It was on July 11 that Coy Harville received a call and then a text from Pittsylvania County supervisor Bob Warren, asking to meet up for coffee at 4:30 p.m. at West Side Diner. When he arrived, Warren was there with supervisor Ronald Scearce, and there was a computer on the table.
Warren gave Harville an ultimatum: either resign from the Pittsylvania County Service Authority Board of Commissioners by Monday, or the board of supervisors would vote to terminate him. Warren said he had four votes to do it, but didn’t want to smear Harville’s name. Harville, who at the time was the board chairman, told them he did nothing wrong and walked out of the restaurant.
The reason they gave for the ultimatum was an incident that happened in December. While Harville was soliciting local businesses for donations to fund a Christmas dinner the service authority was throwing for its employees, an interaction with the owner of Wilson's Lawn & Garden, on Franklin Turnpike in Danville, quickly turned into a confrontation, which was caught on video.
That video led a divided board of supervisors on Tuesday to terminate Harville after 36 years of service.
The security footage, shot from above and behind the counter of Wilson's Lawn & Garden, shows Harville walk inside and ask an employee about providing gifts for the dinner. She asks Harville to wait and goes and brings the owner, Jay Rigney. He listened to Harville's request and said no.
“When we have our Christmas dinner, we don’t really get any donations for that," Rigney is heard saying on the video. "I don’t think we’ll be able to help you out."
Harville responded: “You will never get a dime from me, and I’ll put the word out."
The two then went back and forth for several minutes, both raising their voices at different times. Rigney said they give the service authority monthly donations when they pay their bills. Harville said he was going to write a letter to the editor of the local newspaper about the business.
Soon after, commissioner Hershell Stone, who serves on the service authority, received a complaint from Rigney concerning the incident and confronted Harville about it. Harville apologized to the service authority board of commissioners and announced he would no longer be soliciting Christmas gifts for the employees.
Stone requested an apology letter be sent to Rigney from the service authority, but said that letter was never sent. Stone also received the surveillance video the same day as the complaint, but didn’t share it to protect both Harville and Rigney.
“My intention was to correct what had happened and prevent it from happening again,” Stone said.
Stone told Warren about the incident sometime in March or April. Warren was shocked and asked to see the video. Stone delayed showing it to Warren because they couldn’t find a time to watch it together and because he wanted to ask Rigney if that would be OK to show it.
Warren first saw the video on June 3.
"I didn't know the extent of it until I got the video," Warren said of the incident.
He told Scearce about the incident a little more than a month ago and showed him the video.
“I was so appalled,” Scearce said.
Scearce said he immediately went to Wilson Lawn & Garden to apologize.
He noted he saw the video after reappointing Harville to the board of commissioners for the Pittsylvania County Service Authority in February.
“At the time, I was unaware of a video showing Mr. Harville threatening and intimidating a county business owner which occurred back in November of 2018," Scearce wrote in a Facebook post Wednesday. "I would have obviously not reappointed him had I had any knowledge of this video."
But Harville argued that Scearce's actions have little to do with the store confrontation and more to do with county politics. Scearce, he said, was nervous that he would run for the Westover District supervisor position and win. Harville had already served as the supervisor for the Westover District for five terms. Harville said that his support for another candidate puts Scearce “over the hill,” and is what brought on the termination.
Harville called the termination “a political stunt.”
Harville publicly apologized in a statement made during the board of supervisors meeting Tuesday night. He still has not personally apologized to Rigney, however. He said that Stone had told him everything was taken care of between Rigney and the service authority, so he felt that he didn’t need to apologize.
Moments after the apology, the board split on a vote for a three-month suspension. It then voted 4-3 to boot Harville off the service authority board.
“I have a real problem with dismissing this individual based on a mistake, and he’s offered an apology,” Blackstock said during meeting.
As for how the video made the rounds, Rigney said he provided it to community members so that the public can see exactly what happened, but his intent is to remain neutral.
“It’s unfortunate that it happened, but I’m not trying to stir up the pot,” he said.
A replacement for Harville has yet to be picked, Scearce said, and will probably be decided at the next board of supervisors meeting Aug. 20.