POWHATAN — Powhatan County Supervisor Karin Carmack pushed back last week against claims she vacated her post by moving out of District 5 for a short period of time in 2022.
Carmack issued a statement on her Facebook page on Wednesday, Feb. 15 after court documents about an investigation by a special prosecutor in Caroline County began circulating saying she lived in the county but had moved out of her district.
Carmack said in the statement last week that she intended to move out of her former home in District 5 into a rental property still in District 5, but it needed to be renovated. She said she moved for three months while her new home on Mosby Road was being renovated.
In the same statement, she said she is in the process of having the Caroline County opinion, which was issued by Bryan Dunkum, assistant commonwealth’s attorney, retracted and refuted assertions that she was investigated by the Virginia State Police as part of this investigation.
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“That statement is simply false. I have worked diligently and faithfully to serve the Citizens of Powhatan County and District 5,” she wrote. “It is my intent to continue to focus on the business of Powhatan County and the platform that I ran on for my remaining 10 months of office.”
A complaint of impropriety was brought against Carmack to the Powhatan County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office in late 2022 saying she was not living in her district, according to Rob Cerrullo, commonwealth’s attorney. Given the board’s voting power over his office, he said he contacted Powhatan County Circuit Court Judge Paul Cella, who issued an order to appoint a special prosecutor to supervise the investigation on Dec. 7, 2022. Dunkum was selected as the special prosecutor.
In a letter Dunkum sent to Cerullo and filed in circuit court on Jan. 30, Dunkum said he spoke to the original complainant and VSP 1st Sgt. Christopher Warriner and “it is our belief that Mrs. Carmack currently resides in Powhatan County, but does not currently reside within the district she was elected to represent.”
He cited Va. Code Section 15.2-1526 and said it is his opinion that Carmack’s office “shall be deemed vacant.” He wrote that he copied the information to Powhatan County Attorney Tom Lacheney “should he wish to initiate a civil proceeding against Carmack to have her elected seat be deemed vacated.
Repeated attempts to contact Dunkum were not successful by press time.
After Dunkum reached out to him, Lacheney sent a confidential letter to the board of supervisors on Monday, Jan. 30 regarding this matter that was shared with the Powhatan Today last week by Carmack. Although it was marked confidential, Carmack said Lacheney was OK with releasing the email if the majority of the board agreed, and she and Steve McClung, District 2, and Mike Byerly, District 3, agreed via email to have it released.
In the email, Lacheney said he met with Carmack on Jan. 28 to discuss the matter and that based on what she presented to him, “I do not believe that she has vacated her office, or that a legal issue exists.”
Lacheney laid out the facts Carmack provided. In September 2022, she signed a lease to rent a home on Mosby Road, which is in District 5, but the “interior of the property needed major renovations and the landlord agreed to make renovations and upgrades. Ms. Carmack indicated that she also made some of the renovations herself (painting).” The new rental property was not reasonably habitable until the renovations were complete, so Carmack rented a one-bedroom apartment in the Artistry complex until the renovations were complete.
Lacheney said he had asked Dunkum the approximate date of his investigation finding she had moved out of her District and was told between the last board meeting in October and Nov. 1. 2022. Carmack confirmed that the Nov. 1 “timeframe referenced in the attorney’s letter was accurate as to when she ‘moved in’ to the apartment. She stated that it was her clear intent that this was a temporary arrangement until her rental house was ready,’” Lacheney wrote.
“Her children remained in school in District 5, and once the renovations to the interior of the house were completed, Ms. Carmack left the Artistry apartments and moved into the rental house where she currently resides. She did not change her voter registration to the Artistry district, nor did she take any actions to make the Artistry apartments her permanent residence,” he wrote in the letter.
Carmack affirmed “there was zero intent on her part to permanently move out of her district,” Lacheney wrote. She also offered to provide any and all documentation to prove this and said that the Caroline Commonwealth’s Attorney and state police never spoke with her so she could explain the situation.
When asked by the Powhatan Today, Carmack provided a copy of her lease agreement for her new home on Mosby Road and the phone number of her landlord, Danny Boley of Powhatan.
Reached by phone Sunday, Boley confirmed he had leased a home on the property that adjoins his to Carmack in September but that she delayed moving in and found temporary housing elsewhere while he made updates to the house, which took several weeks.
In his Jan. 30 letter, Lacheney said he had not corroborated Carmack’s assertions, but assuming they were true, Carmack would not be in violation of state code. He also pointed out that the “law on this issue is settled,” citing a 2014 attorney general opinion and two court cases that establish “mere absence” is outweighed by an intent to return.
“Based on the facts recited to me by Supervisor Carmack, there was no ‘intention’ to remain in District 1, and that her move there was meant to be temporary,” Lacheney wrote.
He recommended the board allow Carmack to present her “evidence” in closed session and let the board decide next steps. If the board is satisfied Carmack “had no intention to permanently move to a new district, the matter should be at an end.” If the board determines further investigation is warranted, “outside counsel should be engaged to do so, and render an opinion” since Lacheney would have a conflict of interest to conduct such an investigation.