The Purcellville Town Council called an emergency meeting Monday evening to discuss a personnel matter in closed session. But the meeting was quickly adjourned, after the council fell short on votes needed to go into closed session.
It’s unclear why the emergency meeting was called, but Mayor Kwasi Fraser said from the dais that the incident that prompted it involved a person threatening to harm a council member. Council member Doug McCollum also said that situation somehow involved council member Kelli Grim.
McCollum first spoke against the motion to go into closed session, arguing that the incident that was to be discussed was not an emergency. Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act requires that public bodies provide notice three days ahead of a meeting, unless the matter constitutes an emergency.
“I don’t believe this meeting has been properly called. … There is no emergency about this. Any action taken tonight will taint the investigation,” he said, and noted that Town Manager Robert Lohr Jr. also objected to the short notice of the meeting.
McCollum also asked that Grim recuse herself from the discussion, reiterating that she was either a complainant in the incident or a witness to it.
Grim argued that the situation required immediate action. She said that previous councils have called emergency meetings for many reasons, including the purchase of land and legal matters. “They were far less urgent or critical matters, and the same town manager and the same town attorney did not object to them,” Grim said.
Kwasi said FOIA’s definition of emergency is subjective, but he believed this situation should be considered one. “When a council member is threatened with bodily harm, whether it be alleged or not, I think that constitutes an emergency.”
On the motion to enter closed session, the council voted 3-4, with McCollum, Chris Bledsoe, Ryan Cool, and Nedim Ogelman opposed.
Ogelman asked town attorney Sally Hankins to, as she gets time, provide the council with examples of other emergency meetings that the council has held. The only one she could think of on the spot was when the council met amid a severe snow storm to coordinate resources.
The closed session is now scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday, at the Purcellville Town Hall.