Four board members win $1 million damages from Hicks
Just over two years after it was initially filed, a multimillion dollar lawsuit against Gloucester’s Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert "Bob" Hicks was settled Monday during a hearing in Richmond City Circuit Court.
The plaintiffs in the case, Gloucester County Board of Supervisors members Robert "Bobby" Crewe, Michelle Ressler, Gregory Woodard and former board member Teresa Altemus were each granted $250,000 in compensatory damages, according to paperwork filed with the clerk of the court.
In the initial suit, filed Nov. 3, 2009, Altemus, Crewe, Ressler and Woodard were each suing Hicks for $1,000,000 for his "defamatory statements" and $350,000 each for "punitive damages" for alleged defamatory statements he made against the supervisors during a League of Women Voters forum at which he spoke.
The statements Hicks made followed an outline of events that transpired in 2008, following a new board being elected that, at its first meeting in January 2008, quickly dismissed longtime County Administrator William H. Whitley and County Attorney Daniel Stuck. The board also at that meeting appointed Lacy Smith, a friend of Altemus, as interim county administrator. The actions led Hicks to empanel a special grand jury in March 2008 to investigate the actions of the four supervisors.
The grand jury came back, issuing misdemeanor charges against the four supervisors including malfeasance and misuse of office. Hicks was then removed as prosecutor of the case.
The criminal charges were eventually dismissed along with a civil suit that followed, all in 2008, in which a group of 40 citizens petitioned to have Altemus, Crewe, Ressler and Woodard removed from office.
During the summer of 2011, Hicks issued a formal apology to Altemus, Crewe, Ressler and Woodard, and decided he would not seek reelection to the Commonwealth’s Attorney seat, which he has held since 1994.