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.