After more than six hours of testimony Tuesday in Culpeper County District Court, Judge Charles Foley decided not to rule in the dispute between Culpeper Commonwealth’s Attorney Megan Frederick and county IT Systems Administrator Todd Frazier. Foley complimented both attorneys for a “marvelous” job in representing their respective clients and that Frazier was no doubt “caught in the middle” of a conflict between Frederick and Sheriff Scott Jenkins. It was Jenkins who requested that IT send someone on March 4, 2013 to remove the RMS (Records Management Software) from the computers fearing a security issue since he had just learned that a burglary had taken place in those offices.
Representing Megan Revis Frederick is Michael Matheson. Defense for Todd Frazier is Michael Winget-Hernandez. “These are important cases and not be be taken lightly,” said Foley who plans to re-read all the pertinent documents related in the case. “I’m not making a decision today,” said Foley who said he would issue an opinion which will be sent to both attorneys and the court within 10 days. “I’m not going to make a knee jerk decision.”
Frazier is seeking $25,000 in punitive damages related to the incident on March 4, 2013 where he claims that Frederick assaulted him after he removed RMS software from three of the computers in the commonwealth attorney’s office. Frederick denies having touched Frazier. Frazier further claims emotional damage as Frederick requested an investigation against Frazier with the attorney general’s office.
“I was just doing my job,” said Frazier who was instructed by his supervisor to remove the software per a request from the sheriff’s office. After serving the county for nearly 17 years, Frazier claims that this is the first personnel issue that he’s had to deal with. Since the incident, particularly the investigation, he has been in fear that he would lose his job, his ability to provide for his children and that he was humiliated and embarrassed to the point of losing sleep, starting to drink and forgetting to take medication.
Frederick’s attorney claims that Frazier’s motives are a “political football” in an election year because of the timing of his suit. Frazier denies that his suit is politically motivated but didn’t deny his anger at Frederick or his desire that the public be aware of her actions. “I want the public to know what has happened to me. She [Frederick] needs to take ownership of her actions.” If that causes her not to be re-elected, I’d be happy…her behavior is not fitting for a constitutional officer and I’d like to prevent her from doing this to someone else.”
Foley stayed focused during the bench trial – there was no jury. Frazierâ??s attorney, Winget-Hernandez, attempted to introduce several witnesses that he said would show that Frederick has a history of abusive and bullying behavior like Rhonda Ford and Bethany McClanahan. â??Iâ??m only interested in what happened on that day,â? said Foley. â??The court needs to determine two things – if the defendant was assaulted and battered on that day and if he is entitled to punitive damages based on his suffering.â?
Hernandez was successful in calling former county administrator Frank Bossio who testified that he instructed Frazier to write down the events that occurred that morning. Several weeks after that in a closed meeting with then county attorney Sandra Robinson and members of the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors, a decision was made (5-2 vote) that in future county employees going to the commonwealth attorneyâ??s office would be accompanied by another.
Matheson, in his closing statements, argued that the case should never have come before the court. His contention is that Frazierâ??s claims do not amount to $25,000 and while he acknowledges that Frazier has suffered inconvenience, waiting for nearly two years to file, simply indicates he is trying to cause grief for Frederick who is seeking re-election to a second term in November.
Frederick, who had been in office only three months when the incident occurred, said she did not know what RMS stood for, that her secretaries were startled when Frazier appeared to uninstall the software, and, because of an alleged burglary attempt and death threats, she was understandably agitated. Mimi Miller, a former employee of the commonwealthâ??s office for 10 years, testified that while she didnâ??t see the alleged â??grabbing of the wristâ? she did overhear conversation later in the office afterward from Frederick joking, â??Oh, did I assault you.â? She also testified that when Frederick learned of the assault charges, she said â??I just grabbed him so he would turn around and talk to me.â?
Since the end of May, Miller has been working for the Culpeper County Sheriffâ??s Office. Frederick testified that their working relationship was good and that she didnâ??t want Miller to leave. She offered to alter her (Millerâ??s) hours so that she could attend school. In other statements, Frederick said that Miller was a good friend of the sheriffâ??s wife, that she had lied and it was an election year. Miller also testified that Frederick had threatened her by saying,
â??If you talk to anybody about this, Iâ??m going to â??fâ?¦â? sue you, donâ??t mess with me.â? Frederick denied saying this.
In later testimony from Mark Nowacki, who has served the county for 18 years as Director of the Countyâ??s Crime Victim/Witness Program, he testified that Frederick, visibly shaken, had come into his office, closed the door and shared that, â??Iâ??ve just done something really terrible…stupid…I shook my finger at (Miller) and told her not to f…with me.â?
Matheson wanted the court to grant a motion to strike insisting that there was no assault and battery. â??This case does not amount to assault and battery…itâ??s really about this manâ??s attempt to instigate problems in an election year,â? said Matheson. His motion was overruled.
Anita Sherman may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org