As Town Attorney Decision Looms, Council Considers Change to Evaluations

The Leesburg Town Council still has not yet made public the fate of Town Attorney Barbara Notar’s employment with the town, but did discuss Monday night a change in how it will evaluate both the town manager and town attorney going forward.

Those two positions are the only ones that serve at the pleasure of the council, meaning council members have sole authority to hire and terminate those positions. Both the town manager and town attorney have annual, closed-session personnel evaluations conducted by the council, and traditionally those end with a new contract and merit-based increase.

That hasn’t been the case this time around for Notar, who has served as Leesburg’s town attorney since 2015. On Monday night, the council again discussed the fallout arising from a Letter to the Editor sent toLoudoun Nowby three council members Jan. 20. The letter, signed by Mayor Kelly Burk, Vice Mayor Marty Martinez and Councilman Neil Steinberg, accused the other four council members of conspiring to terminate Notar because of their dissatisfaction with her legal handling of the Graydon Manor project and the boundary line adjustment process between the town and the county.

While some pointed remarks were exchanged during Monday’s work session, the majority of the council appeared poised to move forward.

“I’m going to go ahead and decline to swing at the ball that’s been pitched in the dirt so maliciously and personally, and focus on what we can do to prevent the same sort of action in the future,” Councilwoman Suzanne Fox said.

Fox pressed the council to formalize its rules on confidentiality and communication, and also to look at the evaluation process for both positions. She also said she believed the council should begin disclosing campaign contributions with each land development application. The letter in particular singled Fox out for her acceptance of a $23,000 contribution from Graydon Manor developer David Gregory during her State Senate race last year.

Councilman Ron Campbell said that the release of the letter disrupted, and possibly tainted, the evaluation process for Notar.

“The letter resulted in more unfair treatment because it disrupted our ability to have conversations, and conversations being scheduled … were prevented from happening because of the release of the letter,” he said.

Both Martinez and Steinberg did not weigh in on the conversation Monday night, and Burk only reiterated her position of supporting town employees who she felt were doing a good job, although she did say she believed the evaluation process needed work. A May 11 work session on that process is planned.

Notar’s future could come into clarity as early as Tuesday evening. The council on Monday night had a closed session on the “assignment, appointment, promotion, performance, demotion, salaries, disciplining, or resignation of the Town Attorney,” as it was listed on the agenda. No action on Notar was taken following the closed session. Notar was not present for Monday’s work session, with Deputy Town Attorney Christine Newton serving in her absence.

The agenda posted for Tuesday night’s meeting could provide some clues for what the future holds for Notar and the town. One resolution lists the approval of a separation agreement with the town attorney, and another authorizes the appointment of Martin Crim as interim town attorney via a contract between the Town Council and the law firm Vanderpool, Frostick & Mishanian, P.C. Crim was recently hired by Dentler to represent the town in its evaluation of Notar. 

A closed session regarding the town attorney is also scheduled for the end of the meeting.  

krodriguez@loudounnow.com

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