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Battle looming on Dragas reappointment

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Posted: Friday, January 4, 2013 9:27 am | Updated: 9:33 am, Fri Jan 4, 2013.

If the legislature has not confirmed her by then, Dragas would lose the seat she's held on the board since former Gov. Timothy M. Kaine appointed her in 2008. If she is confirmed, she would remain rector until June 30. Her term on the board expires three years after that.

The real estate developer has been an object of scrutiny and scorn since last summer, when she spearheaded the effort to force UVa President Teresa A. Sullivan to resign. A massive public protest followed that cowed the board into reinstating Sullivan 16 days following Dragas' announcement of the ouster.

Several days later, McDonnell reappointed Dragas. Now lawmakers are readying to weigh in.

Del. Mark Cole, R-Fredericksburg, who chairs the House Privileges and Elections Committee, backs Dragas.

"I am confident that she has the best interest of the University at heart and am confident in her ability to continue to serve as Rector," Cole wrote in an email. "I see no reason not to confirm her appointment."

Another member of the House committee, Del. Steve Landes, R-Weyers Cave, said he suspects many of his colleagues haven't examined the issue enough to have formed a firm position.

"I'm not sure that a lot of legislators, unless they have been contacted by faculty or alumni of the university, have even thought about it," said Landes, a Dragas opponent.

Like Deeds, Landes, an opponent of Dragas' confirmation,  said he expects blocking Dragas' confirmation will require a hard fight.

"It's very difficult anyway for a gubernatorial appointment not to be confirmed. That just generally doesn't happen," Landes said. "I don't think we'll really know for sure until we get to Richmond and see how people are feeling about it."

Sen.  Charles W. "Bill" Carrico Sr., R-Grayson County, chairman of the Certificate, Oath and Confirmation Review Subcommittee of the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee, said he sees no reason to oppose Dragas.

"I don't think we've really heard all of the issues that went into it, and I don't know much about it, being as [UVa] really isn't in my district. If it had happened at UVa-Wise, I would know a whole lot more about it," he said. "If the governor is satisfied with her and wants to reappoint her, I have no problem with it. If he's happy with it, I don't see any reason not to approve it."

Del. Mark Sickles, D-Franconia, said he would oppose reappointment.

"It was a massive embarrassment to our state and to our flagship university," he said. "I am still stunned by the lack of transparency and the manner in which the coup was attempted."

Sen. Janet Howell, D-Reston, ranking member of the Senate committee, blamed Dragas for the university being placed on warning last month by its accrediting agency.

"The University of Virginia has a culture of self governance and democratic process. The Rector's actions were not in the spirit of that culture," she said in a release. " ... To this day, information has not been forthcoming that would meet the standards for removal of the President."

Fellow Northern Virginia Democrat Barbara Favola released a statement Wednesday decrying Dragas'  "disregard for transparency and accountability."

Del. Dave Albo, R-Springfield, said he will wait to make a final decision until he has spoken to Dragas.

"If she can tell me why they fired the president and why they used the method they did, I will probably support her," he said. "In order for me to vote for her, I have to know and agree with why the president was fired."

Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle, said last month that he was holding off on making a decision. He did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Staff writer Bryan McKenzie contributed to this report.

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