Following last month’s controversy that sparked criticism of the actions of three of its members, the Leesburg Town Council has proposed changes to its proclamation process.
On Monday night, council members had their first opportunity to scrutinize the process following its meeting two weeks ago that saw the council chambers full of residents, many of whom lit into council members for the headlines generated by three proclamations that had recently been presented to community groups. Those proclamations, recognizing Pride Month, Juneteenth and National Gun Violence Awareness Day, had messages in lieu of a signature, written by or on behalf of Councilman Tom Dunn, that offended community activists.
Council members were polled Monday on a series of changes that will be formally voted on with a resolution Tuesday evening. Those changes included two put forward by Councilman Josh Thiel, who came under fire last month for signing one of those messages on behalf of Dunn, who was absent at the time. Thiel proposed that council members no longer be permitted to sign proclamations on behalf of other council members, and that only signatures be permitted on the signature line. Both of those changes found majority support.
Proclamations now will also be given out ahead of the council’s bimonthly business meetings. The proclamations will be presented at 6:30 p.m., and the regular business meeting will begin as usual at 7 p.m.
Councilman Ron Campbell, who put forward that change, noted that most community groups or individuals who are being presented with proclamations leave after the presentation anyway, so beginning presentations earlier makes sense. Campbell also found support for a change mandating that council members vote on proclamations two weeks ahead of the business meeting at which they will be presented. Current practice allows any council member to put forward a proclamation with no need for majority support or the support of any other member.
Other changes endorsed include that each proclamation must have a sponsor, either a council member or, in the case of a staff-initiated proclamation, the town manager. The name of the person or group that the proclamation is being presented to must be listed, and there will be signature lines for the mayor, the proclamation sponsor, and any other council members who wish to sign.