FOIA: How HD97 Became the Most Corrupt Process in RPV History

Editor’s note: Read the full 91 page FOIA here.

A lie, they say, can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.

Nowhere has that been more evident this year than in Virginia’s 97th district, where months of lies, bad faith, rigging, slating, and swampy backroom deals have spawned the most corrupt nominating process in RPV history, one which has divided the party in a critical election year and brought disrepute upon the GOP.

With the June 1st Republican nominating canvass less than two weeks away, it’s now time to pull back the curtain and shine light onto a rigged process which has resulted in thousands of Republicans being stripped of their chance to vote, all as part of a sleazy campaign tactic engineered by Scott Wyatt to tip the scales in his favor by suppressing GOP turnout.

Thanks to Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Republicans now get to see a slice of the backroom dealing between Wyatt and his allies, all laid bare in emails to the Hanover County Public Schools (HCPS), obtained by Bearing Drift.

The emails clearly show Wyatt planning his own convention, cutting others out of the loop, and then disenfranchising Republicans by moving the voting location three days before — even though Wyatt himself had requested a backup date in February.

The weeks and weeks of misinformation spread by his campaign have taken a terrible toll on the party.

Wyatt’s gaslighting of Republicans ends today.

Please also see Bearing Drift’s previous coverage (first, second, third) of the LDC meetings, along with full video.

Bear with us, for this is long, and there is much material to cover. Our party deserves nothing short of the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

 

Act 1: Wyatt Chooses His Own Method of Nomination

Talk of a nomination challenge to Del. Chris Peace began a year ago, following the 2018 legislative session, when various local activist groups began recruiting an opponent. They ultimately settled on Hanover Supervisor Scott Wyatt.

Nearly a year later, on January 19th, 2019, the 97th Legislative District Committee (LDC) met and chose to nominate by convention. At the time, Wyatt served as the LDC representative from Hanover, controlling 62% of the vote.

Wyatt sent his proxy to that meeting, who ultimately cast the deciding vote in favor of the convention Wyatt wanted.

Four days later, he formally announced his candidacy.

The shenanigans would not stop there. At his insistence, the number of delegates allowed to vote was deliberately set far too low (against the advice of RPV), creating a situation where hundreds of Republicans were prevented from voting.

Later, in April, Wyatt’s allies within the Hanover GOP used that low threshold to slate off hundreds of loyal Republicans — including elected officials — stripping them of their vote, because they supported Peace.

 

Act 2: Wyatt Plans His Own Convention

Now let’s back up a bit. A few weeks after declaring his candidacy — while still serving as the Hanover LDC representative —  on February 14th, Scott Wyatt wrote the Hanover schools to formally reserve a venue for the convention he chose himself.

“The House of Delegate [sic] 97th District has selected a convention as the nomination method for the Republican Party,” wrote Wyatt, to HCPS. “I have been tasked to reserve a space for the event.”

The email was sent from Scott Wyatt to HCPS and left out other members of the LDC or Peace’s campaign — a problem which persisted for months.

Four days later, Wyatt made a curious request to HCPS: he asked for a backup date of May 18th, should anything go wrong with the May 4th date.

One week later, on February 22nd, Wyatt’s campaign manager, Tanner Bonovitch, emailed HCPS to continue the Wyatt campaign’s planning of the convention. This email also failed to include the LDC or the Peace campaign.

Five days later, Bonovitch sent the certificate of insurance required by HCPS for all facility reservations. Again, this was purely a Wyatt campaign operation, as no others were included.

From the very beginning, Wyatt’s campaign was the sole point of contact with HCPS — a trend which would continue until late April.

On March 20th, Wyatt’s campaign manager scheduled a walk-through of Hanover High School with HCPS staff, including only himself and “one of the consultants for the Scott Wyatt campaign.” No members of the LDC or Peace’s campaign were included on this email.

 

Act Three: Everything Falls Apart

One month later, Wyatt’s campaign was still in charge of convention preparations.

On April 15th, Bob Bollander, the Director of Student Activities at Hanover High School, sent an email to Wyatt’s campaign manager, informing him that SAT testing meant classrooms would be unavailable on May 4th, urging him to come up with another plan — one which was not immediately shared with the LDC or the Peace campaign. By establishing himself as the only point of contact, Wyatt left others out of the loop.

Rather than working with 97th district Republicans to find a solution, or use Wyatt’s own backup date, his campaign weaponized the SAT situation against the opposition, using it as an excuse to move the voting location three days before balloting.

Neither the LDC nor the Peace campaign received this email. Again.

Two days later, Terry Stone, the Assistant Superintendent, sent an internal email noting that the 97th LDC Chairman, Tom Miller, had established himself as the sole planning conduit.

From the beginning, Miller has been a Wyatt ally, carrying his water time and time again (including in several high-profile rules violations at previous LDC meetings).

On the same day, Stone also noted HCPS’s discomfort with the facility reservation being in the name of “Friends of Scott Wyatt,” telling Miller in an earlier email that said reservation would need to be changed to the name of the 97th Legislative District Committee.

Weeks passed with little further action.

On April 26th, just eight days before delegates were set to vote, Stone again wrote Miller with concerns about incomplete preparations.

In particular, Stone worried that Hanover High might be over-capacity, while claiming attendance might be limited to 600, at most, despite other documents estimating turnout as high as 2000.

Stone asked for a response from Miller by April 29th — five days before the vote.

Unlike many past planning emails, this one finally included the LDC and the Peace campaign, three months after Wyatt began planning his own convention.

Two days later, with the vote a week away, Bollander asked fellow HCPS members about the backup date which Wyatt had originally requested.

“With the SAT test also scheduled I am worried that this will not be a civil meeting between the Republican Party which will cause issues with testing,” he wrote. “Since they cannot decide on the rules my suggestion is they change the date so we have more time to plan.”

“They have a rain date of May 18th already on the calendar.”

As everything was falling apart, LDC members who weren’t backing the Wyatt campaign expressed frustration they had been left out of the planning loop, which formerly was limited to Wyatt and his allies from the very beginning.

One day later, Chairman Miller acknowledged that nothing had been signed reserving the facility, in an email to LDC members and HCPS.

“As I said tonight, I have not signed anything to date,” he wrote.

That same day, LDC member Mike Reynold pushed back against the continued problem of the Peace campaign being left off of planning emails.

Even this late in the process, communication remained an issue.

Act Four: Wyatt Allies Change Voting Location at Last Minute

With preparations bungled, and no facility secured, the SAT testing issue finally reached a boil. It was time for a choice to be made: with voting four days away, they could choose to reschedule the convention to the backup date, or it could move the voting location without giving delegates adequate notice to plan.

Wyatt’s allies chose to move the voting location, against the wishes of the committee’s majority, and over the protests of those who worried that the nearly 2000 estimated attendees might not learn where to vote in time. With the change happening just three days before balloting, there was no way for the LDC to contact every delegate in time.

On April 30th, Craig DiSesa, a lobbyist for the Middle Resolution PAC backing Wyatt, wrote to Miller and the LDC inquiring about parking at Atlee High School, the replacement facility.

At earlier LDC meetings, concern was expressed that the smaller facility might not be able to fit all the delegates, potentially leaving some without a place to park, ultimately sending delegates home — a common voter suppression tactic that plays in Wyatt’s favor.

Because the nomination was to be decided by convention, every voter had to be in the facility at the same time the vote was taken. Unlike a party canvass, which allows voters to show up, cast a ballot, and go home during a several-hour window, the convention provided no such flexibility.

The LDC then had to decide whether Atlee High School could fit all the delegates.

Not until April 30th was serious consideration given to parking.

With insufficient time, the LDC was unable to answer whether the facility could hold the up-to 2000 delegates estimated to attend.

On April 30th, Wyatt operatives went around the LDC and the Peace campaign again, attempting to schedule a private walkthrough for their team.

That same day, Wyatt’s allies sent another certificate of insurance to HCPS, dated March 6th, listing the named insured as the “1st District Republican Committee, C/O Stefl”, presumably referring to Heather Stefl, a First Congressional District activist backing Wyatt’s campaign.

According to sources within the committee, the First District never authorized this action, even after HCPS had said weeks earlier that insurance must be in the name of the LDC.

It remains unclear who authorized the First District to seek insurance on behalf of the LDC.

At the time, Terry Stone with HCPS noted that the insurance certificate was provided by the First District Republican Committee.

Later that day, Miller sent HCPS a contract signed by himself, but without a majority of the LDC in support.

Here is a copy of that agreement.

Note that the printout is dated April 30th, and still includes Scott Wyatt’s name and contact information, which was scratched out by Miller at the last minute. Look closely at the scribbles.

Yes, you read that right: as of April 30th, Wyatt was still the point of contact.

Miller also listed “2000” for planned attendance, reinforcing the LDC’s concerns that Atlee High School and its parking lot were too small to accommodate every voter.

Included in that agreement was a certificate of insurance which still listed the First District Committee as the named insured.

Not everyone was in agreement with the last minute change in location. At several LDC meetings in late April, members Mike Reynold and John Hubbard repeatedly expressed concerns that the committee had not properly considered whether the change in location could accommodate everyone, or whether the budget increase was okay.

Reynold, specifically, took exception to Miller’s plan to spend $2360 on chairs alone — an amount exceeding the entire convention’s budget.

Reynold asked to discuss this in public at an LDC meeting — a request which found little favor from Chairman Miller. Likewise, over the course of several late April LDC meetings, attempts to discuss the facility were repeatedly shot down, leaving the committee unsure whether the changed voting location could fit everyone just days before.

Chairs had become an issue in late April, when the committee had been informed that Atlee High School’s bleachers were broken and would be unable to seat delegates. While the bleachers were under repair, the contractor was unable to give a hard deadline of when they would be fixed.

The bleacher issue would not be resolved until May 2nd, two days before voting. Again, the LDC and the Peace campaign had been left off another email.

 

Act Five: Wyatt’s Campaign Goes Rogue

By May 1st, it was too late to save the convention, after Wyatt chose to move the location instead of working with the LDC to use the backup, of which they were unaware.

At this point, Wyatt’s campaign went rogue.

On May 1st, Nancy Smith of the Middle Resolution PAC, an independent expenditure group backing Wyatt, took over the insurance, again cutting the LDC out of the loop.

One day later, RPV executive director John Findlay reiterated to HCPS that the convention had been canceled following a 76% vote of the LDC.

By this time, chaos and confusion had spread throughout the district, fueled by Wyatt’s continued posting of patently false information on social media.

As a result, HCPS had become inundated with inquiries from delegates. They addressed the issue as follows:

On May 2nd, Miller sent another facilities use agreement reaffirming past details, but moving ahead without the consent of the LDC.

By this time, HCPS had become concerned that Miller was operating without the authority of the LDC, having previously been informed of the committee’s vote to strip Miller of any authority to engage in unilateral agreements.

After months of excluding the LDC, as shown by FOIA, the committee had had enough. On April 29th, it voted to prohibit Miller from signing any contract or changing the location without the prior approval of the committee. This motion passed with a 76% (weighted) majority.

Remember, under the RPV Party Plan, the LDC chairman is not a voting member of the committee.

Watch it here:

Yvonne Gibney, Hanover County’s deputy attorney, prepared an affirmation for Miller to sign, requiring him to acknowledge his authority in writing.

Despite having been stripped of his authority by the LDC, Miller signed it anyway.

There it is, ladies and gentlemen. A corrupt process fully gone rogue.

The FOIA documents also suggest that he may have made a false statement to the Hanover County Sheriff’s Office on May 2nd, claiming he had authority to act, despite being stripped of it days earlier.

And with that, Wyatt supporters held their fake “convention” on May 4th, proclaiming himself the nominee, despite repeated rulings from RPV that the process lacked authority under the Party Plan.

The Current Status in HD97

As of now, the LDC plans to move forward with a party-run canvass on June 1st, with a voting location in each county. Unlike the convention, Republicans will be allowed to show up, cast their ballot, and go home.

Critically, the canvass will extend voting rights to all Republicans, including those who were slated by Wyatt at the Hanover mass meeting.

Undeterred by the Party Plan, the First District Committee heard an appeal which was not properly before it, resulting in yet another general counsel ruling from RPV, affirming that Wyatt was still out of order in declaring himself the nominee.

Read, watch the videos, then decide for yourself.

Since the beginning, Wyatt’s campaign has deliberately sowed misinformation and confusion over what actually happened.

And to make one final point clear: the employees of the Hanover County Public Schools appear to have acted appropriately throughout the process. They deserve our gratitude, as well as our apology for putting them through this. Despite potential pressure, they made it clear from the beginning that Supervisor Wyatt would receive no special treatment from them.

Hats off to Terry Stone for upholding public ethics and protecting Hanover taxpayers. Character is how you act when you think nobody is watching. HCPS passed the test.

The same cannot be said of Scott Wyatt and his swamp-dwelling operation.

Note: The 91 pages below are presented in their original form from HCPS, with only redactions being made to phone numbers and some email addresses, in the interest of protecting everyone from further harassment — including the guilty. Unfortunately, this process has degenerated, spawning a wave of personal attacks, threats, stalking, harassment, vandalism, and a drive-by shooting of the windows of a Peace staffer’s home with a BB gun.

FOIA PDF here (91 pages).