New Board to Clamp Down on Information Access, Switch Up Rules

The new Board of Supervisors is set to operate under new rules to clamp down on supervisors sharing information about the county government’s work inside closed-door meetings.

On Tuesday, Jan. 7 supervisors will vote on new rules of order that will largely resemble those first approved by the previous board—except for a new section that allows the board to punish supervisors who talk about what the board discusses behind closed doors.

In Virginia, the Freedom of Information Act allows elected officials to hold closed-door meetings and to shield records from the public in certain situations, but in almost no circumstances requires it. The law also does not prohibit elected officials in one of those closed-door meetings from talking about what happens in that meeting publicly if they choose to do so.

Under the proposed new rules, if a member speaks out, the board will vote to either retroactively approve that disclosure or reaffirm the decision to keep that information secret. The board may also vote to sanction or censure a board member for “improper disclosure” of that information.

The new rules also restore the power to control what ceremonial resolutions come to the board that County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) lost during the previous term.

Supervisors were split during a 2016 debate over a proposal to recognize June as LGBT Pride Month. The county board ultimately substituted a new “Love Loudoun” month crafted by former Republican Broad Run supervisor Ron A. Meyer, Jr.—the first and last time that month was celebrated in Loudoun—and changed the board’s rules of order to give both the chairman and vice chairman power to veto resolutions before they come to the full board.

The proposed rules of order would remove the requirement that the chairman and vice chairman concur on ceremonial resolutions, as well as removing a statement that “All Resolutions shall be focused on honoring exceptional acts of County residents or staff, celebrating community service of Loudoun’s residents and groups, remembering history, or promoting awareness of issues directly relating to County operations. Due to the nature and purpose of Board Resolutions, they should not be controversial and it is preferable that all resolutions be approved by a unanimous vote from the Dais.”

Randall has indicated the new Democratic-majority board will be less hesitant to take public stances on debates in state and national politics.

The board would also meet on a slightly revised schedule, with business meetings the first and third Tuesday of each month at 5 p.m., and public hearings the Wednesday the week after the first business meeting of the month.

5 thoughts on “New Board to Clamp Down on Information Access, Switch Up Rules

  • 2020-01-07 at 3:36 pm
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    When a local governmnet body becomes closed and secretive, beware.

    All that talk about transparency and openness had an expiration date of course. This is a county board of supervisors, not a meeting of the National Security Council.

    This exactly how we pay 50 million tax dollars in corporate welfare, for soccer teams the vast majority of taxpayers don’t care about.

    • 2020-01-08 at 11:30 pm
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      Wow! Looks like we’ll get as much transparency in government as the Soviet Politburo. So much for government of, by, and for the people.

  • 2020-01-07 at 3:56 pm
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    There are explicit rules on what can be discussed in closed door sessions. I believe that these rules coincide with the FOIA requests guidelines. If the Board is reinforcing these rules by insuring that information is not leaked about sensitive issues, then this is a proper vote by the Board. If, however, they are trying to expand closed-door sessions to include more than these topics, we should make sure that the citizens’ right to know is protected. If you want more information about what is protected, you can go to this website:
    https://www.loudoun.gov/978/Exemptions-Under-FOIA

    I believe that you can see these exemptions are reasonable due to their sensitive nature.

    • 2020-01-07 at 6:50 pm
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      They are likely trying to close ranks when they violate FOIA. But there are no recordings of the meetings so as long as they all lie together, no judge can find out “in camera” what happened. All closed meetings should be recorded so judges may determine if rules were violated.

      Phyllis is as crooked as a dog’s hind leg.

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