Council Appoints Consaul to Planning Commission, Drops Ethics Investigation

The Lovettsville Town Council Thursday night voted 4-3 to appoint Kris Consaul, a town realtor who ran against Mayor Nate Fontaine in the May 1, 2018 mayoral election, to a spot on the Planning Commission that Tom Ciolkosz vacated when he resigned in June.

Councilmen Chris Hornbaker, David Steadman and Buchanan Smith voted against the appointment, all noting that Consaul would support a potential future vote to rezone the 35-acre Engle Tract from commercial/light industrial to mixed use to allow for residential and commercial development of the land—if and when the Town Council approves a comprehensive plan amendment to designate the property as such.

Selected from a pool of three candidates, which included David Smith and Charles Cooper, Consaul will serve on the commission until the term expires on June 30, 2021.

The appointment came six weeks after a controversial July 9 special meeting that led to a call for Steadman to resign and the town to initiate an ethics investigation.

In early July, Fontaine called a special meeting in an attempt to make a Planning Commission appointment before the commission was to elect a new chairperson on July 10. But Fontaine cancelled the meeting upon learning there would be no quorum—the four-councilmember minimum required for a meeting to proceed.

That happened because Steadman publicly stated that he would not attend the meeting because he felt it would have been unfair to proceed with an appointment without interviewing all three candidates. At that point, the council had interviewed only two of them—Smith and Consaul. Cooper was scheduled for an interview the night of July 9 but was unable to attend. He was finally interviewed in closed session prior to Thursday’s council meeting and subsequent appointment of Consaul.

Steadman’s decision to willingly skip the July 9 meeting to block a vote and Fontaine’s decision to cancel the meeting before gaveling it in to facilitate an informal discussion prompted resident outcry, which resulted in a call for Steadman to resign and for the town to investigate why the meeting was cancelled.

Following Cooper’s interview in closed session on Thursday, the Town Council discussed that ethics complaint and voted 5-1 to take no further action on the matter.

Councilman Mike Dunlap voted against dropping the matter because he felt it was “disturbing to hear there seems to be consensus that only an official of the town can bring forward a complaint that would then be investigated.”

“I’m disappointed that the process and the rules in place do not allow complaints of our residents … to be fully adjudicated,” he said. “I’m disappointed with this outcome.”

pszabo@loudounnow.com

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