Va. School Official's Son Charged in Vandalism Case
By Elaine Rivera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 15, 2004; Page B01
The teenage son of Alexandria School Board member Melissa W. Luby turned himself in to police yesterday on charges that he egged the home of a parent who has launched a petition drive to remove the teenager's mother from the board.
James J. Luby, 19, was charged with destruction of property, a misdemeanor, and released until a future court date. Luby is accused of egging the home of James Boissonnault, 45, during the early hours of July 2. Two others were with Luby during the vandalism but have not been identified or charged, said police, who are continuing their investigation.
Boissonnault, who has a daughter enrolled in the city school system, said yesterday that he saw the youths egging his house on East Mason Avenue in the Del Ray section of the city and that he believes he was targeted because of the petition drive. He said he wants Luby removed from her elected position because of her behavior and comments surrounding the drunken driving arrest in April of School Superintendent Rebecca L. Perry.
Luby was in the car when Perry was arrested for driving while intoxicated. Perry pleaded guilty last month after a breath test showed a blood alcohol content of 0.12. Virginia's legal limit for drivers is 0.08.
Boissonnault said that Luby should not have allowed Perry to drive home that night after they had drinks at Joe Theismann's Restaurant.
"To get in the car with a person that drunk who is your employee shows at best bad judgment," Boissonnault said. "She could have stopped her or called a cab."
He said he was also disturbed by a statement Luby made to The Washington Post in Perry's defense. Luby was quoted as saying, "I think a lot of people drive after having a few drinks."
Boissonnault said he decided to press charges against Luby's son because he felt the alleged vandalism was an attempt "to intimidate me and my family" for the petition drive, which has generated about 300 of the 800 names he said he needs to get a court hearing.
"This whole situation is sad -- it's not anything anybody likes to do," said Boissonnault, who added that he did not blame James Luby's parents for "the action of their adult offspring."
Melissa Luby declined to comment yesterday. Alexandria schools spokeswoman Barbara Hunter said there would be no comment from the superintendent.
Answering the phone at his parents' home yesterday, James Luby declined to discuss the incident. But in response to his arrest, he said, "I'm not that scared," indicating that it was a minor offense. "I guess the person was really mad," he said of Boissonnault.
James Luby recently went to Boissonnault's home with his parents to apologize, Boissonnault said.
"It seemed like a canned, prepared speech," Boissonnault said.
Mary "Mollie" Danforth, the board's vice chairman, said she was disappointed that Boissonnault pressed charges.
"It's really sad that it got elevated to this stage and that his apology was not accepted by the person whose house was egged," Danforth said. "It's sad when a person can't work with a young person like that and work out some kind of agreement."
On the evening of April 22, Perry and other School Board members, including Luby, attended a tense meeting at Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy, where angry parents criticized Perry's decision to transfer their veteran principal to an academically troubled school. Boissonnault's daughter attends Lyles-Crouch.
After spending time at Joe Theismann's after the meeting, Perry was driving Luby home when she was pulled over by an Alexandria police officer.
Boissonnault said yesterday that he is proceeding with his petition drive.
To begin the process to have an elected official removed, state law requires a hearing in Circuit Court. But before a hearing is scheduled, the person seeking the official's removal must gather signatures totaling 10 percent of the votes that the official received in the last election.
Boissonnault said he hopes to get 1,000 signatures by the end of next month. Luby has been on the School Board for a little more than a year.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company