According to Hillsville Town Manager Travis Jackson, Mayor Greg Crowder may be able to remain in his elected position even if he’s convicted of the charge he’s facing in a Bristol General District Court.
Crowder and his wife, Rebecca Louanne Crowder, were arrested on Aug. 23 and each was charged with impersonating a law enforcement officer. Their court date has been continued from Sept. 5 to Nov. 14. The charge carries a fine of up to $2,500 and one year in jail.
“There’s nothing in the town charter or code that addresses this. We rely on the state code and state attorney’s office for interpretation,” said Jackson. “There is a code in Virginia that addresses this. Generally, when a person has been charged but not convicted, it’s left up to that person as to what course they take.”
However, even if Crowder is convicted, Jackson said what happens next will most likely remain “a personal decision” since the crime he’s charged with is a Class 1 misdemeanor.
“Anyone convicted of a felony cannot vote or hold office. However, if it’s a misdemeanor, unless it has to do with the manufacturing, sale or distribution of a controlled substance, or a hate crime, a person can’t be forced to resign,” said Jackson. “The only other way a person can be forced to resign is if there is a misuse of office, neglect of duty or incompetence.”
Jackson added there was one other way Crowder could be forced out, but that would require an order by a circuit court judge.
Vice-Mayor Ed Terry said when he found out on Aug. 26 he was stunned.
“It is such an unprecedented event, as least during my time on the council, I really didn’t know what we, as a council, could do,” said Terry. “I’m disappointed and I’m sure (Crowder) is disappointed. I’ve talked to (Crowder) and I know he has his own thoughts on it. We’ll just have to let it ride itself out since it’s a personal issue. Until it’s resolved, I’ll stay out of it.”
Terry added that it was his understanding that if “a person wasn’t willing to step down, the only option left was to petition the courts.”
Councilman David Young said he “had complete confidence” in Crowder.
“It’s all a misunderstanding,” said Young. “I feel confident there is no impairment to the mayor and his ability to run the town. I think the citizens have nothing to worry about.”
A statement faxed to The Carroll News by Crowder’s attorney, Robert V. Ward of Bristol read: “I received your telephone call concerning Mr. Crowder. I have been retained to represent Mr. Crowder. I met Mr. Crowder several years ago at a Virginia Tech football game. I have found him to be a good man. I recently learned of allegations against Mr. Crowder. I am in the process of investigating those allegations. It is my hope and belief that these allegations result from a simple misunderstanding. I will not have further comment until I have the opportunity to complete my investigation. Thank you for your kind cooperation.”