Virginia Mayor Attempts to Censure Alderman Over Facebook Posts

By Benjamin Cox on November 14, 2023 at 1:36pm

Left to Right: Mayor Randy McClure, Alderman Ott Wulf, Alderwoman Janet Martin

The City of Virginia’s Mayor attempted to censure an alderman last night due to their use of social media.

Mayor Randy McClure attempted to censure Ward 1 Alderman Ott Wulf over his posts on Facebook. McClure said during the meeting that Wulf had disparaged current police chief Eric Shumate on social media after a recent incident in which Shumate shot himself in the lower right leg during a training exercise incident at the Jacksonville Police Training Center. McClure says the posts made fun of the incident and that it wasn’t the first time Wulf had taken grievances about city employees to Facebook.

Viriginia Chief of Police Eric Shumate

McClure did notify the council that he had received a phone call from Jacksonville Police Chief Adam Mefford that Shumate’s incident was not unlawful and that Shumate conducted himself properly during the shooting. Shumate was in attendance during the meeting, and did not provide information or any response about the criticism that Wulf posted.

A screenshot of Wulf’s personal Facebook Page dated October 30th. The comments do not mention Shumate by name, but only reference a television character. Wulf’s Facebook Page does not mention any affiliation with the Virginia City Council or being an elected official in the City of Virginia. Mayor McClure produced copies of this post and others to the council during the meeting last night.

Wulf says that the mayor has repeatedly attempted to block his projects from being put to a vote in front of the council. Wulf also accused the mayor of not being transparent with the public about information and events connected to the city’s business.

McClure then called the council to vote on a censure action against Wulf. The action was not listed on the city council’s agenda for the evening. Ward 3 Alderwoman Janet Martin agreed with McClure that the posts were uncalled for and is only sowing discord in the community.

Martin said after the meeting that Wulf isn’t bringing his grievances to the meetings to work towards a solution with the rest of the city council: “In the first 10 months that I was on this board, he never opened his mouth other than to vote or to say ‘present’ at roll call. Then, as he would leave the meeting, he would go talk about the potholes in the alleys or things similar to that [on Facebook]. It’s kind of disheartening because we need to work together. Yeah, there is problems. There’s problems in every city. How you fix those problems is you get on the city council and you try to work to get those things done. You don’t come to the meetings and then go home and get on Facebook.”

Martin says that she does agree with Wulf that the mayor and the council need to work closer together and not in separate directions. The general consensus from the rest of the council was either they did not use social media and had not seen the posts, or thought the posts were inappropriate but did not see a need for any formal action by the council.

Wulf says that the Facebook posts may have gone too far but he’s not going after anyone on the council: “I like working with all of them on the council. I don’t hold anything against anybody that is up there. We take responses from our citizens and then we bring it to council. Same thing if we are on Facebook. There is people messaging me all the time. Yeah, I do get a little hot-headed, but I’m passionate about what I do and what I say. Sometimes I go a little bit overboard, but I’m passionate…very passionate.”

Wulf says that the effort by McClure to censure him is just another issue that keeps causing problems in the city: “I feel that he needs to work together with us and pull the community and the council together, and he doesn’t do that. He goes behind our backs. He talks to other people and tries to get these things going, which if he would come to [the council] first, it would make for less animosity there because we would be working together rather than just throwing things on us. Just like the resignation of [City Attorney] Tom Veith. We still have not seen a letter of resignation to this date. [Mayor McClure] had 5-10 days to notify us, and now, it’s been almost two weeks since we haven’t been notified. All of those things combined with the years of working with [McClure] is building and building. It’s a real let down for the whole city.”

Alderwoman Martin does agree that there is some disconnection going on with the council and the mayor on working together, but she believes that everyone on the council should use the proper channels and processes to get things done, and not take to social media to stir up trouble with the public: “It’s a process, and a lot of things don’t happen overnight especially when you are working with government funds and things like that. It’s easy to say ‘Oh, you just can’t get anything done,’ but you have to go through the proper channels in order to get stuff done. It takes patience. Yeah, some things don’t get pushed through perhaps as quickly as they could. It depends on if you have a project – you kind of have to push for it because there are other things…like when you have staffing problems. That kind of has to take priority over some of the other things. Sometimes you have to wait for funding to be available.”

Martin also acknowledged after the meeting that she, too, has not received a copy of Veith’s resignation letter.

When asked about now-former City Attorney Tom Veith’s resignation during the city council meeting, McClure did not produce the letter of resignation to the council or a reason for Veith’s resignation. Despite the lack of information on Veith as well as a lack of any information about their new hire, Attorney Erin Wilson Laegeler, the council approved Veith’s resignation and Laegeler’s hiring unanimously.

Erin Wilson Laegeler

Laegeler’s rate will be $20 more per hour, and the city will also likely to have to pay more in mileage for Laegeler to attend meetings as her residence is in Rushville and her law firm is based in Quincy. Veith is a resident of Jacksonville.

The board also did not adopt or provide an answer to McClure’s request for a censure of Wulf.