Results Questioned in Council Selection Process

The process to appoint a new member to the Leesburg Town Council has created drama even before the council meets with the candidates tonight.

The interim appointment is needed to fill Kelly Burk’s council seat. Since Burk was elected mayor in November, a Leesburg resident is needed to fill the remaining almost two years of her term. The interim appointee will serve until the winner of the special election, date to be determined, is sworn in.

In December, the council voted on an appointment process in which each member would select his or her top three candidates, in order of preference, from the list of the residents expressing interest. Last week, it was announced that the top four candidates–as there was a tie for third–were Jed Babbin, Hugh Forsythe, Rusty Foster, and Gwen Pangle. Each was invited to present at tonight’s meeting.

At the end of last week, it was discovered that an incorrect system had been used to tally council members’ votes on who should be allowed to present at tonight’s meeting. On Monday, a fifth candidate was added to the list of finalists.

Councilman Tom Dunn said the results that came back to him did not seem to make sense. It was soon discovered that candidates were assigned a weighted score, an evaluation system the council never formally adopted. As a result, when the agreed-upon scoring method was used, it showed Joshua Thiel placing in the top four, as there was also a tie with this scenario. Pangle would have placed outside the top four candidates without the weighted system, but is still invited to participate tonight.

The Town of Leesburg issued a press release Monday morning on the matter.

“Over the weekend, Council members recognized that there was a miscommunication that had occurred with the scoring system used to rank all interested candidates. As a result, Mr. Thiel accepted an invitation to join the group of finalist candidates to make a presentation to Council,” the release reads.

When reached Monday, Town Manager Kaj Dentler placed the blame squarely on his shoulders.

“I put it all on me,” he said of the miscommunication to town staff.

Mayor Kelly Burk said the original resolution passed by the council stated that each council member should pick his or her top three candidates. However, town staff then asked each council member to rank their selection, first through third. Last week, Burk said she was contacted both by Dunn and Councilwoman Suzanne Fox to alert her to their concerns regarding the ranking, and the possibility that the wrong candidates were asked to appear at the organizational meeting.

“Everybody that would have been considered either way is going to be a part of the process. It’s not a big deal,” Burk said. “It’s not that anyone’s being excluded that should have been included. We’re being overly cautious and making sure we’re including everyone that would have been included.”

But Dunn cast some doubt on that assertion Monday, and took issue with town staff’s claim that the mistake was the result of “miscommunication.”

“The impression to say it was miscommunication is not really representing it properly. It was obviously a mistake, at worst a misrepresentation,” he said.

On the latter, Dunn said the possibility existed that “if somebody isn’t sure how the results are going to come out and they want to be able to manipulate those [results] they change the score in the middle of the game.”

Dunn also took issue with allowing Pangle to participate in tonight’s meeting, as she would have ranked outside of the top four had the proper scoring system be used. He noted that she received the same amount of votes as another applicant – Jeff Phillips – who is not being asked to participate tonight. This afternoon, he said he planned to make a motion to allow only Babbin, Forsythe, Thiel, and Foster to make presentations to the council tonight.

The council member’s votes were made available to Loudoun Now on Monday morning. The candidates are listed in preference:

Burk:

  1. Hugh Forsythe
  2. Gwen Pangle
  3. Rusty Foster

Councilman Ron Campbell:

  1. Jeffrey Phillips
  2. Rusty Foster
  3. Katie Hammler

Dunn:

  1. Joshua Thiel
  2. Hugh Forsythe
  3. Jed Babbin

Fox:

  1. Jeffrey Phillips
  2. Joshua Thiel
  3. Jed Babbin

Councilman Marty Martinez:

  1. Edward Kiley
  2. Rusty Foster
  3. Gwen Pangle

Councilman Ken Reid:

  1. Joshua Thiel
  2. Hugh Forsythe
  3. Jed Babbin

Check back for updates from tonight’s organizational meeting.

krodriguez@loudounnow.com

One thought on “Results Questioned in Council Selection Process

  • 2017-01-09 at 5:09 pm
    Permalink

    Sorry Redwood, it looks like your corrupt ways and intermingling of private and government affairs will be coming to an end with just two votes. Well, not completely as you are you, but please keep an eye out as the walls have ears and eyes.

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