County to Publicize Groups' Meetings

By Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 20, 2006

Prince William County will now publicize all meetings held by civic associations and other groups and attended by three or more county supervisors who could address pending votes of the Board of County Supervisors in those forums.

County Attorney Ross G. Horton clarified the need to publicize such meetings at the supervisors' meeting Tuesday.

The clarification was spurred by recent meetings of the Prince William County Republican Committee and the Nokesville Civic Association, where more than two supervisors were in attendance. The potential developments of a quarry in Nokesville and a planned community of 6,800 houses and two town centers, dubbed Brentswood, were discussed. The board is scheduled to vote on Brentswood on May 16, and the quarry will be on the agenda in June.

Horton said the board must announce those meetings by hanging a sign in a public place, most likely on the front door of the McCoart Government Center.

If there is enough time, the county can include such meetings in public notices advertised in newspapers. Supervisor Hilda M. Barg (D-Woodbridge) questioned whether the county should pay for advertising the meetings of private groups.

At Tuesday's meeting, Supervisor Corey A. Stewart (R-Occoquan) announced that the Prince William County Republican Committee will hold a forum about Brentswood on Monday at the McCoart Government Center. That announcement will be posted at McCoart because supervisors are invited to attend and speak.

Supervisor John D. Jenkins (D-Neabsco) said that supervisors have to be careful about speaking in front of groups about their positions on pending votes. "It's a very dangerous action," he said.

Comments can affect pending land sales and open the county up to lawsuits. "The lawyers are very smart out there, and they pick up on that," Jenkins said.

Stewart said he would never support limiting supervisors' right to make their position known. "Don't anybody actually go out there and advocate something. We might get sued," he said sarcastically.

Board Chairman Sean T. Connaughton (R) said supervisors could let their feelings be known, but in the proper forums.

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