Ousting Lake director focus of public comments at Board meeting

Polonis defends his statements

By Heather Michon

Lake director Controversy over Lake Board hears The Lake Monticello Board of Directors met on Thursday night (July 27) for a regular monthly meeting filled with reports and action items–but the controversy surrounding Director Donald Polonis was never far from anyone’s mind.

Hundreds of Lake residents have called for Polonis’s removal from the board since early June, when he posted statements on a local conservative Facebook group decrying homosexuality. He later posted an email and contact information from a resident who wrote the board to complain.

Residents packed the annual meeting in June to call for his resignation or removal, but under the Virginia Nonstock Corporation Act, he can only be removed if a majority of Lake Monticello property owners vote to oust him.

Polonis has refused calls to resign. His fellow directors unanimously voted to censure him for his comments and other violations of LMOA social media policies at a special meeting on June 27, and approved a special election for early September to decide his fate on the board. 

While nothing related to the special election was on the agenda for Thursday’s meeting, some of the key players in the campaign to remove him spoke during public comments.

So did Don Polonis.

Kelsey Cowger, the woman whose email and address were posted by Polonis back in June, said that organizers had raised over $7,000 for the purchase of mailers, buttons, yard signs, and other materials to educate Lake voters on why Polonis should be removed from his position.

“We couldn’t do this without a huge community effort, and it’s made me love my community so much to see everybody come together around this,” she said.

Cowger asked that Lake officials do their best to assure that information on voting in the special election was as clear as possible. With 4,600 properties within Lake Monticello, removal will require at least 2,301 votes. The highest-ever turnout in a Lake vote was around 1,900.

Cowger’s partner, Dr. Matthew Carter, also spoke. 

Carter, who identifies as queer, said he has yet to receive an apology from Polonis for posting their information online and then refusing their requests to delete the post, nor has he received a response to their invitation to have him over for dinner to talk about their differing views. 

“He’s already shown, to our family’s great detriment, that he knows exactly where we live,” said Carter.

But he remained firm in his conviction that Polonis had to be removed from his position. “Mr. Polonis endangered my family and didn’t even care enough to apologize to us. That is unfit for leadership. Mr. Polonis endangered my family and demonized me as a human being, not a child of God.”

“There’s a controversial song in the news right now called ‘Try That In a Small Town,” said Georgianna Joslin. “Well, right now, my kids don’t want to be gay or trans in this small town.” 

She named several gay and trans people killed because of their sexual orientation in recent decades. “That’s why we care, and that is why we are fighting so hard to keep our community safe from people in positions of power who will publish our names, addresses, and sexual orientation on local ultra-conservative websites in a small town,” she said.

Polonis stepped from behind the directors’ table to the podium for his own turn at public comments, arguing that his right to free speech and his religious views were under attack from both community members and the Board of Directors.

“The newspapers and social media are abuzz these days because I, a Christian, expressed the opinion that the Pride movement has been influenced by Satan,” he began, adding that he believed Satan was behind the “vitriolic response letters” that followed his initial Facebook post. 

As a result of that post, all members of the board had received Cowger’s letter calling for his resignation. “When I used that letter as an example of how Satan operates to quash Christians, another person posted maliciously that I called the family “Satanic,” which I did not do,” he said.   

“As a Christian, I am bound by the decision in the year 49, where James, the Bishop of Jerusalem, decreed that Gentile Christians must submit to Leviticus 18, the law concerning sexual immorality,” he said. “Many so-called Christian churches today turn a blind eye to this requirement. Many Christians tell me to think what Jesus would do. Jesus would forgive all sinners. However, He would also tell them to sin no more. Jesus clearly stated He did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets.”

He said the Board of Directors was “angry at me because I continue to exercise my first amendment freedoms on social media. Money that could have been used to investigate establishing a propane buying cooperative presented by another Lake member that would benefit the Lake membership may have been diverted to an expensive recall election.”   

LMOA will be mailing out voting information on Aug. 7, with online and in-person voting starting on Aug. 15. Voting will close at 5 p.m. on Sept. 5, with the votes counted and results announced at a special meeting on Sept. 12.

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