Onley mayor takes fellow council members to court

Accomack County

ACCOMAC, Va. (WAVY) – Inside an Accomack County courtroom, a small-town mayor decided to take his colleagues to court. 

“I’m sorry to all my constituents that we have to go through this, but they left me no choice,” said Onley Mayor Matt Hart.

In June, Hart was publicly reprimanded by his fellow council members.  They say he created a hostile, abusive work environment.

“I’m not perfect, but nobody is perfect,” Hart added. “I’m certainly not abusive.”

Hart believes council doesn’t like that he speaks his mind.

In May, fellow council members held a closed-door session to discuss his performance. Hart decided not to go to the meeting.  His attorney sent a letter to council, because it was believed the meeting would be against the Freedom of Information Act.  The council still had the meeting.

A couple weeks later during open session, the council passed a resolution reprimanding Hart.

“When a resolution is thrown on you saying that you are hostile and that you’ve done this and you’ve done that, what is my recourse?” Hart asked. “They left me no other recourse but to take them to court.”

On Tuesday, Hart and council members were in an Accomack County courtroom.  Hart and his attorney argued that the closed-door meeting was illegal.

 “He argues that we didn’t go into closed session properly,” said Onley Town Attorney Rachel Kellam.  “We certainly argued differently today.”

Kellam says there was an ample amount of notification given before the meeting and the council has the power to discipline each other.

“He is the town head,” Kellam added. “He is the model of decorum for the town and he wasn’t being the model of decorum for the town.”

Hart says he hopes — win or lose — the council can move past this and work together.

“You know we need to get along for the people of the town,” Hart said. “This isn’t doing any good for anybody.”  

The judge told both sides he would send out a written ruling as quickly as possible.

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