Decision Looms on Leesburg Town Attorney’s Future

A second Town Council closed session Tuesday night ended again without finality on the employment status of Leesburg’s town attorney.

The council met behind closed doors for almost two hours last night to continue a discussion on Town Attorney Barbara Notar’s personnel evaluation, as well as to discuss last week’s controversial letter to the editor in which the mayor and two council members alleged the four other council members wanted to terminate Notar because of her handling of both the Graydon Manor project and efforts to expand the town’s municipal boundaries.

Tuesday’s closed session adjourned just after midnight, with the council unanimously passing a motion by Mayor Kelly Burk directing Town Manager Kaj Dentler to proceed with the discussion with Notar regarding matters brought up during the closed session. Reached this morning, Dentler said no final decision has been made regarding Notar’s employment with the town, leaving it up in the air whether a contract extension, resignation or termination can be expected. Notar was not present at last night’s meeting because of previously scheduled personal leave. Dentler has hired outside legal counsel, Martin Crim, who also represents the Town of Middleburg, to represent the council in the matters dealing with Notar.

Notar has been employed as Leesburg’s town attorney since 2015, following almost seven years as its deputy town attorney. Her employment with the town became front page headlines last week when Burk, Vice Mayor Marty Martinez and Councilman Neil Steinberg sent a letter toLoudoun Nowalleging that council members Suzanne Fox, Josh Thiel, Tom Dunn and Ron Campbell were behind an effort to have her fired. Last night, some of those council members sounded off on their council colleagues.

In his comments, Thiel apologized to Notar for her job becoming public fodder instead of being discussed behind closed doors. He went on to strongly reprimand Burk, Martinez and Steinberg for their letter.

“Because something didn’t go your way you had to kick and scream about it in the paper, instead of handling it behind closed doors.. I guess the Leesburg Town Council has a new standard and that is to run and scream to the newspaper if something doesn’t go my way and call collusion,” he said. 

Thiel said their actions showed a lack of respect for their council peers, and warned them not to be surprised “when that same level of respect is not reciprocated.”

“To put it very simply, shame on you,” he said in his closing comments.

Town resident Joe Newcomer also admonished the council for the controversy. He said the events give off the perception that the council is prone to dysfunction and infighting.

“Please don’t act like children, grow up, fix your problems and keep it in house,” he urged the council.

Round Hill-area resident Al Van Huyck said the council was getting ahead of itself in its focus on one of the central issues raised in the letter—the Graydon Manor project. Although the property lies outside the town limits, the property is served by the town’s sewer system. Town staff has said in presentations to the council that the development eyed on the property, which includes co-housing units, a brewery, winery, convenience store, and other amenities, would have a sewage service demand far beyond the current capabilities of the infrastructure in place to provide service to the property, which for decades operated as a children’s treatment center. The property is located within the county’s Rural Policy Area, an area the county’s comprehensive plan prohibits municipalities from providing with public water and sewer unless the property has a failing private utility system or is a public facility, such as a school.

Van Huyck suggested the council wait to hear how the project is resolved with Loudoun County before coming to a decision.

“Particularly when you have so many big issues you are negotiating with the county it’s important you come together as a team,” he advised.

Despite Van Huyck’s advice, the council will soon debate a suggestion from Dunn to consider a conditional agreement with the Graydon Manor property owner regarding future sewer service there. He brought up the idea under his council member comments Tuesday and Thiel, Fox and Campbell supported placing the matter before the council for future discussion.

The fallout from the letter, and any potential course of action against the three council members who authored it, also will be discussed again, during the council’s Feb. 10 work session.

Before going into closed session, Burk said she would always go to bat for a town employee who she felt was being treated unfairly.

“I feel very strongly that when employees do their jobs, and they work hard to meet the challenges and try to stay above the politics, they are a credit to the town and deserve to be treated with respect,” she said.

10 thoughts on “Decision Looms on Leesburg Town Attorney’s Future

  • 2020-01-29 at 2:32 pm

    Town staff says the current public sewer lacks capacity to serve the Graydon Manor project, yet some Council members want to “enter into a conditional agreement” with Graydon Manor anyway. That seems pretty silly.

    Or corrupt. The pro-Graydon Manor council members should disclose any campaign donations or other benefits given them by David Gregory, the Graydon Manor promoter. Reports are that some of his donations exceeded $20,000.

    This seems to be less about land use and much more about good government.

  • 2020-01-29 at 3:28 pm

    This may be a situation in which the new Commonwealth Attorney needs to investigate this, as to whether any corruption crimes are taking place. Way too many questions on this one.

  • 2020-01-30 at 2:41 pm

    @Charles Houston: The town does not lack sewer capacity to serve Graydon. The current sewer infrastructure connecting Graydon to town sewer may be insufficient to handle the capacity needs of the proposed project, but those costs would be passed on to the developer, and not borne by the town. This project would be good for the town and good for the area, and attempts to block it are short-sighted and abusive. As for the donations, all large donations ARE disclosed, as a matter of state law. You can look it up on VPAP and see exactly who received donations from whom. Its actually pretty transparent.

    @Lawgh What’s the crime? As long as the campaign donations in question were lawfully reported, there is no crime here.

  • 2020-01-31 at 8:45 am

    CarZ, how wrong can you be? First, who pays for sewer/water plant expansions when capacity is exceeded? We, the residents of Leesburg, pay. And we pay in the sum of hundreds of millions for that expansion, and that means our water/sewer bills go up. And, when planned need is clear and obvious, adding new demands can be rejected, without any need to explain. As for Councilmember Fox, she now stands before the town residents to be judged for taking $23,000 from a developer, and then doing his bidding, and town residents can condemn her, or praise her, it is our choice. Finally, why are you worried about a criminal investigation in this situation. Afraid Ms. Fox may be in trouble?

  • 2020-01-31 at 9:43 am

    @Lawgh – “And, when planned need is clear and obvious, adding new demands can be rejected, without any need to explain.” Actually there is case law that says otherwise. Beside, Town Code specifies that extension of sewer to non-town customers is a Town Council decision…I don’t see where Barbara Notar has anything to do with it. A majority of the Council appears to support the project, so the theory that the council is going after Notar in order to extend sewer to Graydon doesn’t even make sense.

    As for Fox being in trouble…yeah, I’m sure that Fox is really concerned that a Commonwealth Attorney that took in nearly a million dollars in shady out-of-state donations is going to go after her for her $20k donation from a local developer. You want to put money on that?

  • 2020-01-31 at 2:10 pm

    A majority of a town council can be voted out in November, and then some sanity may return to the Town Council. As for Ms. Fox being worried, or not, is not the question. I cannot speak to her lack of intelligence or whether she understands what problems she may, or may not face, because of her actions. But, it is something that should be looked into. And I suspect the Commonwealth’s Attorney is more that capable of investigating Ms. Fox.

    • 2020-02-01 at 8:33 pm

      Please explain to us Lawgh why an increased capacity will result in higher unit costs? That goes against EVERY capacity/manufacturing principle that ever existed. Capital costs are amortized over decades. Unit costs go down. That is why Amazon, Wal-Mart, Samsung, Toyota and every other large manufacturer/supplier has a competitve edge on cost. If Leesburg could triple its capacity with reliable customers, all customers would benefit. Wasn’t Burk a former teacher? That may explain why econ 101 concepts are lost on her.

  • 2020-01-31 at 4:39 pm

    @Lawgh – You are correct, a year from now we could have an entirely new Town Council. So what? If the current council approves expansion or extension of sewer to Graydon Manor, its not as if a subsequent Town Council can revoke it. No legal provision in town code or state law for revocation of sewer services. Now, if you are suggesting that Notar or other staff members may have been stalling, and trying to keep this issue from coming up for a council vote for the next 11 months, then Notar, or any other staff member involved in such a scheme, should be canned tomorrow, for cause. In the absence of such obstructionism, this will come up for council vote in the next month or so. That’s the CURRENT council, not the imagined FUTURE council you believe would vote against this project.

  • 2020-02-01 at 4:55 pm

    Actually, CarlZ, you just made the case against Ms. Fox. A rush to vote this through, get rid of the Town Attorney, and then claim, hohoho, the developer has “rights” that can’t be taken away. Great post, CarlZ, for the Commonwealth Attorney. Thank You!

  • 2020-02-02 at 4:08 pm

    Lawgh – While I don’t know your identity, we can narrow the possibilities down just a bit…you are clearly not an attorney. Or any other profession that requires critical thinking skills. The town council handling an application for sewer service expeditiously is not evidence of a crime…its just doing their job. The fact that you are under the impression that the default posture for the town should be to obstruct and stall shows just how broken the system is.

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