A majority of the Leesburg Town Council on Friday night rejected a request to discuss allegations against Mayor Kelly Burk in a closed-door meeting.
Late last week, council members Ron Campbell and Joshua Thiel called for a special meeting to discuss a “personnel matter,” although no additional information was released. When the meeting began Friday evening, a motion was put forward by Campbell, and seconded by Thiel, to move into closed session to discuss “the performance of a specific public official.”
In her comments before the vote, Burk made it clear that she was the public official in question. She listed off her accomplishments over her professional and political career, including serving on both the Town Council and Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. A handful of her supporters—one even wearing a “Kelly Burk for Mayor” T-shirt—sat in the audience during the meeting.
“I’ve never been the object of such political assassination until now. For two council members with less than three years [combined] experience to attack me based on rumors and innuendo … this is a politically-motivated attack by an opponent running for mayor that thinks that negative campaigning should be based on gossip,” said Burk, who was first elected to a Town Council seat in 2004.
She, along with council members Tom Dunn, Vanessa Maddox and Marty Martinez, voted against the motion to hold a closed session.
In his comments, Dunn said he felt the subject of the meeting was based purely on “hearsay” and did not merit a closed session.
“For me this is a new low in Leesburg politics,” Dunn said. “I don’t know if people have been binge watching House of Cards or CSI Leesburg, but much of this has been based on hearsay and no real proof to the issue. Frankly, I think it is more generated by politics.”
With the motion to move into closed session failing to gain majority support, the meeting adjourned.
After the meeting, Campbell—who along with Burk and Dunn is running for mayor in November’s election—approached reporters to explain why he had called for the special meeting.
He said both he and Thiel had been contacted by members of the public, whom he declined to identify, claiming they saw Burk intoxicated and barely able to walk at Tuscarora Mill Restaurant the evening of Wednesday, May 16. Campbell said, according to the witnesses, Burk left the restaurant, fell in the parking lot, and then drove away.
Campbell said he wanted to bring forward the incident in a closed session because he felt it was a public safety concern, and not for politically motivated reasons. Campbell was the first to announce his intentions to challenge Burk for the mayor’s seat.
“If something happens and this behavior continues then we have our citizens at risk and citizens who notify me, I also have a responsibility to tell somebody,” he said.
Campbell said he did not reach out directly to Burk regarding the allegations because the mayor has not spoken to him since he announced his intentions to challenge her this November.
Burk strongly denied the allegations.
“He was not even there,” she said of Campbell. “He never called me. He never talked to me. He never asked me about it. He went on gossip—and the gossip is wild out there. And it was unfair for him to do that. And it was untrue.”
Burk called it “a malicious political attack.”
“He’s angry because he has no campaign and he doesn’t know how to work with people and he can’t get things accomplished,” she said.