In an unfortunate development in the public integrity arena, the Muckraker has learned that Tracy Conroy, 2015 School Board Chair candidate, surreptitiously taped a telephone conversation with Potomac District School Board representative Justin Wilk. Mr. Wilk learned of the personal violation when Conroy posted details of their conversation on Facebook and acknowledged her use of a recording device. At the time of their conversation, Wilk was unaware that he was being recorded.
The conversation at issue occurred after the long March 2, 2016, School Board meeting at which the School Board voted 8-0 to name a new school after late firefighter Kyle Wilson and rename Mills E. Godwin Middle School after county resident George M. Hampton. Conroy was strongly opposed to the board’s action in renaming Godwin Middle School. Her disagreement with Wilk (who had moved the name change at the meeting) resulted in a series of tense online messages between the two on the night of the school board meeting. By the end of the online exchange tempers had cooled and the two agreed to speak the following day. It was the conversation on the following day that Conroy taped without Wilk’s knowledge.
Virginia is a one-party consent state, which means it is legal to tape a private conversation provided one of the parties (even just the party doing the recording) is aware that they are being taped. The practice is considered highly unethical, however, unless all parties consent, unless part of a legitimate law enforcement activity, or unless used to protect an individual from false claims or threats related to the conversation. None of these appear to apply in this instance. Based on Conroy’s subsequent actions her primary goal in secretly taping the conversation was apparently to embarrass Wilk, to cause tension between him and other school board members, and to potentially intimidate him into reversing his vote. Conroy posted details of the conversation on Facebook and revealed that she had recorded it.
This highly unethical conduct drew swift rebukes questioning Conroy’s public integrity and fitness for office. An email blast from a presumed Wilk supporter summarized Conroy’s actions and warned any who might speak to her to be aware that their conversation might be recorded without their knowledge.
Conroy approached the Republican Party about obtaining their endorsement for School Board Chair in the most recent election, but chose not to go through the process, with prominent Republicans having already endorsed Tim Singstock. Conroy instead ran without a party endorsement, effectively splitting the Republican vote and handing the chair’s seat to the Democratic-endorsed candidate, Ryan Sawyers. Wilk was also endorsed by the Democrats. Conroy has been open about her continued desire to obtain a seat on the School Board. She administers a blog focused on county schools that she changed to private-group status the day she taped her conversation with Wilk.