Mount Vernon Letter: Board’s Lack of Transparency

Mount Vernon Letter: Board’s Lack of Transparency

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

This week, the newly elected Fairfax County Board of Supervisors held its first meeting. Once a month, it votes on appointments to various boards, authorities and commissions. In letters to the Gazette (one of which was published in the Nov. 24, 2014 edition) and to Board Chairman Sharon Bulova, I have criticized the board for its lack of transparency concerning the manner by which they vote upon prospective appointees. Summarizing, several days prior to each meeting, the meeting agenda is made public including the list of prospective appointees. Invariably, on the day of the meeting, board members receive a revised list of appointees that is not publicly revealed. The board then votes en masse up or down on the entire revised list. The public is only aware of the voted-upon appointees after the fact. This procedure was, again, followed this week.

This procedure violates the Virginia Code which requires all materials furnished to board members to be simultaneously made available for public inspection. Va. Code Section 2.2-3707 F. On one occasion, I compared the agenda list with the revised list and found 60 changes. In the interest of transparency, I have advocated, without success, that any changes in the appointments from the listing made public several days prior to a meeting should automatically be deferred to the next meeting. Unfortunately, our board has valued expediency over democracy and has refused to change its procedure to make it transparent.

Taxpayers are entitled to have advance notice of prospective appointments so that they can contact board members to express support or opposition. Nobody forced members of the board to serve on the board. If they do not wish to make the process transparent for their constituents, nor to spend the time at a board meeting informing the public as to each and every prospective appointee, perhaps they should step aside and allow other citizens to serve who understand the importance to democracy of transparency.

This issue is not political, it is procedural. It is just unacceptable for the board to continue to conceal from taxpayers the people they intend to appoint to boards, authorities and commissions until those appointments have already been made. Accordingly, I have decided that if the board continues to deal with prospective appointees in the same fashion at the next board meeting at which appointments are made, I will consider asking the Fairfax County Circuit Court for an injunction to compel the board to abide by Virginia law. This step would be taken with great reluctance, but, sometimes, there comes a time when citizens must do whatever is necessary to force government leaders to obey the law.

H. Jay Spiegel

Mount Vernon