County ponders supervisor’s suit

Prince William County officials are expected to ask a judge to rule on whether the county has a legal responsibility to represent county Supervisor Mary K. Hill in a defamation of character lawsuit filed against her by a county police detective.

The suit, which stems from comments Hill made last year about the detective in connection with her sons conviction on drug charges, names Hill as a private citizen and in her official capacity as a member of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors.

If the county is liable for Hills actions, it may have to tap into a taxpayer-supported insurance fund that covers public officials to pay for the damages that might result from a guilty finding, county officials said.

The countys duties and obligation self-insurance policy covers board members actions while they are performing their official duties, at-large board Chairman Sean T. Connaughton said.

The policy does not cover officials if it is determined they are acting outside the scope of their authorization, said Connaughton, also an attorney.

Prince William County Attorney Sharon Pandak has notified Casey R. Stevens, the attorney representing Detective John T. Mora, of her intent to ask for a declaratory judgment in circuit court, Stevens said.

“They have presented the issue to the court and said you tell us, ” Stevens said.

Pandak would not comment for this article and it is unclear if she will also ask the court to decide if the county is liable for the $225,000 in damages Mora is requesting in his suit, Stevens said. Those could be two separate questions, or she could present them both at once, he said.

Hill was expected to be served with legal papers on Thursday, Stevens said.

The 15-count lawsuit asks for $150,000 in punitive damages and $75,000 in compensatory damages.

According to Stevens, Pandak has said the countys policy does not cover punitive damages.

Stevens said the county will not be named as a defendant in the lawsuit, but whether Hill was acting in her official capacity was addressed because he believes she may try to avoid liability by claiming she was speaking as a Coles District supervisor.

Mora filed suit in circuit court on Oct. 30, alleging Hills statements in area newspapers that Mora lied about her son in court were false and defamatory.

Hills son, William J. Hill, was arrested for a September 2001 incident in which Mora found a marijuana-smoking device in Hills girlfriends car, which was parked behind Woodbridge Senior High School. Hill admitted the device was his but pleaded not guilty Oct.15 to charges stemming from the incident.

Judge Frank A. Hoss Jr. convicted him of possession of the drug Ecstasy, possession of marijuana and driving without a license.

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