Groups Pursue Legal Action

Groups Pursue Legal Action

In light of the Town Council's approval of the regulated day-labor site, legal organizations and Loudoun County supervisors have begun the process of pursuing potential legal action against the town.

Judicial Watch, a national watchdog group based in Washington, D.C., threatened litigation at the Planning Commission level of public hearings, stating it would sue if the council approved the site.

In more than one letter sent to the town, the public-interest organization stated by approving the site the town would be violating federal law by assisting undocumented citizens.

In a July letter Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton said the organization would pursue litigation against town officials "in court as an illegal use of taxpayer funds and will seek declaratory and injunctive relief, attorney fees, costs and any other relief to which they are entitled."

During the council's Aug. 16 hearing, Fitton addressed the council saying he represented "concerned Herndon citizens who adamantly oppose this proposed use of taxpayer monies for illegal purposes."

Basing part of its legal argument on its interpretation of federal law, Fitton read Judicial Watch's position of where the town would be in violation if a site was approved.

"It is illegal to encourage or induce an alien to come to, enter, or reside in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such coming to, entry, or residence is or will be in violation of law," he said. "It is illegal to aid or abet the commission of such acts."

After learning of the council's decision to approve a site, Fitton said the group would begin the steps of filing a suit against the town. The process could take several months to reach the federal court in Alexandria, he said.

"The Town Council just refused to see legal reason," he said a day after the decision. "They did not adequately invest into their legal rights and responsibilities."

After Fitton concluded his speech Aug. 16, Council Member Steven Mitchell responded.

"I take that as a personal threat against me as a public official," Mitchell said to Fitton.

Council Member Dennis Husch also expressed his dissatisfaction with Fitton's presence. Asking if Judicial Watch notified Fairfax County officials about its intent to sue, Husch clarified money would be coming from the county, not the town.

"Mr. Fitton, I would have expected you to get your facts straight," he said. Husch then asked Fitton to identify the "concerned citizens" the group represented, which Fitton said at the time he could not do.

"The law-enforcement options are what they ought to be pursuing instead of taxpayer resources," Fitton said in response to council's decision. The names of the concerned residents would be included in the lawsuit, he said.

FOLLOWING THE ANNOUNCEMENT of the council's decision, Loudoun County Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) sent a letter to Kirby Bowers, Loudoun County administrator and Jack Roberts, Loudoun County attorney. In an e-mail newsletter, also sent to the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, Delgaudio prefaced his letter by saying the direction of the board should be obtained on "responding to the Herndon Town Council vote to place an illegal alien joe [sic] center on a parcel of land in Loudoun County."

In his letter he referred to his attendance, along with Supervisors Stephen Snow (R-Dulles) and Mick Staton (R-Sugarland Run), at the Aug. 16 hearing as a way of showing council members he did not want any action to be taken without the board's involvement or input.

"Based on information at the public hearing, it is clear the Fairfax Board of Supervisors, the applicant and the Herndon Town Council all consider Loudoun's interests to be secondary to pushing this through," he said in his letter. "I ask that the Board of Supervisors of Loudoun be polled formally on the question of immediate legal action to protect the interests of Loudoun County and not surrender the rights of Loudoun citizens in the Dulles District."

Snow also issued a letter stating as the representative of the residents that directly border the site, he was not satisfied with the council's decision.

"The citizens of the Oak Hill Precinct in the Dulles District are adamant that this proposed use will cause an immediate and adverse impact upon their quality of life, safety and property," he said in the letter.

Requesting the decision of council immediately be placed on hold, Snow asked that Loudoun County have time to "resolve the zoning and any other legislative issues."

Like Delgaudio, Snow also asked that each member of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors be polled formally on the "question of immediate legal action to protect the interests of Loudoun County."

BECAUSE HALF of the land that holds the former Herndon Police Station is in Loudoun County, Loudoun officials feel the town should have asked for a special zoning exception.

But, the site plan that accompanied the application shows the regulated site would operate entirely from Town of Herndon property. The only portion of land that falls in Loudoun County is Rock Hill Road, which was a proposed entrance and exit point for the site.

In the event Loudoun County zoning officials prohibit the use of the road for employers, Elizabeth Gilleran, senior planner for the town, said the site would be modified. The new entrance and exit point would be on Sterling Road, which is within Herndon's town limits.

A day after learning about the approval of the site, Bowers released a statement claiming a "portion of this property is in Loudoun County," referring to the approved site.

"We are requesting that the Town of Herndon provide us with a complete package of materials on the conditional-use permit," he said in the letter. "Upon receiving the materials from Herndon, I will forward the information to the Zoning Administrator for review and a formal determination as to compliance with the Loudoun County Zoning Ordinance."

Bowers estimated a determination would be made within "one to two weeks after we receive the materials from Herndon."

As of Tuesday, Aug. 23, Henry Bibber, director of community development, said he had sent the requested materials to the necessary Loudoun officials.

"It strikes me as somewhat odd that [Loudoun County officials] are now saying we can't use the land," said Mayor Michael O'Reilly.

When the town first proposed using the land for the Herndon Police Station, Loudoun County officials requested they use the entrance at Rock Hill Road to get to the Public Works building and the station said O'Reilly. Initially the town had proposed to use the Sterling Road, or Route 606, entrance point.

Now Loudoun officials are saying that the site cannot use any part of the county's land, including Rock Hill Road and attached easement into the driveway.

"Estimates show that there would be about 10 vehicles an hour on their property over the course of five hours," he said about the regulated day-labor traffic estimates. "I would suggest that over the course of the day, they have more traffic on that road now."

The town plans to work in cooperation with Loudoun County, and will apply for the necessary permits that are needed to use the small portion of the road and driveway, O'Reilly said.

"It will be difficult for me to understand how using this access way less than it's being used now would be denied," he said, adding the site can operate without using the road.

"I sincerely hope that the elected officials in all jurisdictions involved," he said, "will rise above any threats and work in cooperation to try and help make this better."