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Votes

GOP Flexes Its New Muscle

Republican supervisors approve new rules of order, add 22 items to meeting agenda.

What had been a light three-item agenda for the new Board of Supervisors' first meeting became 25 items, but had the public been notified beforehand?

"What's going on is highly ... inappropriate under the old rules of order," said Chairman Scott York (I-At large) at the Jan. 5 board meeting.

Bruce Tulloch (R-Potomac) read his 17-page proposal for the new rules of order, which he said he wrote himself after talking with the new board members on an individual basis, all of whom are Republicans and include Jim Clem (Leesburg), Stephen Snow (Dulles), D.M. "Mick" Staton (Sugarland Run) and Lori Waters (Broad Run). The sixth Republican on the board, incumbent Eugene Delgaudio (Sterling), did not use his whistle or wear his orange baseball cap during the meeting, his typical attire during his last term when he considered himself the board's "whistle blower."

ADOPTING the rules of order was the board's first order of business to outline the duties of the chairman and vice-chairman and the order of business at board meetings, which now will be held on the first and third Tuesdays of the month at 9:30 a.m.

The adoption followed the election of the vice-chairman. James Burton (I-Mercer) nominated Waters, but she "respectively declined."

The vice-chairman's rules of order give more duties to the vice-chairman, which under the old rules performs those duties when the chairman is absent.

"This comes down to respect to me and all the new members," Tulloch said. "Everything was dictated to us, and therefore we had ... to take an assertive step to make sure the action of the chairman is balanced and open."

Tulloch said he found out about committee assignments and York's proposed Public Safety Committee through the press, describing York's communication with new board members as being "negligent." "I was offended quite frankly," he said.

Under the rules of order outlined in the action item, the chairman would have presided at meetings and public hearings, prepared meeting agendas, called the meetings to order and enforced the rules of order. Under Tulloch's rules, the chairman will call the meeting to order and read the agenda, while the vice-chairman will be responsible for preparing the agenda, deciding questions of order and enforcing the rules of order.

"Obviously, they were disenfranchising the voters of Loudoun County and making the vice-chairman the chairman," York said in a separate interview, adding that he believes the Republican board members had met in secret to develop the rules of order. "It was inappropriate and inexcusable. They don't want debate and discussion. They want a dictatorship. ... If they want to act like little dictators, there's nothing I can do about it."

The board adopted the rules of order with a 6-3 vote with York, Burton and Sarah "Sally" Kurtz (D-Catoctin) voting against.

"It will probably be the way we operate from here on. Seventeen pages of rules of order read to us and voted on without even a debate, I think that's unfortunate," Burton said, adding, "There will be more before the day's over. This is just step one of many actions decided like this."

THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS next appointed members of the board's standing committees and the board representatives to county and regional organizations. The proposed membership for the standing committees, as outlined in the action item, was disregarded in favor of the suggestions of Snow, Staton and Waters, all approved with 6-3 votes with York, Burton and Kurtz voting against.

Former Finance and Government Services Committee chairman Burton was removed and five of the six Republicans were placed on the former three-member committee with Delgaudio serving as chairman. York was kicked off all committees, previously recommended for the Land Use and Economic Development committees.

As for regional appointments, York was appointed to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority and Kurtz to the Human Services Policy Committee, with the Republican members appointed to the remaining 17 committees, commissions and other boards. At the county level, Burton questioned Snow's appointment to the Purcellville Urban Growth Area Policy Review Committee, since Purcellville was in his district, and in response, Waters said that Snow would be happy to discuss it with him.

York remarked that the appointments will give him more time with his family and again said, "What we have done is disenfranchised the voters of Loudoun County."

Snow interrupted, saying York was out of order, with York replying, "I'm glad we didn't go that far to not allow the chairman to speak."

The board members also gave their nominations for the Planning Commission, all of which received unanimous approval except for John D. Herbert, Kurtz's nomination for the Catoctin district who was voted down 3-6 with York, Burton and Kurtz in favor.

"I'm beginning to wonder what's happening that my district representative is being singled out," Kurtz said, adding that she had heard rumors that he would be. "I'm sure it came from somewhere ... in the campaign. A matter of trust, fair play and respect for each of us is what must happen."

The Planning Commissioners appointed to the 2004-07 term include Christine Tolle (At large), Robert Klancher (Broad Run), Lawrence Beerman (Dulles), John Elgin (Leesburg), Nancy Hsu (Mercer), Teresa Whitmore (Potomac), Helena Syska (Sterling) and Suzanne Volpe (Sugarland Run).

IN ITS NEXT action, the board set the agenda and included the new agenda items as provided by Clem, Delgaudio, Snow, Staton, Tulloch and Waters. The items proposed a staff hiring and employee travel freeze, made changes to the zoning ordinance and eliminated funding for the Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) program. The board adopted the agenda as amended with a 6-3 vote with York, Burton and Kurtz voting against.

"The six Republicans didn't have the common courtesy to provide [the items]," Burton said. "I never had a chance to study them before the meeting."

Under Tulloch's rules of order, "board members shall receive reasonable advance notice of agenda items to enable them to study the item, request and receive additional information and consult constituents."

Once the vice-chairman sets the tentative agenda, items can be added to the agenda that include emergencies "with the concurrence of the board chairman and vice-chairman," along with housekeeping and other items, as stated in the rules of order. Staff and board members can request amendments to the agenda during a meeting, but any new items will be referred to a committee, a future board meeting for action or staff for further information, as stated in the rules. However, if an item requires "immediate action, the Board of Supervisors may take action at the same meeting during which it is introduced only after suspension of the rules."

"These issues were not brought up lightly," Snow said, adding that each of the issues needed to be handled immediately or "a window of opportunity might fall through."

"I think to set up an agenda and to not be able to wait two weeks is bad business," Kurtz said. "The public will be left out if you continue with this agenda."

"To conduct business like this without the public knowing, that's not the way to go about business," Burton said, adding that he considers the new board to be "heavy-handed" on the issues. He asked that the board get copies of agenda items before the next meeting to allow for an "honest, open debate."

"At this point, the majority would like to move forward," Tulloch said. "The majority of the board has adopted a position on why they think it's right."

During proceedings, the board voted with 6-3 votes and 6-2-1 votes to suspend the rules for each of the items before taking a vote, with York, Burton and Kurtz voting against until item 19. York had to leave the meeting to attend another meeting, and according to his staff aide, did not plan on the meeting lasting as long as it did.

Burton told the board, "I can see we're going to be here all day and night." He was nearly right, since the meeting, which began at 9 a.m., concluded at 7 p.m. once 23 of the 25 items were passed and two withdrawn for administrative reasons.

"The majority of the board did what they thought was best for the constituents," Tulloch said at the close of the meeting.