Eastville Town Council Hears Two Sides on Police Issues

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By Stefanie Jackson – Eastville’s police department and town officials continue to be scrutinized by citizens, but none so publicly as Stuart Oliver, who has lived in Eastville for 32 years and regularly attends and speaks at Town Council meetings.

But at least one person who more recently moved to Eastville has spoken publicly in support of the police department, after a photo was published in the Eastern Shore Post Oct. 29 of a uniformed Eastville police officer placing Republican-candidate election campaign signs in front of the Northampton County voter registrar’s office in Eastville.

David Suda introduced himself at the Eastville Town Council meeting Nov. 1 as a former Virginia Beach police officer who moved to town with his wife about two years ago.

He said it’s “not fair” to say Eastville police officers earning $100,000 a year are getting “too much money.” He implied that complaining about their wages is like complaining about the price differences between McDonald’s and Ruth’s Chris Steak House, and Eastville police officers are highly qualified and deserve the higher-than-average pay.

Suda also asserted that Eastville police officers are not writing “too many tickets” and they wouldn’t be able to write so many tickets if so many drivers weren’t speeding down Route 13 at 70 mph or more.

He explained how the Eastville Police Department won him over after he moved to town about two years ago.

Eastville had been hit by a hurricane or another major storm, and Suda was removing debris from his driveway at 11:30 p.m. one night, when Major Rob Stubbs and Mayor Jim Sturgis saw him and offered to help, giving him extra flashlights and checking on his family, he said.

“That’s something that, I’m kind of embarrassed to say, I would have never done for anybody in Virginia Beach. This is a more community-oriented place, in my opinion, and that’s kind of when I realized this is a great place to live.”

Stubbs “knows me by my name. I couldn’t even tell you five people that I knew when I was working as a police officer, nor did I care to know them. … But they (Eastville officials), in my opinion at least, for whatever it’s worth, they do care,” Suda said.

“Mistakes do happen,” he said, referring to the incident last week in which an Eastville police officer, identified as Linwood Christian by Oliver, was photographed in uniform on public property, placing election campaign signs for Republican candidates, including Stubbs, who ran for the District 1 seat on the Northampton County Board of Supervisors.

“It’s very easy to armchair quarterback,” Suda said. “So, let’s just say a police officer in this town does something that, well, is newsworthy – cringeworthy – but, at the same time, how many of us have actually had that experience … whereas now, it’s Monday morning. I can read about it, be like, ‘Oh, they should’ve done this, they should’ve done that.’”

But Oliver disagreed. “This isn’t Monday morning quarterbacking. This happened many times. Why do you think somebody was sitting in the bushes with a camera?” he asked, referring to his teenage son, Patrick Gordon Oliver, who took the photos of Christian placing the signs.

Stubbs had told the Post via email that Police Chief David Eder “does know that some of us put out signs on our own time and it is approved.”

But according to a Northampton County Sheriff’s Office monitoring system, Christian had been “at work for almost two hours into a full shift and was on the clock. … This does not add up,” Oliver asserted.

Other complaints he made about the Eastville Police Department included its recent hiring of a new officer, who lives in Virginia Beach; the costs of the police officer’s travel to work, including gas, tolls, and vehicle wear, are paid by the town of Eastville, Oliver said.

The officer was issued a police GMC Yukon SUV, which he is permitted to park at the south toll plaza of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel when he goes home at the end of the work day, Stubbs previously confirmed.

Oliver noted that criticism of Stubbs is a “sensitive matter” due to a recent death in his family and asked, “I wonder how many bereaved transients hurrying through Eastville with family emergencies have been met with compassion within our town limits? I’m sure many were sent home with tickets written by Eastville’s finest.”

“I have been advised that I am a hater and anti-police because I have dared to criticize the salaries and activities of the top brass,” he said.

Oliver added that 32 years ago, an active business within Eastville town limits, such as Kitchen Sync (a catering business run by his wife, Louise Oliver, in the historic Eastville Inn owned and leased by Northampton County) “would have been appreciated and supported. Now town leaders furtively sneak around in secret meetings to oust the lower performing food and beverage cash cows. It’s all about the money,” he claimed.

Oliver told Town Council members, “Ultimately it is the responsibility of the Town Council to oversee the operation of the town’s finances and activities. You have allowed several individuals to hijack the operation of this locality for their own personal enrichment and have sold out any semblance of honor and integrity in the process.”

He said, “I have been advised by Mr. Stubbs through various media outlets that he is praying for me. I neither want nor need Mr. Stubbs’ prayers. He should get his own house in order. It is my personal observation that your acting police chief has a major problem with the truth.”

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