Ethics Package Passes

Ethics Package Passes

Board approves Code of Ethics and disclosure laws at Tuesday meeting.

Following two hours of debate and amendments, the Board of Supervisors approved a Code of Ethics and disclosure law package that was proposed by Supervisor Lori Waters (R-Broad Run) and Chairman Scott K. York (I-At large). Supervisors approved the Code of Ethics 6-2-1 with Supervisors Stephen Snow (R-Dulles) and Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) opposing. The disclosure laws were passed 5-2-1-1 with Supervisors Mick Staton (R-Sugarland Run) and Delgaudio opposing and Snow abstaining. Supervisor Jim Clem (R-Leesburg) was absent for both votes.

The package was put together last week to try and gain back the trust of Loudoun citizens following a series of published stories in a local newspaper last month calling into question some county officials' close relationship with developers who had active land-use applications with the county.

"I felt that it was important to bring forward an overall package to address some of the issues that, while not illegal, would provide more disclosure and a better record as we go forward," Waters said.

The original package proposed by Waters and York built on the formal Code of Ethics and Standards that was proposed by Supervisor Jim Burton (I-Blue Ridge) in 2005. When Burton proposed the package it was only signed by five members of the board: Supervisors Sally Kurtz (D-Catoctin), Clem, Waters, York and Burton.

AT TUESDAY'S MEETING, Supervisor Bruce E. Tulloch (R-Potomac) said he did not sign the 2005 package because it was not created by the board as a whole.

"I had a problem signing it three years ago because one board member laid it on the table and said this is it," he said. "I have no problem with what is going on now because this is the board's work."

Supervisor Mick Staton (R-Sugarland Run) said it took more than signing a piece of paper to make someone ethical, but did vote in favor of the Code of Ethics.

"If you are concerned about the public trust, if you are concerned about maintaining the trust of the people you need to lead by doing," he said. "No piece of paper that anyone signs is going to make up for that."

STATON, ON behalf of Clem, who had to leave the meeting early, put forward a separate Code of Ethics, the same code used in Spotsylvania County, Va., for the board to adopt. Snow (R-Dulles) said the Spotsylvania document was the only one that he would sign, which he did after it was rejected by the rest of the board.

"You all can play gotcha politics," he said. But this is a good document. It has been vetted by Spotsylvania and has been gone over by their lawyers."

Delgaudio (R-Sterling) opposed the Code of Ethics and the disclosure law package proposed by Waters and York, questioning the legitimacy of the documents.

"I think we should have passed this by an attorney first because every page is filled with illegalities," he said.

The Sterling supervisor poked fun at the issue and held a "raid" early Tuesday morning on the Supervisors' snack supplies, handing out peanuts to people as they arrived at the meeting.

Delgaudio also put forth his own ethics package, asking the board to vote on 15 different points, including removing Supervisors' and their staffs' salaries and prohibiting Supervisors from accepting speaking engagements outside of Loudoun. The only one of Delgaudio's motions that passed was prohibiting Supervisors from taking money for speaking engagements, an act that is already illegal under the state's Conflict of Interest Act.

AMONG THE CHANGES to the Waters-York package was the loss of half of the district funds for a Supervisor who violated the Code of Ethics. Each Supervisor's district funds, which total more than $80,000, go toward paying the salaries of aides and supporting constituents' needs.

"The reduction of district funds hurts not the board member, but his or her constituents," Tulloch, who proposed the amendment, said. "Such a provision is heavy-handed and unnecessary."

Under another Tulloch proposed amendment, board members are required to disclose in writing all meetings they have about land development applications, including those with homeowners' associations, citizens or other special interest groups.

The board voted to table Waters' third proposal, which would require the taping of all of the board's closed sessions, over questions of legality. County Attorney Jack Roberts was asked by the board to look into whether taping was allowed in the commonwealth, which jurisdictions tape their closed sessions, who would have access to the tapes and whether the tapes could be used against the board or the county during legal proceedings.