In a recent post, the Sheriff of Nottingham of Prince William County put forward for debate the idea that perhaps the Board of County Supervisors should go from being a part-time post to full-time.
A Forward Thinking Solution
Prince William County is going through growing pains that involves steps that, in the view of The Sheriff, will cause some consternation among limited government advocates. The solution is to change the status of Supervisors from part-time officials to full-time public servants.
It is a discussion that needs to start now, and move quickly to enactment. With a budget of more than $1 billion, we have a group of part-timers who lack the capacity and time to actually understand how that money is being spent.
As it stands now, Prince William County is run by Melissa Peacor, and that is a very scary thought for The Sheriff.
That is an interesting discussion to engage in. (Al Alborn raised the idea earlier this year as well.) I would respectfully disagree with the Sheriff and Al on this as being the solution, though.
Two of the biggest problems on the current BOCS, Maureen Caddigan and John Jenkins, are retirees who treat this part-time post as full-time jobs. Now imagine six MORE supervisors with nothing better to do all day than figure out new and creative ways to spend our tax dollars in self-aggrandizing ways. At least now the other six are kept busy practicing law, running a business, or making a living off a federal stimulus earmark.
One commenter on the Sheriff’s blog had this idea:
better than making them full time is to allow them to meet for 15 minutes every quarter…a lot less damage done.
That is definitely at the other extreme, but makes an excellent point. Take a look at state legislatures — which ones are part-time, such as Virginia, and which ones are full-time, such as California, New York, Illinois and Massachusetts. Anyone else see a direct correlation between how often lawmakers meet and the amount of trouble they cause for their states (and ultimately their fiscal position)?
My solution? Eliminate the 2 p.m. afternoon BOCS sessions and only hold BOCS meetings in the evenings. If that necessitates meeting once a week instead of once every two weeks, then so be it. Even then, I do not think that the BOCS needs to meet that frequently except perhaps in budget season. This way, ALL PWC residents can participate, either as spectators or as members of the BOCS. How many residents today are locked out of their local government because they can’t attend an afternoon BOCS meeting let alone watch it on cable access or online because they have a standard 9-to-5 job? I say no more “hiding in broad daylight.”
Secondly, the BOCS should institute the position of County Ombudsman (or an Inspector General as Alborn suggests) who will investigate and address concerns raised both by taxpayers and county employees. King County in Washington State has such a post that could be used as a model for PWC.
Office of Citizen Complaints
The Ombudsman’s Office manages citizen complaints concerning King County government agencies. We also investigate allegations regarding violations of the Employee Code of Ethics, and reports of improper governmental action and retaliation filed under the Whistleblower Protection Act.
For more information about the types of complaints we investigate and our jurisdiction, please visit the links listed on the menu bar to the left. In addition, you may contact us via e-mail, phone, or visit our office to speak with an Ombudsman staff person.
To promote public confidence in King County government by responding to citizen complaints in an impartial, efficient and timely manner, and to contribute to the improved operation of County government by making recommendations based upon the results of complaint investigations.
Who We Are
The Office of Citizen Complaints — Ombudsman was created by the voters of King County in the County Home Rule Charter of 1968, and operates as an independent office within the legislative branch of the King County government.
What We Do
The Office of Citizen Complaints — Ombudsman is authorized, by King County Code (KCC) 2.52, to investigate complaints regarding administrative conduct by King County agencies, and to publish recommendations for change based on the results of investigations. In addition, the Ombudsman’s Office investigates possible violations of the King County Employee Code of Ethics (KCC 3.04), and reports of improper governmental action and retaliation under the Whistleblower Protection Code (KCC 3.42).
Finally, a new County Executive from outside PWC must be hired. This new individual should be tasked with performing a top-to-bottom review of county government and review past practices — including but not limited to budgetary, financial and administrative — and deliver a report to the BOCS that puts forward recommendations to increase efficiencies and save taxpayer money. I never had confidence that Melissa Peacor was the right person for this job and recent events have only confirmed that. If this Board will not fire her, then this Board needs to be fired in 2015 and replaced with one that will. (While they’re at it, they should look into hiring a new County Attorney as well.) Peacor only gets away with her behavior because the Board members let her. They all have full-time staffers that could (and should) be keeping their eyes on her and the rest of county government.
These are the things that must be done in order to begin reforming Prince William County. We are the second largest county in Virginia and one of the ten wealthiest counties in America. It is time we started to act like it instead of some corrupt backwater county if we want to share in the types of economic growth that Loudoun County is reaping from the hi-tech sector and Stafford County is receiving from the defense industry.