Almost a year after the Leesburg Town Council faced strong criticism from the Loudoun Chapter of the NAACP, council members are planning to reach out to the organization about steps it can take to improve a Memorandum of Understanding they signed in 2018.
The council last summer appointed two council members, Vice Mayor Marty Martinez and Councilman Neil Steinberg, to meet with three representatives of the NAACP’s Executive Committee at the request of the organization. NAACP board members’ concerns at the Aug. 12, 2019 meeting largely centered on the criticism thatstatements authored by Councilman Tom Dunn were offensive. The Juneteenth proclamation delivered to the NAACP was one of them.
During the meeting last summer, NAACP representatives called on the council to review its formal memorandum of understanding with the organization, an agreement forged among the NAACP, Town Council and Leesburg Police Department in 2018. There was also a call for the council to enhance its ethics policy, which is expected to be the subject of an upcoming council vote.
Councilman Ron Campbell said during Monday night’s work session that reviewing those recommendations from last summer was “long past due.”
“There is work to be done is my major point,” he said. “If we don’t start doing that work we become negligent.”
Campbell also pointed out how the landscape of the country had changed dramatically in the past year with the movement to address racial injustice and police brutality, spurred largely by the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis, MN police officers.
Steinberg, however, suggested the ball was in the NAACP’s court, and that the council had never heard back on specific suggestions to enhance the agreement. He also pointed to last November’s elections and the COVID-19 pandemic as getting in the way of progress.
Martinez said the council needs more information from the NAACP.
“We need to know what they want and what their expectations are,” he said.
A majority of the council favored sending a letter to the NAACP requesting follow-up before to scheduling another meeting between the two bodies, with the entire council attending this time.
Thecurrent MOU spells out several mutual goalsamong the groups, including communication and transparency; community intervention and awareness; and community outreach. It also assigns what specific roles the Town of Leesburg, Leesburg Police Department, and the NAACP will play in achieving those goals.