<![CDATA[ GCRC - Opinion]]>Fri, 15 Dec 2017 00:12:29 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Frydl's Fiscal Assessment at Odds with Sound Government Practices]]>Mon, 30 Oct 2017 15:10:37 GMThttp://gcrcgop.com/opinion/frydls-fiscal-assessment-at-odds-with-sound-government-practicesSupervisor Frydl Chastises Critics Over County Reserves Picture
From Jim Frydl's campaign Facebook page.
“Double Rumor Alert:
Rumor 1 - The wasteful spending of the BOS has depleted all of our cash and financial reserve funds.
​Fact - The Unreserved Fund at $13,925,333 is higher than it was when I started in FY 2010. The FY17 year end cash balance of $16,935,211 is over $3 million greater than it was in FY10.

Rumor 2 - The County will pay a high interest rate or not be able to borrow money for projects because the BOS never paid to get a County bond rating.
Fact - Greene has always been able to obtain the lowest finance rate by participating in the pooled bond funds offered by the State. The $28 million school facilities bond was approved on Monday (10/17) at the lowest possible rate by the State VSPA bond pool. This bond was approved with out the County having an individual bond rating. It can cost as much as $80,000 to get a bond rating and it does not make sense to spend that money unless it is required.

In summary, the sky is not falling!" - Jim Frydl

Facts & Reality Conflict with Both his Claims and County Policy

Supervisor Frydl’s claims conflict with his own public statements, use misleading figures, and ignore the public statements of Stantec/Davenport Associates regarding financing the White Run Reservoir project. Let’s address them here:

"RUMOR 1:"

This is a “red herring”, i.e., tossing out false hyperbolic statements in an attempt to label his opponents as uninformed and unfair. “Wasteful spending”, while certainly possible, has not been addressed by his opponents. The actual claims are that the BoS has routinely budgeted expenditures above revenues and each year the income budget includes  increasing transfers from the “Reserve Fund” to balance the budget. The adopted 2018 budget includes “Appropriation from Reserve Fund: $4,172,590”.

In 2012 the BoS adopted a Reserve Fund policy that requires “15% of General Fund Expenditures plus one-month average cash flow” be maintained as a minimum reserve unless the BoS declares an emergency. Since 2014 the BoS has failed to maintain reserves according to its own policy, with minimum cash balances in FY 2017 dipping to below 50% of the policy requirement.  For the 2018 budget this would mean a minimum reserve fund of approximately $14.3M. 

Mr. Frydl reports nearly $17M cash available at the end of June 2017 without telling us it is a peak revenue period as semi-annual property tax bills are paid. Average cash on hand throughout 2017 was a little under $9M, well below the BoS policy formula that called for $13.6M minimum reserve fund balance for FY 2107.

So how seriously does Supervisor Frydl take the task of following BoS policy and maintaining the prescribed reserve? At a recent BOS meeting Supervisor Frydl lectured against those who argue for maintaining a 3 month cash reserve (policy calls for 15% plus 1 month, or just under 3 months minimum reserve). He said actually meeting that requirement would cause Greene County services to be curtailed (eliminating the Sheriff’s entire budget wouldn’t be enough he said) or require a large tax increase. Having already spent the money mandated for the reserve was described as virtuous as the money was “the people’s money”. So much for that BoS policy passed in 2012, violated in 2014 and increasingly so ever since.

The following graph represents the disparity between the reserve-NEED (per the policy), versus the cash available required to back up the NEED, since 2010. NEVER did available cash reach $17M.

Data has been made available by the Greene County Treasurer as of January 17th, 2017. On 6/30/16, the County invested $2M in Certificates of Deposit which decreased its cash position & is not included in this graph. Combined cash and CD's fall short of the current reserve policy.

"RUMOR 2:"

Mr. Frydl reports as a false rumor that the county will have to “pay a high interest rate or not be able to borrow money for projects because the BoS never paid to get a County bond rating.”  He then repeats his usual claim, echoed throughout his years as a Supervisor, that the county can get along well without a bond rating. After all, the $28M school loan was obtained at favorable rates from the state school funding organization. [NOTE:  The School-funding State entity is different from the State entity handling capital projects like White Run Reservoir Project]

Mr. Frydl’s issue is not so much with his opponents as it is with the financial experts hired by the County some 20 months ago to rehabilitate the County’s fiscal standing so that it would be possible to obtain White Run funding at an affordable rate. The experts say interest rates would be about 4.5% with a bond rating, 7.5% without. The experts say the State funding organization for a project like White Run would not back a loan without Greene getting a bond rating, and then maybe not even then because the County has no history of funding such capital projects primarily from user fees, not general taxpayer funding. That is considered a poor fiscal practice by lenders. The experts estimated in the public meeting in July 2017 that although they had been working already for about 18 months no changes had been made to County or RSA policies to address the issue, and as much as two more years may be required to make Greene County fiscal performance acceptable to lenders. 

​One issue raised by the financial experts was the failure of the RSA consumer rates to pay for the debt incurred to build the existing system, or to accumulate any capital improvement funds for the exact situation Greene taxpayers face now; an old, obsolete system operating at or above capacity. Mr. Frydl called it a 40-year failure by RSA in a Greene County Record article in July 2017.  Ironically, during his two terms, Mr. Frydl has been a Greene County BoS representative on the RSA Board of Directors where rates structure could have been addressed but wasn’t. Since approval of the permit for the project six years ago on Mr. Frydl’s watch, Greene County has also not taken any steps to build a capital fund for the project. Mr. Frydl has known about White Run his entire two terms, but has failed to take common sense steps, according to the Stantec/Davenport Associates financial experts, to prepare for financing the project, now a critical need if BoS touted growth projections are correct.

Finally, the BoS is tight- lipped about what comes after the White Run water system capacity is tripled and there is no delivery system or waste treatment system to accept the flow. There is also no source identified to fund the $7.25M liability that exists because 725 EDU’s were sold and the money spent on debt service.

Mr. Frydl’s claim that “the sky is not falling” remains to be seen. One thing is clear though. The financial expert’s assessment is that his fiscal policies are incompatible with sound government and he still defends them to the end.

Bert Nye
Greene County, VA

Originally published in 4goodgov.com
<![CDATA[Support President Trump]]>Fri, 25 Aug 2017 14:59:43 GMThttp://gcrcgop.com/opinion/support-president-trumpPicture
Dear Senator McConnell:

We became Trump supporters after Hillary Clinton was the only other choice.  We were delegates at the 2016 Virginia Republican Convention supporting Senator Cruz.  However, after Trump became the Republican nominee he had our full support and still does. It was only after we stopped opposing him and started listening to him, we realized he is the right man for the job.  Yes, he is “unpolished” politically, but he has common sense, something the majority of Americans now value more than political correctness.  Sadly, some establishment Republicans, the left, and the media concentrate more on his sometimes awkward phraseology than on his core principles for returning financial, military and moral strength to our country.  Unlike Senators, average Americans are not orators.  We understand the common sense values he is expressing. We who deal with real life day to day issues get it, and we want elitist politicians to get over it.

We cannot speak for you, but we can speak about our impression of you, and that is you do not fully support our President.  Just as Trump sometimes has trouble expressing himself, we cannot adequately express the depth of our disgust for the Senate’s failure to support our President and his agenda. Republican Senators who do not support him are digging a grave for the party. Your failure to full-fill your promises to repeal and replace Obamacare is unacceptable. The embarrassing “Skinny Bill” was simply a jerry-rig of Obamacare, and that is unacceptable.  Your lack of support for the President is weakening his agenda which we who elected him fully support, especially tax reform and a border wall. The 2018 elections will be the death of the Republican majority in Congress if congressional Republicans continue to distance themselves from the President.

As Charlottesville area residents, your effort to distance yourself from the President’s comments related to Charlottesville events, was especially despicable to us. He denounced the violence and hate-filled rhetoric of extremists like the White Supremacists, KKK, and Neo-Nazis. He also truthfully acknowledged there were violent combatants among the opposing anti-protesters.  The Charlottesville Police Chief confirmed that in a press statement.   What the President refused to do was to group law abiding citizens who peacefully oppose the removal of heritage statues with the hate-filled White Supremacist groups. He likewise refused to group law abiding citizens who were protesting white supremacy rhetoric with the opposing hate- filled anti-protesters, such as Antifa. We have previously been up close with Antifa and can personally testify to the rage they spew.  Average Americans who were listening to everything the President said understood the fairness of his statements. We did not depend on media bias to spin his meaning for us.  We who do not scrutinize every statement and analyze its polling potential got it.  We are disgusted with the shallow perspective of some elitist Republican leaders.  Democrats always circle the wagons while some elitist Republicans often start firing inside the circle. We are done with that. Please support our President and his agenda.


Deloris & John Linam
Greene County, VA

<![CDATA[We Can't Do Both At Once]]>Mon, 24 Jul 2017 17:21:59 GMThttp://gcrcgop.com/opinion/we-cant-do-both-at-onceKudos to our Board of Supervisors for noticing their error-of-omission in the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting and immediately making the necessary correction. The revised agenda has been issued and now includes the opportunity for public comment on the proposed school facilities project.  As we noted in our Spending Alert, the School Board has asked for the BoS to approve moving forward with the application for financing of the proposed renovations and improvements to the schools as presented to the BoS at the 7/11 meeting. The estimated budget for the total project is $28.16M. Given the current construction market, actual cost is likely to exceed the estimated budget. The School Board has wisely prioritized the project in phases in order to allow less urgent portions to be delayed.

The county is currently struggling to finance the White Run Reservoir with a budget estimated at $50 - $60M. This expensive project would provide water for projected growth and development that might happen. The water project is to take care of possible, future needs.  The school project is to take care of actual, current needs.  We can't do both at once.  We already have overcrowding issues at our schools that must be addressed now.  It would be simply irresponsible for our county leaders to continue their desperate attempts at financing the current scope of the water project at the expense of our schools.

Citizens should take the opportunity that the revised agenda provides to remind our representatives to exercise fiscal responsibility and budgetary restraint; and to prioritize real, current needs over possible future ones.  Please plan to attend the BoS meeting and share your concerns Tuesday (July 25th) evening.  The current board welcomes input from the public.

Keith Bourne
GCRC Local Action Committee
<![CDATA[Now Is Not the Time for Blind Trust in Anyone]]>Fri, 07 Jul 2017 19:46:58 GMThttp://gcrcgop.com/opinion/now-is-not-the-time-for-blind-trust-in-anyoneIn advance of the July 13th public meeting concerning the reservoir project, it’s important to clear some things up, and put some perspective on this matter so the citizens of Greene County take this seriously and become involved by asking questions and listening to the answers provided by the Board of Supervisors (BOS) and hired consultants.  It is our job to ask the questions; it is their job to provide the answers, no matter how complex or basic they may seem.
For starters, a reliable and safe source of water is important to the future of any community and it is important to plan for the future. There is no doubt about it.
What makes this project unique is that it will be the single most expensive public project ever in the history of Greene County, and likely the most expensive for some generations to come. This alone is why it must be done correctly, with an open-book style of reasoning, planning and communication.
Now is not the time for blind trust in anyone concerning this project.  The project is very complex and there are special interests involved for sure that cast a shadow of doubt on this project.  We should follow the facts and maintain a healthy sense of skepticism.  There is nothing wrong at all with being skeptical and holding elected officials accountable for answers and actions.
It may not be an easy task, but the BOS has one heck of a sales job to do on this.  Aside from the shaky demand projections, peripheral deals and relationships, the project is timed with school facility needs that will put the combined cost of both projects near $100 million dollars.  How Greene will afford to do both projects, is a fair question alone.
I will listen with an open mind to the case being made and expect that the BOS can genuinely provide thorough answers to the questions posed here by the public. The responses will indicate their knowledge and soundness of their plan and their willingness to accept feedback from the public.  This plan should not be a gamble on a successful outcome.
Certainly, Greene County will need water for our future.  The questions are, when will we need it and how much? What is the best plan to deliver it, and at what cost?
I hope to ask these kinds of questions, and others, with the confidence that we can receive good answers.
Please join me and others on July 13th, at 6:30 pm to listen and ask questions about this project.

Bob Young
Ruckersville, VA]]>
<![CDATA[Special Tax Districts & More Regulations Coming Our Way]]>Thu, 23 Feb 2017 19:41:26 GMThttp://gcrcgop.com/opinion/tax-districts-more-regulations-coming-our-wayPlease take a moment to review the agenda and related materials for the 2/28/2017 Greene County Board of Supervisor’s (BoS) meeting, which is held in the County Meeting Room, in the Administration Building and the public session starts at 7:30 pm. There are a couple of items that may be of particular interest. There is an information item regarding special tax districts. Special tax districts are created to fund specific projects or needs, typically infrastructure. An additional tax is levied on all properties within the district to fund the project. This is likely related to the funding for the White Run Reservoir project.

There is a resolution from the Tourist Advisory Council regarding blighted properties that requests that the BoS add conditions to the Special Use Permit (SUP) being considered for the property at Rts. 33 & 29. This resolution also requests that further regulation be considered to address blighted or abandoned properties.

Please consider these issues carefully and plan to attend the meeting or watch the live streaming online here.

GCRC Local Action Committee

For more information, please contact GCRC Vice Chairman Keith Bourne at info@gcrcgop.com​]]>
<![CDATA[The Transient Occupancy Tax: Good Governance or Influence?]]>Sun, 15 Jan 2017 19:05:39 GMThttp://gcrcgop.com/opinion/the-transient-occupancy-tax-good-governance-or-influence Greene County business leaders and entrepreneurs deserve our admiration. They have risked much to establish a viable presence in our community and reap the benefits they have created.  They are heroes among us.

With this in mind, it is interesting to hear what “good government” means to different people, even at the local level.  To some, it means being involved in any aspect of our lives with the intention of making them better or even fairer.  Welcome, the perspective of the Progressive. 

To the Conservative, it means government is confined to its basic role intended for a specific level in society.  When government is limited, the citizen is elevated and has the freedom to make their choice and produce an uncertain outcome. It is where the citizen is most free. This is the view our Founders intended, and the view that many master-minds of government have shredded and use for political influence.

There are few examples where local government is confined to its basics of health, safety, and welfare of a community.  If you look at it a bit deeper, you will find limits being stretched so ever closer to justifying anything it can stuff into a reason for its existence, all in the name our general welfare.  Local government can find a program for anything just as quickly as Washington, D.C. does.

The Virginia Republican Creed describes the basics of what we believe and forms the foundation by which good government should be based.  It is broad enough to apply to all levels of government. Its first sentence reads, “…the free enterprise system is the most productive supplier of human needs and economic justice”, and continues from there.

This first principle of economic freedom contrasts with the view that many in Greene county government believe about the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT).  Recently, a member of the Greene County Board of Supervisors stated publicly that the TOT is “good for our community” and allows for “public private partnerships”

This promotion of the TOT implies that preferred private ventures may not achieve success without the involvement of the public (government).  Does Mr. Supervisor advocate this specific tax because it’s not paid by the county resident?  If so, why would my raising the issue concern anyone?  Who cares, right? 

This issue more reminds me of the current US Federal tax code, which is more about engineering social and political outcomes than it is with raising revenue to fund the proper role of the Federal Government. There are similar parallels with the TOT in Greene County.

By local ordinance Greene county has chosen to impose a maximum of five percent tax on gross receipts generated by hotels, motels, boarding houses, travel campgrounds, and other facilities offering guest rooms rented out for continuous occupancy for fewer than 30 consecutive days. 

According to the TOT state statute, “any excess over two percent (of the TOT) shall be designated and spent solely for tourism and travel, marketing of tourism or initiatives that, as determined after consultation with the local tourism industry organizations, including representatives of lodging properties located in the county, attract travelers to the locality, increase occupancy at lodging properties, and generate tourism revenues in the locality”.

In a nutshell, forty percent of the TOT collected becomes a revenue source for the basic functions of local government. The remaining sixty percent of the TOT is earmarked for advancing or promoting Greene County’s preferred local private tourism industry.

Aside from funding the legitimate function of the Greene Co. Economic Development Authority, which does promote tourism, individual businesses are selected by influential decision makers to receive direct cash “investment” offered by the TOT.  As a matter of fact, this actually occurred in 2016 by a $150,000 matching local “grant” in cooperation with the Virginia Tourism Growth Fund.  

No other private industry in Greene County has a special government funding mechanism by which rewards are bestowed in coordination between county personnel, elected representatives, and appointed boards.

Since the TOT is paid by visitors to Greene, and sixty percent of it is set aside for private business investment, it’s no wonder why Mr. Supervisor believes the TOT is good for Greene County.  It’s one tool that can be used to demonstrate that government cares and is looking out for business.  Truth be told, it’s actually good for him.

Politically, this is a win-win for supporting representatives on the Board of Supervisors and a few interested members of a preferred industry.  Therein lies the potentially dysfunctional part of the TOT. 

But, of course, this kind of government intervention that side-steps its core function is all accepted in the name of making things better and fairer for all of us.   At least that’s what I’ve been told, and at most what’s been demonstrated.

Sometimes it’s good to just stop and ask yourself, “why”. How does all of this resemble a free market and not just government influence?

Bob Young
Ruckersville, VA
<![CDATA[Zoning by Looks - The Wrong Path]]>Fri, 02 Dec 2016 15:31:26 GMThttp://gcrcgop.com/opinion/zoning-by-looks-the-wrong-pathThe general election of 2016 is over and Greene County overwhelmingly voted for both Donald J. Trump for President of the United States, and Tom Garrett for US House of Representatives to the 5th Congressional District of Virginia, by a margin of 2:1.  Both wins are stunning by the numbers alone, drawing voter turnout in Greene County to a record 73.9% of those registered.

A hallmark of the Trump campaign centered around strengthening the economic condition of our country through federal tax reform, repatriating off-shore capital, and eliminating job-killing regulations. Even before taking office, United Technologies, the parent company to Carrier, announced that they would after all keep more than 1,000 jobs it had previously planned to move to Mexico in Indiana. This is a huge sign of things to come.

As our country prepares to experience an economic boom, how will Greene County government prepare and what queues will the Board of Supervisors take on policy and regulations that impact economic growth for us here at home?
ResolutionResolution from the August 23rd Board of Supervisors Meeting
On August 23rd, 2016, the Greene County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a Resolution of Intent to Amend Zoning Ordinances.  One amendment of particular interest, on a list of five, is “research and draft an architectural design standard district and guidelines”.   (See published Minutes of the August 23, 2016 Board of Supervisors Meeting, page 4, under "Consent Agenda", item b., & the actual Resolution, found on page 7.  Download highlighted Resolution).

According to one Planning Commissioner, the November ‘16 Planning Commission meeting held scant discussion about forming an Architectural Review Board resulting from the fifth bulleted amendment contained in the August 23rd, 2016 resolution.

This specific amendment begs this question. Is the Greene County Board of Supervisors open to adding more subjective regulations by placing aesthetic zoning ordinances on businesses by forming an Architectural Review Board?  

When pressed for confirmation on this matter, Greene County Administrator John Barkley replied, “The item in the work program referenced is a result of a request from the County's EDA” (County Economic Development Authority).   County Administrator Barkley continued to elaborate that work to establish impacts and benefits from the study would begin in the Spring of 2017, and that “any new standard or legislative action taken in the future would entail a full public process."

In a nut-shell, this is the preliminary process necessary to form an Architectural Review Board. Arriving at this conclusion was not at hard; it was logical and only needed authenticating by a straight forward response to show where this amendment may lead, and Administrator Barkley provided that.  

So, where could this lead?  Proponents of aesthetic zoning reason it to achieve a certain look in a given area or to ensure that any new development adheres to specific design standards in order to protect the natural, scenic, and historic resources of the County outlined in the Comprehensive Plan. They also use such zoning to focus on the “beauty of the community” within its jurisdiction. Of course, such regulations based on looks alone can be subjective to tastes and what looks good.  But in whose eyes do such standards reach the level of beautiful?

The Commonwealth of Virginia does not allow zoning based on looks alone, but must also be for reasons of health, safety, morals and the general welfare of the community. However, the lines can be stretched and abused by power vested in such boards.

To the Liberty-minded person, it is not the proper role of local government to enact ordinances solely based upon the subjective tastes of appointed and unaccountable government bureaucrats.  We can look to both Albemarle County and to the City of Charlottesville for examples of how such regulations have driven up the costs of doing business and infringed on property rights.

Local businesses and developers need to keep an eye on how wide the impact of this plan may become by playing a role as stakeholders this spring at the public meetings. We need to take a page from the Trump playbook by ensuring that over-burdensome and costly regulations at the local are eliminated. 

Here is suggested reading which further explains the Constitutionality of Aesthetic Zoning and its history - http://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2882&context=flr

Bob Young
Ruckersville, VA
<![CDATA[Voter Fraud?]]>Wed, 28 Sep 2016 17:59:25 GMThttp://gcrcgop.com/opinion/voter-fraudRecent news reports of voter fraud in Harrisonburg, Virginia have largely gone unreported and it is very important that we all understand some of the details.  A student at James Madison University (JMU) has confessed to voter fraud when he presented voter registration forms to the City Registrar’s Office for numerous persons that were known to be deceased.  The student was working with an organization called HarrisonburgVOTES *, an obscure organization founded by Joe Fitzgerald and two JMU students. Their mission seems to be limited to voter registration.

In order for individuals and organizations to legally conduct voter registrations drives in Virginia, they must complete training and be certified by the Virginia Dept. of Elections.  HarrisonburgVOTES was certified by the Virginia Dept of Elections, and thus was fully informed of the proper way to conduct voter registrations, and the penalties for fraud.  HarrisonburgVOTES was aware they are fully liable for employees and volunteers actions conducting voter registration drives.

Besides being founder of HarrisonburgVOTES, Mr. Fitzgerald is the PR Coordinator at the JMU College of Arts and Letters, and he is Chairman of the 6th Congressional District Democrat Committee.

It is important to understand just how high up in the Virginia Democratic Party Joe Fitzgerald is.  The state of Virginia is divided up into 11 Congressional Districts, for our 11 Representatives in the House of Congress.  For each Congressional District, there is a Democratic Committee, which in turn has a Chairman.  Each of these 11 Democratic District Chairmen serve on the Steering Committee e.g. the Board of the VA Democratic State Party.  See their State Party website, halfway down page.)

His wife, Deb Fitzgerald, is Chairman of both the Harrisonburg (City) Democratic Committee and the Harrisonburg Planning Commission. Interestingly, she also serves as the Chief Election Officer for the JMU Convocation (Convo) Center Voting Precinct in Harrisonburg. This is a recently created precinct that contains a high number of college student voters. An Election Officer is responsible for the proper and orderly voting in a local precinct. A report on the investigation was given to the City of Harrisonburg Electoral Board at their 9/12/2016 meeting by Chris Bean of the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office.  (Download the Minutes, see page 3) 

The close relationship between the confessed fraudster and Election Officers and State Democrat Party leadership cannot be ignored and is quite troubling. Few people have any idea how far this sort of corruption has crept into our system. Research shows that voter fraud charges are rarely prosecuted at the state or federal level. Given the media’s reluctance to report on such matters we must do our best to inform the voters about this corruption and make sure it doesn’t happen on our watch.

Update October 3, 2016 - because of the increased scrutiny, the HarrisonburgVOTES website and Facebook page have been suddenly taken down.  However here's a screenshot of the website's 'About' page, with a biography of Joe Fitzgerald:

Screenshot from 'About' page of HarrsionburgVOTES website
Click in box for larger image

Here are some other informative links, which haven't been removed yet:
https://www.everipedia.com/joseph-fitzgerald/ & https://www.everipedia.com/harrisonburgvotes/

Because this topic of voter fraud in Harrisonburg is so controversial and current and the direct links with the state Democratic Party leadership are so important and yet ignored by mainstream media, we will provide updates as they become available.

/Update September 2017 -  The former JMU student was sentenced to 100 days in jail for election fraud - 
http://www.whsv.com/content/news/Harrisonburg-voter-fraud-suspect-in-court-429747003.html  /

GCRC Local Action Committee

For more information, please contact GCRC Vice Chairman Keith Bourne at info@gcrcgop.com
<![CDATA[Open Local Government - Public Business and Meetings]]>Mon, 26 Sep 2016 16:02:23 GMThttp://gcrcgop.com/opinion/open-local-government-public-business-and-meetingsThere are very specific laws that address how local governments must conduct the public business of the people. All meetings are to be conducted publically, according to Virginia Code §2.2-3707  with some specific exceptions outlined in Virginia Code §2.2-3711.

Such matters of exception from the public meeting law that any County Board of Supervisors may encounter could be;
  • Personnel discussions, hiring or disciplinary actions. 
  • Acquisition and disposal of property. 
  • The protection of the privacy of individuals in personal matters not related to public business. 
  • Prospective business or industry or the expansion of an existing business or industry where no previous announcement has been made of the business' or industry's interest in locating or expanding its facilities in the community. 
  • Discussion or consideration of the investment of public funds where competition or bargaining is involved, where, if made public initially, the financial interest of the governmental unit would be adversely affected. 
  • Consultation with legal counsel and briefings by staff members or consultants pertaining to actual or probable litigation…
  • Discussion of the award of a public contract involving the expenditure of public funds, including interviews of bidders or offerors, and discussion of the terms or scope of such contract, where discussion in an open session would adversely affect the bargaining position or negotiating strategy of the public body. 
Barkley email
Closed meeting sessions have a very specific and limited purpose.  They are not to be used to plan or conduct public business not exempted by law, discuss how to conduct public meeting proceedings about tax rates or budget hearings, rehearse or role-play.  

Matters that come before the Board of Supervisors on behalf of constituents should be openly discussed in public without origination from a closed door session.  Improper use of closed meetings is an abuse of the public trust.

For lawfully exempted matters to be discussed in a closed meeting or “executive session”, a motion is required during a public meeting to enter into the closed meeting stating its purpose, the § code cited covering the exception within §2.2-3711, and the subject of the exception. 

FOIA image
The Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council is sanctioned by the Commonwealth of Virginia and publishes a pamphlet entitled, “The Freedom of Information Act and Local Government Officials” as a resource.  The pamphlet states that, “Unless a public body or public official specifically elects to exercise an exemption provided by this chapter or any other statute, every meeting shall be open to the public and all public records shall be available for inspections and copying upon request.”  The pamphlet also defines public records, the Policy of FOIA, meeting requirements, defines what a meeting is and is NOT, and covers record retention.

For any open session to continue upon conclusion to a closed session, a motion must be made to come out of closed session.  Each member of the board present during the meeting must certify if only lawful matters exempted by §2.2-3711 were discussed during the closed meeting. This certification affirms that the members followed the law while out of public view.

Bob Young
Ruckersville, VA

/* Download this article in PDF form here. */

<![CDATA[Greene County Government's Misbehavior]]>Wed, 21 Sep 2016 19:49:49 GMThttp://gcrcgop.com/opinion/greene-county-governments-misbehavior Greene County Board of Supervisors’ Misuse of Executive Session, and Their Non-Compliance with Freedom of Information Act 
Statement by Mr. McPeeks 
I live on Haney Rd, one of two roads in the Golden Hills subdivision that have not been accepted into the VDOT secondary road system. While the reasons these public roads were never accepted into the secondary road system dates back to 1991, the reason they remain unmaintained is because of the inaction of this board. We are all aware of the facts and I do not feel the need to go through them all again. I would like to point out that with the help of the Surveyor, Ray & Associates, we have found the deed that dedicates the roads to public use and hope that this ends the Board’s claim that these are private roads. 

With all that said, that is not the reason for my comments today. I would to like to make the public aware of two issues my neighbors and I have encountered while trying to overcome the Board’s reluctance to address our roads. Both of these issues pertain to Title 2.2, Chapter 37 of the Virginia Code, which is the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). 

First, is the appearance that the Board is not complying with Virginia code 2.2- 3707 by discussing items during closed-door executive sessions that are not permitted. There have been many times during our discussions with members of the Board, and particularly with Chairman Martin, that it was clear meetings were occurring and decisions being made behind closed-doors. Our suspicions appear to have been confirmed by an email obtained in our August 18, 2016 FOIA request. In an email on February 23, 2016, Mr. Barkley states that he has scheduled a “brief overview of the requests for improvements to private roads received from certain homeowners in the Golden Hills subdivision for tonight’s executive session.” If such a briefing did in fact take place, in no way does this briefing meet the requirements of Virginia Code 2.2-3711. The code specifically states “briefings by staff members pertaining to actual or probable litigation, where such briefing in open meeting would adversely affect the negotiating or litigating posture of the public body”. 

First, despite the claims from Chairman Martin, there has been no probable litigation. Even if there were pending litigation, only the advice by counsel or discussions that could affect the negotiating or litigating posture of the Board are allowed in closed-session. A briefing by the County Administrator of public business is inappropriate for a closed-session. 

Additionally, the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council, in it’s pamphlet “The Freedom of Information Act and Local Government Officials,” reminds local government officials that closed meetings “require motion stating purpose, Code cite AND subject.” The pamphlet italicizes the and for emphasis. The minutes from the February 23, 2016 Board of Supervisors meeting clearly show that Mr. Cox motioned to enter Executive Session, the code was referenced and what could loosely be interpreted as a purpose but the subjects were not. The Advisory Council makes it clear that the subjects are to be identified to the public. By not providing the subjects, the Board of Supervisors gives the perception that it is trying to hide the subjects of these discussions from the public. 

If the Board was to follow the intent of the law the briefing would be held in public and then the Board would enter into Executive Session, stating the purpose, citing the code, and the subject. The fact that the Board continually does not follow the code is concerning and raises alarm for the citizens of the county who elected this Board. 

The second subject I want to comment on today is the fitness of Mr. Barkley as the FOIA officer for this county. Virginia Code 2.2-3704.2 states that all local public bodies shall designate a FOIA officer. Mr. Frydl informed me verbally that Mr. Barkley is the County’s FOIA officer. Paragraph E of 2.2-3704.2 states that the FOIA officer shall possess specific knowledge of the provisions of Chapter 37 and be trained annually. Mr. Barkley has continually shown he does not possess the required knowledge of the Freedom of Information Act to remain the County’s FOIA officer. This is evidenced by his mishandling of the FOIA request from Mr. Rob Schilling on April 30, 2015, which led to legal action against the County and now by his mishandling of Mr. David Underwood’s February 16, 2016 FOIA request. 

In an email on February 17, 2016 Mike Nichols, of Shenandoah Technology Systems, informs Mr. Barkley that he doesn’t know how far the archive goes back and that Mr. Barkley will need to contact employees involved to have them search their own email files. Mr. Barkley’s response to Mr. Nichols was to do the best he could, which is perfectly acceptable, if Mr. Barkley intends to pursue the remaining emails by other means. However, after that Mr. Barkley only reached out to the Board and Mr. Svoboda to get additional information. The FOIA request is effective January 1, 2003 and is inclusive of the entire county; why was no attempt made for other files and emails outside of those individuals? Mr. Barkley has not been here since 2003 to know that no one else had the requested information. 

I would also like to point out Virginia Record Retention and Disposition Schedule No. GS-06 Series 000290: 
“Agreements, Bonds, and Contracts This series consists of agreements, contracts, and bonds relating to professional services and construction. This series may include but is not limited to: surety, bonds, correspondence, letters of credit, and public/private agreements.” 

It states all of these must be maintained for 5 years after completion of the project. 

In his March 10, 2016 email to me Mr. Martin stated “there were extenuating circumstances with regard to the developer that may have caused the project to languish and remain incomplete.” Additionally, Mr. Svoboda and others have stated to us the project was never completed. Considering, according to County officials, the project was never completed, we are still within that period. Therefore, the records must be retained according to state code. Mr. Barkley has only been County Administrator since 2013, so why was no effort made to access the previous Administrators' email? Either the County is not following FOIA or the Public Records Act and its corresponding schedules; either of which should be addressed by this Board. The Virginia FOIA advisory council makes it very clear that email has always been considered a public record and is subject to PRA schedules and FOIA, since its inception. 

With this in mind, I ask that the Board of Supervisors immediately remove Mr. Barkley as the County’s FOIA officer. I also think it would be appropriate for Mr. Underwood’s and my FOIA requests to be revisited after a new FOIA officer is appointed and properly trained in accordance with Paragraph E of 2.2-3704.2. Landon McPeeks Greene County, Virginia September 13, 2016 

Landon McPeeks 
Greene County, Virginia 
September 13, 2016 

The preceding statement – in its entirety – was to be read to the Greene County Board of Supervisors, during the Public Comment period of the September 13, 2016 Meeting of the Board of Supervisors. Unfortunately, Chairman Martin did not permit Mr. McPeeks to complete the full reading.  Download Mr. McPeeks' statement in a PDF form here.  

Watch Mr. McPeeks Call the Board of Supervisors to Account

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