To the Editor:
I have grown frustrated with the lack of transparency of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors concerning the manner by which they vote upon prospective appointees to the various county boards, authorities and commissions. I have written Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova a number of times addressing my concerns but have made no progress toward improving transparency. In order to explain my concerns it is important to first explain the procedure the Board of Supervisors follows.
The Board of Supervisors meetings are held on Tuesdays. On the Fairfax County website, the agenda for each meeting is typically provided the Friday prior to the next Board of Supervisors meeting. Typically, the last Board of Supervisors meeting in a month includes a portion devoted to appointments. The published agenda lists all of the prospective appointments. Sometimes as many as 100 appointments are listed.
At the Board of Supervisors meeting, when it is time to vote upon the appointments, they are not taken up individually. Rather, they are voted upon en masse. Usually, there are departures from the listing of prospective appointees published on the Fairfax County website. As such, when it is time to consider appointments, Chairman Bulova asks the board members if they have received the "final list" of appointments. The board members answer that they have, and then Vice-Chairman Penny Gross makes a motion to approve all of the prospective appointees in a single vote. After the motion has been seconded, Chairman Bulova asks board members if they have any further changes to this "final list." Board members provide the changes and then the Board of Supervisors typically votes to approve all the nominations.
The problem with this procedure is that the Board of Supervisors does not give the public notice of the so-called "final list" prior to the vote. This violates Virginia law. Virginia Code Section 2.2-3707F. states the following:
"At least one copy of all agenda packets and, unless exempt,
all materials furnished to members of a public body for a meeting
shall be made available for public inspection at the same time such
documents are furnished to the members of the public body."
In my opinion, any deviations from the list of appointees published on the Fairfax County website should be deferred to the next Board of Supervisors meeting at which appointments are considered.
Additionally, Virginia Code Section 2.2-3707F. does not go far enough. I believe the public should have at least 10 days notice of all prospective appointments so that members of the public will have sufficient time to express their support or opposition to a prospective appointee. Unfortunately, the Board of Supervisors values efficiency over transparency and, in some cases, seems to believe it is more important to fill an empty seat with a warm body than it is to leave that seat vacant until such time as an appropriate qualified appointee is identified. The Board of Supervisors could give greater notice without any need to amend the law. I hope they do.
The time is long overdue for the Board of Supervisors, which works for us, to be transparent with us and accountable to us.