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Ousted Richmond registrar to file wrongful termination lawsuit

Posted at 4:10 PM, Feb 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-02 18:21:14-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond’s former general registrar Kirk Showalter is preparing to file a lawsuit in state court against the Electoral Board that voted to remove her on Monday.

Richmond’s Electoral Board voted 2-1 to dismiss Showalter from the post she’s held for 25 years.

Showalter was greatly criticized for her handling of the November 2020 election and was even sued by the Democratic Party of Virginia (DPV) last year.

In a letter to the Richmond Electoral Board, DPV Chairwoman Susan Swecker, and Richmond Democratic Committee chair Jamie Nolan outlined multiple reasons for their call to action.

Those reasons include:

  • Failure to comply with the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA requests) from the Democratic Party of Virginia
  • Providing false information to the Democratic Party of Virginia in response to Freedom of Information Act requests
  • Admission the office was not contacting voters within three days of noticing "a material omission" on their absentee ballot envelope
  • Mishandling of a COVID-19 outbreak within the office
  • Changing vote counts in the 2nd and 8th district races with little explanation

She has since hired a team of lawyers, Linda Woods and Sen. Bill Stanley (R-Franklin County), to defend her and reinstate her position.

“I asked they’d delay the hearing so we could have an appropriate due process," Stanley said. "So we can gather the information we needed to defend her and also to have notice exactly what the charges are because they’re kind of vague."

Board Chair Jim Nachman told CBS 6 that he couldn’t talk specifics about Showalter’s performance citing personnel matters.

He also said Showalter was not entitled to due process since the meeting was not a legal proceeding.

Stanley disagrees.

“The charges they made last night did not purport to any lawful reason to remove her from her office," Stanley said. "It’s a position created by the statute and she had an absolute right to due process. We are going to fight to make sure her reputation is restored. We are going to fight to make sure her job is restored."

Nachman said everybody who wanted to speak was allowed to during the public comment period at Monday's meeting.

He said Woods was present with Showalter at the closed session, which lasted three hours.

Stanley said they have filed FOIA requests and are seeking letters to preserve documents from all parties they believe were involved in Showalter’s dismissal. Her team filed a complaint in state court to request an injunction to restore Showalter as registrar while their case is pending.

They also planned to file a wrongful termination lawsuit in the coming days.

Local electoral boards are tasked with hiring and firing the general registrars. Richmond’s three board members were appointed by the Circuit Court Bench.

Last year, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney joined DPV calling for Showalter to step down following a COVID-19 outbreak at her West Laburnum Avenue office.

A team member on Stoney’s campaign contracted the coronavirus.

A spokesman for the Mayor said the office would not comment on matters that could be subject to litigation.

Swecker applauded the board's decision.

“Voters deserve a registrar who will protect their right to vote and make sure every vote is counted. After repeated failures, new leadership in the Richmond registrar’s office is sorely needed, and I’m glad the electoral board recognized that today," Swecker wrote in a statement.

Nachman said Deputy Registrar Jerry Richardson is serving as the city’s top election official until they appoint an interim registrar.

He planned to conduct an exhaustive interview process to hire a permanent registrar, but that process hasn’t begun.