patterson said. “ More importantly, the actions of the three council members constitute an egregious violation of the open meetings provisions of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act and were therefore illegal. These violations are yet another instance of the back room deals that have plagued Abingdon government in recent years.”
According to the release, Patterson said she and Councilman Wayne Craig ran on platforms of ridding corruption in the town.
“I will not be deterred by this vicious, personal attack from what I was elected to do,” Patterson said in the news release. “I want the citizens of Abingdon to know that I will not be intimidated by this and that I, along with fellow councilman Wayne Craig, will continue to fight for open and honest government for the citizens of Abingdon.”
Patterson referred further questions to her attorney Barry Proctor. He spoke with News Channel 11 Monday night and said Patterson’s intentions are clear. “To let the other five members know that, at long last, we’re aware of this strategy that’s there,” Proctor said. “What we’re hoping for is that this will be a wake-up call that says you cannot proceed with proceeding that aren’t lawful.”
Mayor Lowe, Howard, and Humphreys spoke briefly about the allegations during the meeting.
“We asked the judge for guidance. We did not ask for prosecution. We did not ask for censorship,” Lowe said.
Attorney Barry Proctor said he’s not seeking legal action as of right now but that could change.
News Channel 11’s Justin Soto tried to get further comment from Lowe, Humphreys and Howard about the allegations, but they declined comment.
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