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UPDATED: Fauquier County Supervisor Holder Trumbo apologizes for controversial online comments

Thursday, May. 8 | By Jonathan Hunley
Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Holder Trumbo
UPDATE: Fauquier County Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Holder Trumbo, during the supervisors' comment time at a meeting Thursday night, apologized to anyone who was offended by comments he made in March on Facebook.

He said he spoke in an "overheated moment" and was sorry he did so.

His apology came after a handful of speakers blasted him for the online comments he made to political opponents.

After they spoke, board Chairman Chester Stribling threatened to have a sheriff's deputy remove anyone from the meeting who got out of hand.

But following Trumbo's apology, Stribling said that he didn't mean to squelch anyone's "God-given, American" right to free speech but that he didn't want to have the meeting overtaken by personal comments about supervisors.

He said that, in his opinion, the citizens' comment period at the meeting was neither the time nor the place for such discussion.

***

UPDATE: A handful of speakers at Thursday night's Fauquier County Board of Supervisors meeting railed against Holder Trumbo, who represents the Scott District.

They were upset over comments Trumbo, the board's vice chairman, made on Facebook in March.

A March 25 posting on the Facebook page of Virginia Farm and Food Freedom called Fauquier "corrupt and controversial," and Trumbo responded that he was "sick of this nonsense" and "going to stand up" for his county.

"A sleeping giant is waking up, and folks who attack without good reason will need their Kevlar," he wrote.

That caused a resolution of rebuke from the Fauquier County Young Republicans and strong words from speakers, two of them children, at the beginning of Thursday night's meeting.

"Sir, you need to go," one man said to Trumbo.

After a few comments, Board Chairman Chester Stribling said that he wasn't going to allow personal attacks on supervisors and would have a sheriff's deputy kick out anyone who acted inappropriately.

"We're not going to come in with a disorderly meeting," Stribling said.

Even after that, one woman, who said she lived in Trumbo's district, asked for the supervisor to be removed from office.

***

From April 16:

The Fauquier County Young Republicans passed a resolution on ethics last week after recent online comments from Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Holder Trumbo.

The resolution doesn't name Trumbo, and Young Republicans Chairman Douglas Smith said Monday that his group wanted to make a general statement rather than identify anyone.

The issue seems to have arisen from Facebook chatter from Trumbo, as the resolution mentions an "issue in the media" in which a "Republican member of the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors has made abusive personal attacks on members of the public via the Internet."

A March 25 posting on the Facebook page of Virginia Farm and Food Freedom called Fauquier "corrupt and controversial," and Trumbo responded that he was "sick of this nonsense" and "going to stand up" for his county.

"A sleeping giant is waking up, and folks who attack without good reason will need their Kevlar," he wrote.

Virginia Farm and Food Freedom's website says the group "represents the voices of thousands of Virginians" who "want freedom restored to our local small family farmers."

The exchange comes after Fauquier officials' dealings with farmer Martha Boneta over how she could use her property. The hullabaloo inspired at least three pieces of state legislation in the past two years and was reported by a variety of news outlets.

Trumbo's comments were first reported by Watchdog.org's Virginia Bureau, which is affiliated with the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity, a group considered to be right-leaning.

Trumbo declined to comment on the matter.

Smith said that the Young Republicans aim is to attract people to the GOP, and that the conduct of any party member can affect that mission.

"What was said puts a bad image on the Republican Party," he said. "It makes everybody look bad."

The Young Republicans' resolution, which was approved unanimously by the group's leadership, also calls on the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors to "formally reprimand/censure any member who has breached their Code of Ethics."

But nothing such as that seems likely in this instance, judging from an informal poll of the five supervisors.

Most didn't want to comment on the matter or weren't familiar with the details of the action by the Young Republicans group, which has about 10 or 12 members.

Supervisor Lee Sherbeyn, however, said he not only doesn't think Trumbo should be censured but also considers the matter frivolous and "just not good for the county."

Sherbeyn said he's friends with Trumbo and with some of those who are angry with him.

"I like the people on both sides," he said.

He said he's sure that Trumbo was just using rhetorical hyperbole when he mentioned Kevlar.

His colleague frequently employs euphemisms and turns of phrase, Sherbeyn said, and certainly meant no threat or "ill intent."

The supervisor also noted that words can seem more sinister over electronic media than they would in person when one can see another's expression or hear the inflection in a voice.

For example, Sherbeyn said he doesn't think he would have had any sense of a threat had he heard Trumbo speak the words the vice chairman wrote online.

"It never would have entered my mind," Sherbeyn said.

He also said that he doesn't believe that one's freedom of speech should go away just because that person is elected to office.

And getting into what constitutes an ethics breach? That could be a slippery slope, Sherbeyn said.

"What I may think is unethical you may not," he said.

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