Editor: The discovery of a slave cemetery during the widening of the Route 7/Belmont Ridge Road intersection has generated both public interest and controversy over the best way to preserve and protect this historically important property. Part of that controversy involves the role of the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office. So I believe it’s important to clarify any confusion there might be as to my actions in this matter.
The Virginia Code designates the Commonwealth’s Attorney as one agent permitted to bring petitions to the court to appoint trustees who would be responsible for protecting historic cemeteries in the county. During my term in office, this is the third such petition I’ve filed. It’s a normal part of my job.
My involvement with this particular cemetery began about two years ago in conversations with the County Attorney’s Office and Board of Supervisors staff about the best way to transfer this cemetery property to trustees once they were appointed. After land use issues between the county and the land owner had been resolved, my office filed the petition to appoint trustees with the court.
At a public court hearing on July 12, a citizens group filed pleadings to intervene in the petition, demanding a seat at the table. My statement during that hearing that they had no legal standing to intervene as a party to the petition was an accurate reflection of the law, and the judge agreed with me. The issue of standing is a purely legal consideration. It has no implications as to any group’s intentions, motivations, or qualifications.
My role in this petition process is unique among my statutory duties, as I am simply the petitioning agent. I represent no client, and I am not an advocate for any group or individual. I do not make recommendations on who should serve as trustees. I simply follow the orders of the court throughout the process and ensure that the judge has the information needed to select and appoint trustees.
Besides my official actions in this matter, it has been alleged that I used specific language during the proceeding, which was demeaning to this citizen group. As is customary, an audio recording of the proceedings was made by the Circuit Court. I would encourage any member of the public wishing to hear what was actually said during that hearing to listen to the recording. It is a matter of public record.
Finally, I would like to add a personal note. I believe everyone living in this county should care about the long-term protection and preservation of the slave cemetery along Belmont Ridge Road. It is an important part of our shared past, and it must be included in our shared future.
Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney