If this were fiction it would almost be funny. Unfortunately, it is all too real.
The Eastern Shore town of Hallwood, VA. is a small town of less than 300 residents. The best way to describe the Mayor, Town Council, Police Chief and other Town administrators is Twin Peaks meets Mayberry.
The town seems to be on a mission to run one resident out of town. What started as a rather ordinary dispute between neighbors has escalated beyond the realm of sanity and involves the Mayor, the Town Council, Clerks, the Police Chief, and Delegate Lynwood Lewis.
It all starts with a quiet, unassuming man named John Smith. One day, Smith’s neighbor (who shall remain nameless) attended a Town Council meeting to complain about the condition of Smith’s yard. Despite purchasing a business license for six years for commercially zoned property, Town officials still dogged Smith. After six years, the business license was denied, and Smith was charged with doing business without a license. Only he had done no business.
Smith requested an appeal with the zoning board for an accusation of having a junkyard and has been waiting for about a year for a hearing and now the town skipped their appeal procedure that Smith requested and is permitted by town and state law and issued him a summons.
When Smith’s property was vandalized, Smith made a police report with the Sheriff’s office and was told he needed proof. Smith began using surveillance cameras to catch the neighbors sneaking onto his property to search for something they could file another complaint about.
Smith is constantly under surveillance by Police Chief Glenn who frequently follows Smith around town. And Glenn is a frequent visitor to the neighbor’s house. Smith began documenting this constant police presence at his home and the neighbor’s home. And he began taking photos of the police visits as well as the trespassing by the neighbor.
Now, a bit of background on Police Chief Glenn. He is the only policeman in town, so the title “chief” is somewhat misleading. He is chief of himself. In addition, he is under investigation for lending his police issued taser to a friend who then used it on his son. This was reported on WAVY-TV along with the video. WAVY was told by Glenn the incident is being investigated, but there were no minutes mentioning the incident two months later. WAVY contacted Gary Agar, Commonwealth’s Attorney for Accomack County, who related the incident to the State Police for investigation. Governor Tim Kaine has confirmed that the State Police are investigating the incident. No action has been reported to date.
On one occasion, Smith took photos of his neighbor’s wife who was intentionally blocking access to Smith’s property with her vehicle. He had the photos processed at the local Wal-Mart. The photo technician recognized the neighbor, as they were friends, and informed Smith’s neighbor about the pictures. The neighbor told Smith not to take pictures of his wife.
On another occasion, Smith observed Glenn visiting his neighbor and took 3 pictures of Glenn. After development, the pictures revealed the neighbor’s wife’s legs protruding from behind a shrub that obscured the rest of her. Centered in the picture were Glenn and Mr. Neighbor. Smith said he didn’t even know Mrs. Neighbor was sitting on the porch.
For this, Mr. Smith was charged with stalking. He was found innocent.
Mr. Smith was charged with failure to obtain a business license and having an abandoned vehicle by Lynwood Lewis in his capacity as Town Attorney. Despite the fact that Smith had valid, current plates for the vehicle on the dashboard of the vehicle in question, he was fined $50 for the “unlicensed” vehicle and despite attempts to purchase a business license, he was fined for not obtaining a business license.
Smith appealed the convictions at which time Delegate Lewis filed criminal charges for the same offenses. Since Lewis is not a full time Town Attorney, he is required to obtain permission from the Commonwealth Attorney to prosecute a criminal case. A FOI request produced a letter from Gary Agar, Commonwealth’s Attorney for Accomack County stating he has nothing on file granting such permission to Lewis.
Smith demolished an old building on his property and disposed of the debris with the exception of the shingles, which could possibly have contained asbestos. These were taken to a special disposal facility in Glenns, Va and, while not tested for asbestos, disposed of properly (at Smith’s expense) as if they were.
Smith was subsequently “turned in” and investigated for improperly disposing asbestos. And he was cleared.
A complaint was filed and investigated for containers of toxic chemicals stored on Smith’s property. These turned out to be a container of sawdust he uses for kitty litter and an empty plastic tub he uses when he butchers deer.
Out of the blue Smith received a notice from Chincoteague informing him he was not to set foot on town property or he would be trespassing. Smith had not so much as a parking ticket in Chincoteague. However, his attorney happens to be located there. Smith complained to the town manager who had the Trespass notice withdrawn after contacting the Chincoteague Town Attorney, Jon C. Poulson, who happens to be Delegate Lewis’ current Law Partner.
Over the next few weeks we will be taking an in depth look at this unbelievable case. I have photos of the neighbors tossing property line markers placed by Mr. Smith, photos of several town official’s property that makes Smith’s yard look immaculate, and a number of shocking recordings from Town Council meetings, neighborhood encounters and phone conversations, including audio recordings of death threats made against Mr. Smith.
If ever a town cried out for intervention, this is one. I don’t think there are any illegal activities involved in this situation, but this is the type of thing that gives small towns like Hallwood a bad name. The people I know and have met there are some of the best folks you could ever hope to know.
I don’t know what it will take to put an end to this feud, but since Delegate Lynwood Lewis is already a part of this, I would hope he could step up and be a leader and see that these issues are mediated and resolved without this small town “justice” going on presently.
How much is all this costing the residents of this small town?