The uncertainty surrounding Leesburg Town Attorney Barbara Notar’s employment status came to an end Tuesday night, with a Town Council majority choosing to move on from their town attorney.
Notar, who had been employed as Leesburg’s town attorney for five years following almost seven years as its deputy town attorney, saw her job status become headline news in the past few weeks. It all began with a Letter to the Editor submitted to Loudoun Now, and penned by three members of the council, accusing their four colleagues of an orchestrated campaign to terminate Notar over their dissatisfaction with her handling of the Graydon Manor project and the town-county boundary line adjustment process. Council members Josh Thiel, Suzanne Fox, Ron Campbell and Tom Dunn, the ones who were on the receiving end of those allegations, denied the claims and denounced the letter for letting a personnel matter into the limelight.
Traditionally, evaluations for the town manager and town attorney, the two positions who serve at the pleasure of the council, occur in closed session and typically end with new contracts and merit-based increases. This time around, though, Notar’s evaluation, which kicked off a week after the controversial release of the letter last month, occurred over the course of four closed sessions, many of which were lengthy and during some of which she was not present.
Tuesday night’s closed session on her evaluation was by far the shortest at 20 minutes, and immediately following its adjournment the council voted to approve the separation agreement in a 4-2-1 vote, with Mayor Kelly Burk and Vice Mayor Marty Martinez dissenting. Thiel was absent for the meeting.
In a separate motion, the council unanimously approved the appointment of Martin Crim as interim town attorney. Crim had been hired by Town Manager Kaj Dentler to represent the town in its evaluation of Notar. He is a shareholder at Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian, and has been practicing law for more than 25 years, primarily for cities, towns, and other local governments. Crim also serves as Middleburg’s town attorney.
Prior to the vote to approve the separation agreement, several members of the downtown business community urged the council to rethink doing away with their longtime town attorney and spoke in support of Notar. Downtown property owner Michael O’Connor said he’d been a witness to the good work Notar had done, and believed in each case she had Leesburg’s best interests at heart. He and several other speakers questioned the reasoning for Notar’s removal and suggested that the controversial termination and fallout from the letter were staining the town’s reputation.
“It seems so odd that [some allege] Barbara Notar is not properly representing the town. I don’t know of a single attorney that would agree with that. Her reputation is uniformly excellent,” local attorney Don Culkin said.
Another fellow attorney, Peter Burnett, suggested that not agreeing with Notar’s legal advice was no reason to discharge her.
“Many times a client doesn’t like the advice they hear, or take the advice they hear. That’s true of council,” he said. “But it seems to me if you have the votes to discharge her … you also have the votes to disregard her opinion.”
Details of the separation agreement were not immediately available.