Transparency News, 9/22/2022


September 22, 2022

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state & local news stories

"He asked the board last month to avoid mid-week meetings because, earlier this year, he missed many Bible lessons because budget work sessions seemed to fall on every Wednesday. "

The General Assembly won't be able to move into its new home next to Capitol Square until after its legislative session next winter. The new assembly building, part of a $300 million package of capital projects at the heart of Virginia's seat of government in Richmond, cannot be completed as scheduled this fall because supply-chain delays have prevented the timely delivery of critical equipment, legislative officials said Wednesday. The building will house offices for all 140 legislators – 100 in the House and 40 in the Senate – as well as rooms for committee and subcommittee meetings. It also will house legislative agencies that operate year round, and provide more amenities for the public to make it easier to observe the legislative process.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

After past redistricting cycles, the number of Virginia General Assembly members having to switch districts was kept to a minimum because legislators were allowed to draw careful lines around each other’s homes to avoid doing damage to incumbents. That wasn’t the case last year, when experts appointed by the Supreme Court of Virginia effectively reset the state’s legislative maps with little regard for keeping incumbents comfortably installed in conflict-free seats. That means an unusually high number of legislators are facing the prospect of moving to position themselves for the next election cycle. Those maps are also drawing new attention to a little-known provision in the Virginia Constitution that says any delegate or senator who moves out of their current district to run in a new one automatically forfeits the office they hold. But legislators also have to prove their residency in the new districts in order to qualify as valid candidates, a process that takes place long before the current legislative terms are over. The General Assembly’s two clerks, who oversee the legislature’s administrative side, keep lawmakers’ home mailing addresses on file. But there’s nothing requiring lawmakers to notify the clerks when they move. And the lists kept by the clerks aren’t made public. “It’s considered a personnel record,” said House Clerk G. Paul Nardo.
Virginia Mercury

Elected officials often face difficult choices, but King George County Supervisor T.C. Collins presented a dilemma not usually heard in government discussions. “I don’t think it’s fair to make me have to choose between Jesus and this board,” he said during Tuesday’s board meeting. A former State Police officer who joined the board in January, Collins has mentioned that he attends Bible study on Wednesday nights. He asked the board last month to avoid mid-week meetings because, earlier this year, he missed many Bible lessons because budget work sessions seemed to fall on every Wednesday. When county officials this week discussed a time they might gather to go over possible changes to tax ordinances, the majority selected the best option as Wednesday, Oct. 4. Collins wouldn’t accept that there weren’t other days available and was told three times by Chairman Jeff Stonehill—who apologized for the scheduling conflict—that Oct. 4 was the date most people preferred. Collins called it ironic, told fellow members “you’re basically excluding me from this work session” and wondered why anyone would even consider holding a meeting on a Wednesday when he’s made it clear he’s not available. “I understand, but we all make sacrifices,” Supervisor Cathy Binder said. “My daughter played a basketball game tonight and I’m here at this board meeting.”
The Free Lance-Star

A motion to approve meeting minutes, typically a routine matter, resulted in a contentious discussion Monday after Parksley Councilwoman Carol Matthews asked that the July council meeting minutes be amended to include the fact she had stated the council had gone into executive session improperly. The session apparently was called to discuss actions of her spouse, who also serves on Town Council, according to the discussion. Matthews said state law says if a member of the public body asks to have a point of order included in the minutes, it is to be done. Councilman Ricky Taylor said Matthews’ statement was made “while we were in executive session” and therefore should not be included in the minutes.
Eastern Shore Post

stories of national interest

When three council members in Georgetown, Delaware, decided to reissue and deliver a voided $24,750 check to a museum that flies a Confederate flag, their actions constituted a “secret meeting” in violation of state law, the Attorney General’s Office has ruled. “A quorum of three councilmembers, through serial calls and meetings, discussed and took Council action to issue public funds outside of public view,” wrote Deputy Attorney General Dorey L. Cole when siding with the Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice. The alliance filed the Freedom of Information Act complaint about the actions in August by  Councilmembers Angela Townsend, Sue Barlow and Penuel Barrett.

editorials & columns

"Twigg and his three cohorts shut down opposing voices, insult three of the board members by regularly responding to their requests to speak with 'hurry up' or 'make it quick,' and frequently talk over them."

Spotsylvania School Board Chair Kirk Twigg has openly and without apology shut down democracy in Spotsylvania’s school system. He’s hired his good buddy Mark Taylor, paid him an exorbitant guaranteed salary that will handcuff the county for years, and hired an extremist Republican operative—Jon Russell—to whitewash the educational disaster that’s coming. This trio now has a death grip on school leadership. Twigg is unwilling, or unable, to speak intelligently—indeed, at all—about his plans for the school system. He won’t respond to many of his constituents, to fellow board members, or to the press. And he has turned School Board meetings into a dysfunctional three-ring circus, where Twigg and his three cohorts shut down opposing voices, insult three of the board members by regularly responding to their requests to speak with “hurry up” or “make it quick,” and frequently talk over them. The Old South—and all the corruption associated with it—is alive and well in Spotsylvania. Don’t take our word that Twigg is acting antidemocratically. Take the word of Sheriff Roger Harris of Spotsylvania. Talking to NBC4 in Washington, Harris said of his decision to no longer provide security at School Board meetings.
The Free Lance-Star