Board of Supervisors Chairman Dale Polen Myers (R-At Large) has asked the county attorney to determine whether Supervisor Scott K. York (R-Sterling)--her challenger in the November election--violated the law by holding a closed-door session of the Virginia Coalition of High Growth Communities.
Myers was among more than a dozen people who were asked to leave the coalition's Aug. 27 meeting in Richmond after York, the group's founder and chairman, closed the session to nonvoting members. The coalition is made up of representatives from 23 local governments across the state that are seeking to strengthen localities' authority to control growth. Each jurisdiction has one voting member.
In a letter to County Attorney John R. Roberts, Myers said she believes that the coalition is a public body and that York violated Virginia's Freedom of Information Act by closing part of the meeting to the public. Myers also asked Roberts to seek an opinion on the issue from the Attorney General's Office.
"In my viewpoint, that was a public meeting," Myers said in an interview this week. "Everyone sitting around that table was a public official." Myers also noted that information about the meeting was produced and distributed by county staff members.
York maintained that it was "appropriate" to exclude nonvoting members from a portion of the meeting during which the group discussed strategies to lobby the General Assembly. York said the coalition "is not an official government body" and doesn't fall under FOIA rules. He said that in a conversation several months ago, Roberts told him the coalition could hold closed meetings legally.
Supervisor Eleanore C. Towe (D-Blue Ridge), who also was asked to leave the meeting when the closed session began, said she wasn't bothered by York's decision to hold a portion of the meeting with only voting members. Towe noted that both she and Myers participated in open discussions with the coalition Aug. 26, the first day of the two-day meeting.
Roberts on Tuesday declined to comment on whether York violated the law but said he expects to distribute a written opinion to supervisors as early as this week. Myers and York frequently sparred during their heated campaign for the Republican nomination for chairman of the Board of Supervisors. Myers was defeated in the primary but then entered the race as an independent.
Atwell to Take Leesburg Council Seat
The Leesburg Town Council unanimously appointed George F. Atwell to replace J. Frank Buttery Jr., who resigned last month because of a conflict of interest.
Atwell, 67, served on the council from 1992 to 1996 before losing a mayoral bid against James E. Clem, receiving 1,115 votes to Clem's 1,474. Atwell, a Leesburg native, said he will leave his position as interim publisher of Leesburg Today in the next 30 days.
"We need experience and continuity on the council," said Leonard W. McDonald Jr., a council member. "That's what Atwell brings."
During his time on the council, Atwell served on the finance and administration and public works committees--both of which he will work on again, council members said.
"With my institutional knowledge and history with the Town of Leesburg, I think I have something to offer," said Atwell, who worked for 31 years in the county's school system. He retired in 1987 and took an adjunct teaching position at George Mason University.
Buttery left the council after the state Attorney General's Office said that as a council member, he would be in a conflict of interest in his new job as an assistant prosecutor for the Loudoun County Commonwealth's Attorney's Office.
Leesburg Police Get a Major
In other matters Tuesday, the Leesburg Town Council created a new major's position in the more than 50-member police department, to be filled by Lt. Mike McVeigh, who is now acting police chief. The pay range for the new job will be $48,584 to $77,612 a year. McVeigh will oversee the department's two captains.
Council member Kristen C. Umstattd cast the only opposing vote, saying the council doesn't "have the expertise to monkey around with the structure" of the department.
A Massachusetts firm, DMG-Maximus, began a $45,000 management study of the department yesterday, Acting Town Manager Paul E. York said. Meanwhile, the search continues for a permanent chief to replace Keith A. Stiles. The council fired Stiles last spring, citing high turnover and too many internal investigations.
Sobriety Checkpoint Called a Success
Loudoun County law enforcement authorities said Friday night's sobriety checkpoint was a success because about 500 drivers passed through and none was found to be drunk.
Loudoun sheriff's deputies and Virginia State Police officers operated the checkpoint at Cascades Parkway near Woodland Road from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Deputy Ed Pifer said that 494 vehicles went through the checkpoint and that 14 were stopped for field sobriety tests. No arrests were made.
Members of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Students Against Drunk Driving were at the checkpoint distributing information about driving under the influence of alcohol. The effort marked the National Sobriety Checkpoint Week campaign.