Fairfax County School Superintendent Daniel A. Domenech has written to the commonwealth's attorney asking that charges be dropped against an anti-tax activist arrested when he tried to crash a media briefing on the school budget this month.
Domenech said the school system is not interested in seeing Arthur G. Purves prosecuted on the misdemeanor trespassing charge. The decision on dropping the charge is in the hands of Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr.
"We certainly wanted to make the point that his behavior will not be tolerated . . . but we don't want to be malicious," Domenech said yesterday in explaining his action.
Domenech said he understands that Purves believes he was acting on behalf of the public. He said that "we would rather not engage in the arrest of our citizens in reference to school district affairs."
The arrest was criticized by the head of the county Republican committee and by some School Board members who are Republicans and who believe that Purves should have been allowed to stay at the briefing.
"I think it was the right thing to do," board member Christian Braunlich (Lee) said of Domenech's letter. "This thing really escalated a lot faster and further than it needed to."
Purves was arrested Jan. 6 after he refused to leave a meeting Domenech had scheduled to brief reporters on his fiscal 2001 budget. The budget was publicly released that night after it was presented to the School Board.
School officials had told Purves that the briefing, held at the school system's Burkholder administration building, was for credentialed members of the media only. He was arrested after Fairfax police asked him to leave and he refused. Domenech was not present.
Purves, president of the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance, said he wanted to ask Domenech why the superintendent waited until after the November elections to reveal a $1.39 billion school budget that would require a 13 percent increase in county spending.
"He's got a budget that he can't defend, and he'd rather have a citizen arrested than be questioned about it publicly," Purves said.
He maintains that he had a right to be at the meeting.
Domenech called Purves's allegations "garbage." He said the budget could not be released before the election because the school system did not have the relevant county and state revenue figures.