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David Konick at the recent candidate's forum

‘I have never betrayed the public trust in any position I have held over the years’

One of David Konick’s main pitches to voters is that his years of experience as an attorney and in local government make him fit to hold a seat in Rappahannock County’s highest office. It’s the same message he campaigned on in the 1980s when he sought to become the commonwealth’s attorney and wound up losing shortly after voters discovered he lied to authorities about wiping fingerprints off a client’s weapon that was used in a killing.

That was just one of many controversies involving Konick, who is running to represent the Stonewall-Hawthorne District on the Board of Supervisors. A review of dozens of public records show a history that includes a criminal misdemear conviction, an arrest, and allegations of making threats, dishonesty, obscenity, vulgarity and homophobic comments.

Relative to his opponent, Rappahannock native and business owner Van Carney, Konick has significantly more experience in county affairs, as well as a deep institutional knowledge having served in appointed roles going back to the 1980s. Konick also played a role in formulating the county’s most recent comprehensive plan, a document interpreted by most to be local gospel outlining a largely agreed upon vision for how Rappahannock should approach its future.

Konick, who declined to be interviewed for this report, denied in a written statement ever betraying the public’s trust and characterized the Rappahannock News’ reporting as a blatant attempt to discredit him and his candidacy.

“That said, like everyone, I am far from perfect. Like all of us, I have made mistakes and done and said some things I have regretted and still do. Who hasn’t? But your proposed article seems to be based on the premise that people cannot change or grow or learn from their mistakes,” Konick said in his statement. “Obviously, if I’m elected to this office, I will be keenly aware that I need to be on my best behaviour at all times since it will be a reflection on the County. I know that, and pledge that I won’t forget it.”

Although there is public awareness of much of his storied past, many of Konick’s loyal supporters cite his experience working in and around county government and his expertise on issues like zoning as reasons they plan to cast a ballot for him. Some believe Konick’s past controversies are unrelated to how he would perform if elected.

“I understand that David is difficult. I have gotten that impression,” Town of Washington resident Deborah Scott said in an interview. “But I still think it matters, like I said, actions [matter] more than words. And to me it matters quite a bit more that he’s competent, he’s got the education, he’s got the background, he’s proven to be concerned about [zoning].”

His supporters have submitted a number of letters to the Rappahannock News in his favor, and Konick campaign signs are widely seen across the county, even in areas outside his district. In a Rappahannock News letter, one supporter, Hodge Miller, who doesn’t live within Stonewall-Hawthorne, wrote that he would vote for Konick “over anyone, including my father.”

“At the crossroads where we currently sit … there is only one clear choice. Rappahannock needs Konick’s depth of knowledge of the law, county ordinances, zoning laws, and our comprehensive plan, because the current versions are badly outdated,” Miller, who declined to be interviewed, wrote. “Who is better qualified to update them and guide us than him?”

They embrace Konick’s campaign promise to “Keep Rappahannock, Rappahannock” by opposing suburban and exurban creep from surrounding counties and vowing to rewrite zoning code to make development in the area more difficult so as to promote the county’s open, rural landscape that many find so alluring.

“Isn’t that what we all want?” Carol Ann and Bill Cole and Terry and Mary Dixon asked in a jointly written letter. “Vote for David Konick if you love Rappahannock and want to do everything possible to preserve this amazing natural environment, and our beautiful community of friends, furry friends and family.”

Konick’s detractors are sometimes quiet, fearful of a man that some believe can be vindictive and who some consider litigious. In the past, he’s pursued cases on behalf of clients against the county and the Town of Washington, sometimes costing taxpayer dollars.

“I’m a strong believer in open government and transparent government, and unfortunately what happened and led to the litigation was that those laws were not observed … What happened is unfortunate and it’s behind us,” Konick said on Saturday at a candidate’s forum when asked about his involvement in past litigation, though it wasn’t clear which suit he was referring to.

Konick is also representing a client in an active libel lawsuit against the Rappahannock News over a letter to the editor published in 2019.

Sheila Gresinger, a Washington resident, has been a particularly vocal critic of Konick, arguing his past record disqualifies him from holding office. She cited an instance where he levied at her what she believed to be a threat. Konick told her on RappNet, an online listserv: “Please get your facts straight, Shreika, or like Glinda, The Good Witch of the North, once said to the Wicked Witch of the East, ‘You better watch out before someone drops a house on you.’” Fearful for her safety, Gresinger filed a report in 2018 with the Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Office in an effort to document Konick’s comments.

“He’s erratic. So, I don’t trust him because I never know what he’s going to come up with. And I don’t think he is good for the county,” Gresinger said in an interview, suggesting that local officials could hire him as a consultant for expertise on matters of zoning instead of voters electing him to the board.

Konick’s track record in the eyes of some residents and even other elected officials has been spotty across his entire career. In 1984, when he served as county zoning administrator, a group of more than 20 Rappahannock residents wrote a petition to the Board of Supervisors, protesting his behavior at a Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) meeting where they said he “aggressively” opposed a zoning application and reportedly acted as legal counsel for the body, which he was not, according to a copy of the petition.

“The one incident that does relate to my public service dates back to c. 1982 when I was Zoning Administrator,” Konick said in his statement. “It involved a variance application and a staff report I wrote concluding that the proposed variance did not meet the legal requirements for approval, and therefore should not be granted. The BZA approved the variance anyway, and the Board of Supervisors ignored the petition to which you referred and took no action on it because the complaint was without merit. I stand by my analysis of those zoning issues 39 years ago. Did you read the memo in question to verify what is insinuated in your summary?”

When Konick served on the BZA, the Board of Supervisors’ members approved 3-2 a resolution disassociating themselves from his behavior at an August 2018 meeting after residents objected to him calling former Rappahannock News government and court reporter Patty Hardee a “presstitute” in an email and calling former Washington Mayor John Fox Sullivan a “pimp,” according to reporting in the Rappahannock News.

“This Board believes it has a duty to assure the public that the County government does not condone personal attacks on individuals by its public officials, even when acting in their private capacities, and especially when these attacks are by way of language such as what was used here,” the resolution said. “This is contrary to the beliefs and values of the County government, and to the rules for civil discourse by which it is guided.”

Piedmont Supervisor Christine Smith and Jackson Supervisor Ron Frazier voted in opposition to the resolution, while former Wakefield Supervisor Roger Welch, chair at the time, Stonewall-Hawthorne Supervisor Chris Parrish and former Hampton Supervisor John Lesinski supported it.

In a recently submitted Rappahannock News letter, former BZA member Jennifer Matthews who served alongside Konick said that during his tenure he created “tense, hostile and difficult situations, including suing the very body he was supposed to be serving.”

“I question whether suing people as the desired means for trying to get one’s way is the best qualification for a representative of the most important local governing body — the Board of Supervisors. Such tactics are often costly and divisive and can simply generate more conflict; in a word, this is bullying,” Matthews wrote.

Konick, in his statement, said, “In short, I have never betrayed the public trust in any position I have held over the years. I never treated any applicant before the BZA or Planning Commission with anything but the respect due them. I categorically deny that I have ever “threatened” anyone … I have never been ‘censured’ by any tribunal or public body for anything I did in connection with any appointed public office I have held.”

At Saturday’s candidates forum, Konick spoke to his record of lawsuits against the county and allegations of harassment and threatening behavior, saying he’s a “rough and tumble” guy and that not everyone appreciates his “sense of humor.”

“Everything in your proposed article is a matter of public record. It is old news,” Konick said in his statement. “As I said at the Candidates’ Forum, the four Circuit Court Judges who appointed me to the Board of Zoning Appeals in 2014, the members of the BZA who three times elected me Secretary of the BZA and twice nominated me as their representative to the Planning Commission, the members of the Board of Supervisors who appointed me to the Planning Commission, and my colleagues on the Planning Commission who elected me Chairman in January 2020 all knew my public and private record. The voters also know my record of positive accomplishments and service to the community — public and private — over four decades.”

“Your proposed article, (provided to me as a draft summary for comment) proposes to totally overlook and deliberately ignore my lifetime of service to this community, and instead focuses on a few negative incidents, only one of which had anything to do with my public service or any appointed position I have held in Rappahannock County since 1981 in my capacity as zoning administrator, as a BZA member or as a member and Chairman of the Planning Commission,” Konick said in his statement.

He said of the Rappahannock News’ reporting on him, “One hundred and fifteen years ago Theodore Roosevelt said, ‘The men with the muck-rakes are often indispensable to the well-being of society; but only if they know when to stop raking the muck, and to look upward to the celestial crown above them, to the crown of worthy endeavor.’”

“I’ve been in and around Rappahannock County politics since about 1978. This year’s campaign is by far the most mean-spirited, vicious campaign I have witnessed in those four decades. Most people are sick of this kind of mudslinging and smear tactics, the politics of personal destruction, and the vilification of people like me who just want to serve their community. It is ‘uncivil’ in the extreme and not ‘the Rappahannock way.’ Frankly, it saddens me.”

He continued, “What you are doing (or proposing to do) is a transparent attempt by the Rappahannock News to discredit me in a way that is neither fair nor balanced, especially at this late date in the campaign. It is obvious to any objective person that by dredging up ancient history that has been fully covered in your publication previously and that most everyone in the County knows all about, you are trying to influence the outcome of the election by diverting voters’ attention from the real issue at hand: ‘Who is best qualified and competent to do what needs to be done, and who has the track record of getting the job done for the people of Rappahannock County?’”

“Regardless of what you say or write in your paper, the majority of the people of Stonewall-Hawthorne district know I will not let them down,” Konick said. “They know that I will work tirelessly on their behalf and remember that at all times, I am their servant and accountable to them and to G-d. That’s what they want in their BoS Representative. I respectfully decline your invitation to comment further on any of these topics, but I do request that you include this response in full in whatever is published.”


‘I made one pass up the barrel with a dish rag’

After not being forthcoming with the public and, according to a court filing, lying twice to the commonwealth’s attorney (a claim that he “hotly denied,” according to The Washington Post), Konick admitted in 1983 to wiping the fingerprints off the gun used by his client, Diane Kidwell, to kill Race Spellman, the manager of a local farm. The shooting led to the most closely watched murder trial the county had seen in recent memory at the time, and maybe since.

The episode was chronicled in a lengthy feature in The New Yorker magazine and reported on by The Post. Kidwell, a local farmer, blasted Spellman with a shotgun in a right of way dispute in 1982 after he drove a tractor onto her property. Soon after, Konick huddled the Kidwell family into their home where he wiped the prints off the weapon’s barrel without anybody knowing, according to The New Yorker.

"I just freaked out, to put it bluntly," Konick told the Post in 1983. "I made one pass up the barrel with a dish rag. That's what Paul Drake and Perry Mason always did." According to The Post’s reporting, Konick only wiped the barrel — not the trigger nor the stock.

He was never charged for the act, nor did he lose his law license, but Konick did question whether he should have stopped practicing law. In a court filing, former Rappahannock County Commonwealth’s Attorney Douglas Baumgardner wrote, “Mr. Konick asked me on several occasions whether he should resign his license to practice law. I did not respond.”

Following two trials, Kidwell, who discharged Konick and found another attorney when she discovered he wiped the weapon, was acquitted by a jury that ruled she shot Spellman in self-defence, according to reporting from the Rappahannock News at the time.

The story of Konick wiping the prints was first broken by the Rappahannock News in 1983 after a lawsuit brought by the paper led to the unsealing of court documents that revealed what Konick, who was running for commonwealth’s attorney that year, had hidden up to that point. 

“Mr. Konick wiped the shotgun clear without my knowledge or authorization and without the authorization of any member of my family,” Kidwell said, according to an affidavit.

At a candidates forum before the documents were made public, Konick, when asked, provided no clear answer as to whether he had wiped the prints. “It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to be running for commonwealth’s attorney if that were true. It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to be practicing law in the state of Virginia if that were true,” he said, according to the Rappahannock News’ reporting of the forum.

Konick, who lost the race shortly thereafter, claimed to the Rappahannock News that he wiped the weapon’s barrel fearing Kidwell’s husband’s fingerprints may have been on it, leaving open the possibility for the husband to be wrongfully accused of a crime.

“There’s no question that I made a mistake by handling the shotgun in the course of turning it over to the State Police,” Konick told the Rappahannock News at the time. “In some people’s minds this incident raises questions about my honesty and integrity. Honesty and integrity do not prevent a person from ever making mistakes. The question is what you do after you’ve made a mistake.”


Criminal incidents 

While Konick was never charged for wiping fingerprints off Kidwell’s shotgun, he was convicted of a crime later in life.

He was charged in 2005 after he made a phone call to late Rappahannock County Circuit Court Clerk Patricia Davis and inquired about a vacant position in the clerk’s office that was advertised in the Rappahannock News, using sexually explicit language in conversation.

According to Davis’ testimony, outlined in a criminal complaint, Konick said, “I’m calling about the position and I want to know what position I would be [expletive] you.”

Davis continued, “I asked Mr. Konick if he had any county businesses and he again replied, ‘you still haven’t told me what position I’d be [expletive] you.’” “I hung up the phone at this time once it was quite clear Mr. Konick did not have any court business to conduct,” she wrote.

Konick “categorically” denied using profane words in the phone call with Davis, but did not dispute making the call or that it contained sexual overtones, according to a report from the Virginia State Bar.

That year in August, according to the Virginia State Bar’s report, Konick was convicted of “using obscene, vulgar, profane, lewd, lascivious or indecent language to make an obscene suggestion or proposal to, or threaten an illegal or immoral act with intent to coerce, intimidate or harass another over the telephone or citizens band radio” in violation of state law, a misdemeanor.

Konick appealed the conviction to the Rappahannock County Circuit Court, where a jury convicted him again of the same crime and imposed on him a $2,000 fine, according to the Virginia State Bar’s report. He didn’t pursue any further appeals.

For the crime, Konick was issued a reprimand in 2007 by the Seventh District Subcommittee of the Virginia State Bar for violating the rules of professional conduct, defined as committing “a criminal or deliberately wrongful act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness to practice law,” according to a copy of the document.

Konick, according to the document, intended for the call to be a “joke” since he and Davis often engaged in “off-color banter.” In the aftermath, Konick extended an apology to Davis for his behavior, the State Bar said.

He was also arrested in 2005 after being accused of exposing his private parts to late Rappahannock resident Donald Hill on the man’s Castleton property.

“I observed Mr. Konick entering my property on his tractor moving logs. I told him to leave and he told me to kiss his [expletive],” Hill wrote in a warrant of Konick’s arrest. “A few minutes later he pulled down his pants and exposed his buttocks to me and again told me to kiss his [expletive].”

Hill, who was the only witness, died before the case went to trial, so it couldn’t go any further, according to Peter Luke, who was commonwealth’s attorney in the county overseeing the case at the time.

“At the time (over fifteen years ago) I categorically denied the misdemeanor charges of criminal conduct you mentioned (one of which was dismissed and not prosecuted), and I do so again here and now,” Konick said in his statement.


Homophobic comments 

In what became a prolonged legal battle that raised questions about Konick’s attitude toward gay men, he in 2015 filed a lawsuit against The Inn at Little Washington for what he alleged were unlawful actions taken by the business in a 2013 “town square beautification project” with the Trinity Episcopal Church.

The Inn and its openly-gay chef-proprietor Patrick O’Connell, also a member of the Washington Town Council, argued in a court filing Konick’s suit was “the culmination of years of hatred and resentment” and that he was a “homophobe with a vendetta” against O’Connell and his business and was resentful of the “wealthy transients” the Inn attracts, according to past reporting in the Rappahannock News.

“While very colorful and titillating,” Konick wrote at the time, according to the Rappahannock News, the Inn’s allegations (in which the Inn claimed Konick’s longstanding “vendetta” against O’Connell and the Inn constituted an “improper purpose” for filing a lawsuit) “are absolutely irrelevant to the subject matter of the complaint and have utterly no bearing on it.”

Nowhere in the complaint, he wrote, “is there any mention or allusion to, or hint about . . . O’Connell’s personal lifestyle choices or his sexual orientation, or those of anyone else. The attempt to inject such issues into the case is a pernicious smokescreen designed to sensationalize it and to avoid a rational review . . . of the legal issues,” the Rappahannock News previously reported.

Konick has made homophobic statements publicly in the past. On the RappNet listserve, he told a Rappahannock County gay couple in 2013 that, “It seems to me that we have a lot more important issues in the Commonwealth and the Nation than worrying about your sissy-[expletivie] LGBT agenda crap,” he said. “Do us all a favor and go sojourneth somewhere else before the land vomits us out as the Bible teaches it shall even for tolerating perverse kind of abominable filth like the two of you among us.” 

Konick’s suit against the Inn was ultimately dismissed by a judge and he was ordered to pay O'Connell and the business $1,000, according to court documents. The Inn also pursued a counterclaim against Konick, where both parties went on to reach a settlement, the details of which remain unknown, according to the Rappahannock News.

Editor’s Note: Considerations of fairness are always important when writing about candidates in the heat of an election campaign. We took great care in reporting and editing this story, including review by counsel. This deliberate approach required time to do in a responsible way, and that’s why the story is running now instead of, for example, a couple of weeks ago. We reached out to Mr. Konick for comment and gave him opportunities to respond; his statement is included in full in the story. We also want to provide an opportunity for readers to comment before the election. As is our tradition, all views are welcome in the Comment section. Send letters to editor@rappnews.com.



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