In "Things That Never Happened This Week" there is news that Brentsville Supervisor Jeanine Lawson-R booted the Thomas family from one of her town hall meetings despite them being Brentsville residents. It was suspected they were asked to leave since they were selling their farm to make way for a subdivision and that subdivision was hot a topic on the agenda.
But while the Thomases were very public in their request for an apology. Bristow Beat has determined that Lawson was only a guest at the meeting, despite a flyer indicating otherwise.
“This was not a public town hall. Regardless Supervisor Lawson did not ask anyone to leave,” said Michelle Trenum, an aide to Supervisor Lawson.
Lawson is not only the Brentsville Supervisor but is also the Republican nominee for the Chair of the Prince William County Supervisors.
Owners of the Thomas Farm held a press conference, on Oct. 10, outside the McCoart Building to demand Lawson apologize for having them kicking them out of a town hall-style meeting, on Oct. 4 at New Bristoe Village.
Siblings Allen Thomas and Geralene Thomas Freeman are the owners of an ancestorial farm along Route 28 in Nokesville. They are currently working with developer JR Realtor Group to sell that property to build a large subdivision.
The Thomas Farm development was one topic for discussion at the New Bristow Village meeting. Residents are concerned that the 80-acre property adjacent to their development could be rezoned for as many as 320 dwellings. JR Realtor Group would also like a road to cut through New Bristow Village.
During their press conference, the Thomases emphasized that the family, which is African American, has owned the farm for more than 100 years, and that Mr. Thomas is an active member of the Nokesville community.
“We found it truly embarrassing that our supervisor chose to exclude us and others, considering we have been long-standing members of the Bristow area community and believed we had every right to participate in an open forum, just like any other resident. This selective approach was not in line with the leadership expected from local leaders, especially from someone aspiring to lead the entire Board of Supervisors for our county,” Allen Thomas said via a press release.
Thomas said he and Freeman were told they had to leave the town hall because they did not reside in one of three HOA communities; however, Thomas pointed out that nowhere on the flyer did it say the meeting was limited to certain neighborhoods. It was advertised as a “town hall” and an “open forum” for the Bristow community.
“Jeanine Lawson, our supervisor, put a flyer out saying that there was to be a community town hall for people to come to. We came in, sat down. Someone got up and requested that anyone not living in was to leave. We didn’t get an opportunity to speak with anyone, to meet with them, to let them know who we are and what we do,” Thomas said.
The Thomases said they were not there to cause trouble. They wanted to attend so that they could tell their story to residents, hear from residents and learn more about other local developments. Other topics included Bristow Crossing and the data center proposals.
Trenum admitted there was a flyer that made it look as though it was a public town hall, but that Lawson has no control over what others put in their flyers.
And Lawson's office did not advertise the town hall. It did not appear in her email newsletter “Brentsville Buzz,” nor was it on her Facebook page. It was not sent to the media via a press release. Supervisors are often guest speakers HOA Clubhouse meetings, and those meetings often turn away non-neighbors (and journalists.)
Via FOIA, Lawson's office provided Bristow Beat with an email Kelly Boynton sent to Supervisor Lawson, Sept. 10, requesting that the supervisor participate in the New Bristow Village community forum.
I am emailing to ask when you might have some dates coming up that you be able to come to New Bristow Village to update, and help guide us to fight the Thomas Farm project and specifically to fight it from coming through our neighborhood.
We will also open up this meeting to Avondale since all the new homes and traffic also impact them.
Not sure if you would also like Tom Gordy, our residents need to know his passion for our area.
Let me know some dates that you are available and I will talk with the Board and get back to you with a date.
Sent from Gmail Mobile
Kelly Boynton planned the meeting and he said it she who asked all non-community members to leave.
Boynton told Bristow Beat she had organized the forum for residents of New Bristow Village, Avondale and Sayebrooke only. They decided not to make it an HOA event so that the organizers could set the rules.
She was working off a template of one of Lawson's town halls and accidentally published the flyer with incomplete changes. That flyer indicated that the public meeting was open to all and appeared as though it came from Lawson's office.
Boynton said when realized her mistake, she immediately changed it. It was about 20 minutes after her initial posting of it. (Not after the event.)
The Sept. 20 correction reads: “UPDATE: This is not a (sic) open public event. This is a community meeting is (sic) open to residents living in NBV, Avendale and Saybrook to obtain information that directly impacts our specific neighborhoods.”
Boynton said she did not even know the Thomas family had attended. “We did not call out the Thomas family whatsoever,” she said.
However, she did recognize Thomas Farm developer Saif Rahman of JR Realtor Group, and she asked him to leave. She said she finds it strange that Rahman understood of was a meeting she organized, yet JR Realtor Group helped the Thomas family find a PR person to stage the press conference.
Boynton said the Thomases could have asked to address the community. She would have left it up to the attendees.
At the conference, the siblings revealed they sent an email to the board and would speak about it during citizen’s time. They sent a copy to everyone except Lawson, and they never called her office to ask for an apology.
Thomas said "someone" asked them to leave, but Freeman said it was Lawson.
“We didn’t expect our Brentsville supervisor to ask us to leave,” Geralene Thomas Freeman: “We would like Supervisor Lawson to apologize… It felt like we were being singled out. I do not think that supervisors should be selective of who attends a town hall meeting if it’s advertised as an open forum”
Thomas and Freeman said this was not a campaign issue, but that they had an issue with the leadership of a person who would exclude citizens from a public town hall. Freeman said she was not aware that HOAs could hold private meetings with supervisors, excluding other citizens.
A spokesperson for the Thomases said he realizes there is another flyer, but that this one was posted before the event.
On the 'Ann Wheeler for PWC' Facebook page, Chair Ann Wheeler-D called out Lawson for her alleged actions.
"I will again repeat that Jeanine Lawson is not inclusive in any way and is unfit to represent a diverse county like Prince William. She saw who showed up for a town hall and changed the rules and demanded people leave. You can't make this stuff up. It falls under "What was she thinking?" WWST!
Thomas and Freeman said this was not a campaign stunt, and it was about being fairly included in public meetings.