Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj’s office said Tuesday that the signatures on the petition to remove School Board Chairwoman Brenda Sheridan (Sterling) from office will be checked over by the Loudoun County Office of Elections to ensure they’re valid.
“As the petition was initiated and filed without consultation with our office, we need to ensure that there is strict compliance with the law. It is our duty, as the Commonwealth’s Attorney, to protect the participants and the process,” Biberaj said, and referenced Virginia Code Section 24.2-233, that requires the Commonwealth’s Attorney to ensure that a petition has legitimacy under law prior to coming before the court.
The group seeking Sheridan’s ouster, Fight for Schools, announced that it collected 1,217 signatures on its petition to remove the three-term board member in just 13 days. To file a petition to remove a public official in Virginia, it must amass signatures equal to 10 percent of the vote in the election that appointed the official. The petitioners must be registered voters residing in the Sterling District.
“When and if so certified, then the matter of the petitions can proceed to an evaluation of the allegations and the facts that establish the same,” Biberaj said.
The petitioners allege that Sheridan’s involvement in aprivate Facebook group, where members compiled lists of parents opposed to the school district’s anti-racism work, is a violation of open-door meetings guidelines for elected officials. The petition also takes issue with Sheridan’s knowledge of a sexual assault scandal in two Loudoun County high schools.
Sheridan is one of four School Board members targeted in the removal effort. The case to remove Vice Chairwoman Atoosa Reaser (Algonkian) is scheduled come before a judge on Monday for the first time. Petitions to remove Ian Serotkin (Blue Ridge) and Denise Corbo (At-Large) have not been filed, although Fight for Schools has announced it has reached the signature threshold for the petitions.
A second hearing for the case to remove Sheridan is planned for Dec. 6. At this point in the process, the case only involves Sheridan as the defendant and Biberaj representing the petitioners. Fight for Schools lawyer David Warrington filed a motion to intervene in the case on behalf of the petitioners, and to disqualify Biberaj from prosecuting the case.
In the case to remove former Leesburg District representative Beth Barts, Biberaj was disqualified, and Judge Jeannette A. Irby appointed a special prosecutor. Irby said that because Biberaj faces a similar removal effort backed by members of Fight for Schools, the public might not trust that due process was delivered in the case. Barts resigned on Nov. 2 after receiving threats to her family, and the case to remove her from office is moot.