Fluvanna Review

Leslie, Christy and George Cushnie enjoy their new tasting room. Photo by O.T. Holen.Fluvanna’s only winery is growing more than grapes.

Thistle Gate owners George and Leslie Cushnie have opened a tasting room, though the official grand opening is scheduled for early October.

 

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Fred Payne. File photoIn a legal turn-about, Davenport & Co., LLC, is seeking $15 million in damages in a lawsuit filed against attorney Fred Payne and others for their part in Fluvanna’s failed lawsuit against Davenport.
Payne, along with his law firm Payne & Hodous, LLP of Charlottesville, as well as Doug Palais and Palais’ two former law firms Eckert, Seamans, Cherin & Mellott, LLC and ar Park LLC (formerly known as Park Palais LLC) of Richmond, are all named as defendants in the lawsuit.
Payne is Fluvanna’s county attorney.
The original lawsuit, filed on Sept. 6, 2011, alleged that Davenport, a financial investment company based in Richmond, had given poor advice to the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors about the purchase of bonds to finance the construction of the new high school. Originally the county requested $18 million in damages, but reduced that amount to $5 million when some of the bonds were refinanced. The county moved for a voluntary dismissal of the case on October 6, 2014 and apologized to Davenport for the lawsuit.
Davenport’s new lawsuit states that the defendants are “attorneys and law firms who orchestrated a scheme to damage Davenport through fraudulent litigation, without regard for the merits of the claims, for the purpose of extorting a lucrative and unwarranted settlement and for personal or political advancement and retribution.”
It further alleges that “the case arises from the efforts of Payne and Palais and their respective law firms…who deliberately fabricated and prosecuted a seven-count complaint against Davenport containing objectively false and fraudulent claims, and combined to willfully and maliciously injure Davenport in its reputation, trade, business, and/or profession.”
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Brenton Mathis. File PhotoThe dog fighting and animal cruelty trial of Brenton Mathis, 40, of Palmyra came to an unexpected halt on Saturday, Jan. 10.
Fluvanna County Circuit Court Judge Susan R. Whitlock declared a mistrial because an evidence technician removed items from the courthouse that had been placed into evidence during the trial and displayed to the jury, thus tainting it.
Whitlock, who described herself as “quite furious” about the incident, granted defense attorney Terry Hughes’ request for a mistrial.
The items, chains that had secured dogs to stakes in the ground, were an integral part of the prosecution’s evidence asserting that Mathis’ dogs were being trained for dog fighting.
The chains were described by Carol Bisset, a veterinarian from the office of the state veterinarian in Richmond, as inappropriately heavy for the dogs. The chains, referred to as “logging” chains, are sometimes used to secure fighting dogs because the weight of the chains helps increase the muscle mass in the dogs’ neck, shoulder and chest making the dog a more powerful adversary in a fight.
Assistant County Commonwealth’s Attorney Frank Terwilliger asked the judge not to grant the mistrial, saying the evidence was in the locker where it had been stored for the last 12 months and was being returned to the courthouse by the evidence technician.
The judge said she would have “no faith in the testimony of the officer who removed the items from the courthouse.”
“Once we introduce evidence as an exhibit, it becomes part of the case file; so we were not aware anything had happened until Saturday morning,” said Fluvanna County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jeff Haislip about the mishandling of evidence. “The sheriff’s office has said that they are investigating what happened; once they have a chance to complete that investigation, we will sit down with folks from the clerk’s office and the sheriff’s office to ensure that they have procedures in place so that this never happens again.”
“I just think it is a shame - the jurors were there for two long days; our office invested a year in this case, as did all the different agencies who contributed. To be that close to an outcome and have something like this happen was very disappointing,” Haislip added.
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Lake Monticello Owners’ Association (LMOA) has taken a position in opposition to the application by Aqua Virginia to increase its water and sewer rates. In November 2011, Aqua Virginia filed with the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) for a statewide increase averaging 9.9%. The increase for Lake Monticello residents would be more than 13% for water and more than 11% for sewer. The application comes just months after Aqua Virginia attempted to impose ownership of grinder pumps onto homeowners. Aqua Virginia‘s last rate increase was approved in October 2010.

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Caution tape surrounds a portion of the Ashlawn playground. Photo by Christina Dimeo GusemanSections of Lake Monticello’s playgrounds have been cordoned off and playground equipment has been removed due to safety hazards cited by a recent inspection.
Cynthia Lewis-Brown, Charlottesville certified playground safety inspector, noted multiple “priority one hazards” at two of the three playgrounds: Ashlawn and Lafayette. The composite structures, or large structures with slides, steps, and activities, have dangerous gaps in them. The gaps fit a child’s body but not a child’s head. It’s possible, therefore, that a child could fall through the gap and get caught by the neck when the head becomes stuck. Lewis-Brown said those gaps “could cause serious injury/death.”
These hazards require manufacturer attention, so the equipment has been removed. The posts remain in the ground, and the affected areas have been cordoned off with yellow caution tape.
Another priority one hazard at Ashlawn playground involved upside-down hardware on a swing that created a “vertical protrusion.” Lewis-Brown noted that the maintenance staff should be able to correct this hazard easily.
No priority one hazards were found at Bunker playground.
The report noted many other less significant issues, such as cracks in equipment, protruding bolts, a wasp’s nest in the equipment, broken coils on a spring rider, and a swing set with a missing support leg. All three playgrounds need new mulch to cushion falls, to soften or cover tripping hazards, and to shorten the distance between equipment height and the ground.
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