On Nov. 19, the Lovettsville Town Council voted to re-appoint Andru-Scot Spangler to the Oktoberfest Committee, five months after it voted to remove him for a comment he made on a North Carolina-based newspaper’s Facebook page.
That vote, which Mayor Nate Fontaine later vetoed, prompted at least three people to resign from their posts on town commissions and committees.
At the June 11 Town Council meeting, the council voted unanimously to remove Spangler from the Oktoberfest Committee for commenting on the Facebook page of The Shelby Star—a daily newspaper in Cleveland County, NC—on an article with the headline “Confederate Battle Flags Removed From Graves.” Spangler commented: “That’s not hate. Blacks are filled with more hate, than any other race in America.”
At that time, the Town Council consisted of Fontaine, Vice Mayor Jim McIntyre and Councilmen Mike Dunlap, Chris Hornbaker, Matthew Schilling, Buchanan Smith and David Steadman.
On Nov. 19, the Town Council voted to appoint former Planning Commissioner Kris Consaul to the Love Winter Committee—a vote that prompted Hornbaker to make a motion to re-appoint Spangler to the Oktoberfest Committee.
Hornbaker made that motion because he felt the council should give Spangler a second chance since it was giving Consaul a second chance, only one month after it voted unanimously to censure her for a Sept. 30 Facebook post in which she edited in a speech bubble to the bird from the town logo reading “Nazi Punks F— OFF!”
Mayor Nate Fontaine on Monday said the vote to censure Consaul was appropriate, and that a vote to remove her from the Planning Commission was not warranted.
“I don’t see how you all see this any different,” Hornbaker said at the Nov. 19 meeting. “Someone embarrasses the town in a posting online 200 miles away and we dismiss that person. Someone utilizes town resources in an appointed capacity and embarrasses the town at home and we are saying that we are allowing that person to serve in additional capacities to the town.”
Councilwoman Renee Edmonston said the Town Council should rescind its vote to remove Spangler from the Oktoberfest Committee if it appointed Consaul to the Love Winter Committee because both instances “are very similar.”
“I welcome Kris … and I also welcome Andru back,” she said.
Steadman said, “We all are human, we mess up, we apologize, we move on and give folks second chances.”
The council ultimately voted 4-3 to appoint Consaul to the Love Winter Committee, with Fontaine voting in favor to break the tie and Edmonston, Hornbaker and Councilwoman Joy Pritz voting against. The council then voted 5-0-1 to re-appoint Spangler to the Oktoberfest Committee, with Smith abstaining because he felt it was an inappropriate time to make the re-appointment. Spangler on Friday was unaware the vote for his appointment was made, Fontaine said.
According to Hornbaker’s motion, the council appointed Spangler to the Oktoberfest Committee conditioned upon his acceptance of the appointment and his application submission. Before Spangler could do that, Fontaine on Monday posted on his Facebook page that he had vetoed the vote on Saturday night.
Town Attorney Liz Whiting said the mayor’s veto stands in a bit of a gray area. The Town Charter establishes that, “The mayor … shall have the power to veto resolutions, acts and ordinances of the council which resolutions, acts and ordinances may be passed over such veto by a two-thirds vote of the entire council ….” The Charter does not specify as to where or how the mayor’s veto is to be made.
Interim Town Manager Sam Finz said he has added a discussion item to the Town Council’s Dec. 3 meeting agenda centered on resignations and appointments.
“This is something that is worthy of a town council discussion,” he said.
Fontaine this week said the vote to re-appoint Spangler was “procedurally incorrect,” since it was taken prior to Spangler even filling out an application to serve on the committee.
Before Fontaine’s veto, at least three people had already resigned from spots on town commissions and committees in response to the Town Council’s vote to appoint Spangler.
Jim McIntyre and Natalie Metzler resigned from the Oktoberfest Committee and Consaul resigned from the Planning Commission. Two others also have also resigned from the Oktoberfest Committee since the Nov. 19 Town Council vote. Fontaine said town leaders are still compiling a list of everyone who has recently resigned.
Consaul said, “This weekend’s resignations are over racism and white supremacy.”
She cited more than Spangler’s re-appointment as motivation to resign. She said Fontaine failed to denounce what she said was a threat made against her by a town business.
Last weekend, Minuteman Arms Owner Warner Workman set up a sign outside his gun shop reading: “Krazy Karen Cristen & Chris Sale Be Armed AR-15 $775.” Consaul said she interpreted that sign as a threat aimed at her and her neighbor, regardless of the misspellings of their names.
“I was appalled and a little terrified,” she said.
Fontaine this week said concerns of threats should be directed to the Sheriff’s Office. In a Facebook comment, he wrote that “these signs are not reflective of the Town of Lovettsville, who we are or what we stand for. … [T]hese signs are designed to divide the community and to draw attention to increase sales. … I, personally, find it unprofessional, unneighborly, and in extreme poor taste.”
“The failure of the Mayor and the Town Council to unequivocally condemn this threat speaks volumes,” Consaul wrote in her Nov. 22 resignation Facebook post. “There’s what’s legal, and there’s what’s right. There was a path for the Mayor to follow and do both: he didn’t take it. I will not participate in a town government whose leaders do not condemn unequivocally the threat of violence against its citizens.”
“It’s all a piece of white supremacy … that I feel like the town leadership is condoning,” Consaul said this week.
Metzler said she’s a “team player,” but “this was a hard team … mostly because of Andru.”
“Everybody was just completely appalled,” she said of the vote to re-appoint Spangler.
Metzler said she didn’t want to put her blood, sweat and tears into the committee “without knowing that the Town Council isn’t going to pull this type of behavior again.”
“It’s clear to me that their priorities are not aligned with mine,” she said. “… It’s sad.”
Fontaine said the town’s divide among its residents—a divide that has grown deeper in recent months leading up to and following the Nov. 3 presidential election—has been building for a while. He attributed it to the town’s proximity to Washington, DC, where national news is often intertwined with local news, and to the lack of town events amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
For instance, the town’s annual Oktoberfest brings in more than 10,000 visitors each year and brings residents together for an entire weekend every September.
“I really do think people getting outside talking to neighbors, talking to folks is the best thing Lovettsville residents can do,” Fontaine said.
Consaul said the town’s many events merely helped residents ignore problems that have always existed.
Fontaine stressed that while Town Council seats have changed hands recently, the council remains nonpartisan.
When asked what could be done to reunite the town, Fontaine said he encourages residents to get involved in the town government by signing up to talk during the public comment portion of Town Council meetings and emailing him and other council members. He also suggested residents join civic service groups, like Keep Loudoun Beautiful, Scouting troops and the American Legion.
“We, as residents, are responsible for creating the culture that is Lovettsville,” he said. “Go out and get involved in the community … don’t shelter in and battle it out on Facebook.”
Consaul encouraged residents to take a stand and to not take postings and other messages personally.
“What we tolerate we become, and there are plenty of people in town who tolerate bullying and tolerate name calling and they’ve got to stop taking that,” she said. “If your name isn’t on it, don’t take it personally,” she said.