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.