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Marston faces misdemeanor

By Jamie C. Ruff

The K-V Dispatch

Greg Marston, the Democratic candidate for a House of Delegates seat, said his recent trespassing charge is the result of a personal conflict with political overtones.

Marston, running in the 61st House district, said that the misdemeanor charge stems from long-running friction with Nottoway Public Schools Superintendent Daniel Grounard. The antagonism is in support of, and, Marston claims with the approval of, his opponent for the seat, incumbent Tommy Wright. Wright declined to comment on the issue.

“He’s actually trying to use his position as superintendent to sway an election,” Marston said.

Marston said the friction centers around the four years he said he spent trying to develop an apprenticeship program at the Amelia-Nottoway Technical Center.

“It never happened,” he said. He blames Grounard for failing to secure funding through the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission. The commission was created by the General Assembly to promote economic growth and development in tobacco-dependent communities through proceeds of the national tobacco settlement.

Marston said Grounard is trying to give Wright credit for his work and efforts.

“He stuck his nose in it when he gave Tommy Wright credit for the VoTech center” effort, Marston said.

The friction seems to have come to a head on Monday, Sept. 28, when Marston and his friend and campaign manager Crystal Hallinen went to drop her 10-year-old daughter, Caity, at Nottoway Intermediate School. A school official informed them she was considered a resident of Prince Edward. Hallinen’s younger daughter, Aiden, 7, attended Crewe Primary School.

Marston said there was a short argument between him and the school official. He said he left peacefully, but left a message for Grounard: “You bring a bone, take one back.”

Within days after that incident, Marston was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct for being disruptive at the school. He is scheduled to appear on the charge in Nottoway General District Court on Wednesday, but said he hopes to have it continued until Oct. 28. “I am anxious to meet my accusers in court,” he said.

Meanwhile, Marston and Hallinen said they have since been to Prince Edward to inquire about enrolling her children and was told they do not live in the district.

“Prince Edward said all my information says that I live in Nottoway and that they should be in Nottoway,” Hallinen said.

As evidence of her residence, Hallinen points to a driver’s license with a Crewe address, and the fact that primary school classwork for Aiden was mailed to the same address. Marston adds that the deputies showed up at his Crewe home to arrest him.

Hallinen said she did live in the Prince Edward community of Green Bay until mid-July when she moved in with Marston and his family in their Crewe home. She said her children had been allowed to attend Nottoway schools before that because, until June, she had worked for the system in the cafeteria at Blackstone Primary School.

Marston said high-profile attorney Joe Morrissey has been retained to represent the children, and has assured them that it will be fine.

“They want to have a circus, I’ll bring the ring master,” Marston said.

Grounard declined to comment on the residency issue citing state and federal privacy laws. “All I can say is that we are cooperating with law enforcement and Department of Education personnel as we do in every instance where they are involved, and we are committed to strict compliance with the law,” he said.

He did say, however, that he is no surrogate of Wright’s and “have not talked with him since the late spring or early summer.”

Monday afternoon, Grounard said that Prince Edward County will enroll Hallinen’s children tuition free. Hallinen, however, said that what is being proposed would require her to lie about where her children live.

“No, I will not lie,” she said. “They are trying to play games with me when my children’s education is at stake. This is the beginning of week three they have been prohibited from attending their school.

“The schools are pointing fingers at each other at this point but bottom line is that they live with me in Nottoway County and that’s what school they should attend. I’m not going to lie on any forms for Prince Edward for the kids to go no matter how desperately I want them back in school because I’ll just face all this drama again at a later date when Prince Edward knows their living in Nottoway with me.”

The 61st district covers Amelia, Cumberland, and Lunenburg counties, and parts of Mecklenburg and Nottoway counties. It has been held by Wright, a republican, since he was first elected in 2001.

Marston said that he went to Wright right after he told his family of his decision to run and the men shook hands and agreed to deport themselves as Christian gentlemen. But, he said, all of that has gone out of the window, and the antagonism between them has gotten to the point that they have not spoken in months.