Jenkins Readies A Smackdown On Staff Over New County Logo

Prince William County Neabsco Dist. Supervisor John Jenkins has readied a resolution calling for discontinuing action and expenditure of funds by county staff on the atrocious new county logo.  Jenkins’ resolution will be considered at the next PW BOCS meeting on Tue., June 4.

For all those hoping the issue will go away and they can move on from this debacle, they are going to be very disappointed.  Jenkins is doing the county a great service by forcing his fellow Board members to go on the record on this.

I just hope that the supervisors ask staff in public the questions that need to be answered including who signed off on this logo, who selected the Michigan firm that designed it, who knew that this decision was made way back in January, and why wasn’t the Board notified as to the extent that county staff intended to use the logo?

blockheads

PWC Staff Rubbing New Logo In Jenkins’ Face?

Neabsco Supervisor John Jenkins has been at the forefront in the county board’s disdain for the new county logo and the way that staff apparently moved forward on this without board approval.  Now, the county’s Facebook page has as its header a Memorial Day tribute in which Jenkins is pictured.  The county’s photo is now the blockhead logo.

So, is county staff purposely rubbing the new logo in Jenkins’ face over his opposition to it?

You decide…

PWC sticking it to Jenkins

PWC Cmte. of 100 Discussion on County Taxes and Role of Government

PWC 100 Wednesday, February 20, 2013 Program

Flat or Higher Taxes: Which is Best for Prince William?

Moderator

Tara Slate Donaldson, Editor, Gainesville Times (BIO)

Panelists

The Honorable Wally Covington, Brentsville District Supervisor (BIO)
The Honorable John Jenkins, Neabsco District Supervisor (BIO)
Dr. Babur Lateef, former Candidate for the Office of BOCS Chairman (BIO)
Mr. Jim Riley, Columnist for Prince William Today; Editor, Virginia Virtucon Blog (BIO)

Social 6:30 p.m.
Dinner 7:00 p.m
Program 7:45 p.m.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Westminster at Lake Ridge
Multi-Purpose Room
12191 Clipper Drive
Lake Ridge, Virginia

Directions to the Multi-Purpose Room at Westminster
Enter the building at the main level and either walk down the circular staircase or take the elevator.
Parking is available in the unreserved parking spaces.

Make your dinner reservations today for the February 20 program. The cost is $25 members and $30 for non–members.

Reservations (or cancellations) must be made by 12:00 pm February 18.

There is no charge, if you wish to attend the program only at 7:45 p.m.

Inclement Weather Policy

Our meeting cancellation policy follows that of the Prince William County Public School System. If inclement weather causes cancellation of classes, our program is canceled. If after-school activities are canceled, our program is also canceled. To check on school closings, call 703-791-2776 (Select #3).

Should snow or ice require cancellation of the Forum on February 20th, it will be rescheduled for the following Monday, February 25th.

The Turkeys Of PWC

DC Councilman / fmr. Mayor Marion Barry is being looked at for giving away $40,000 worth of turkeys to constituents every year.  Many people are stating that this is blatant vote buying (although reports are that you need a valid photo ID in order to get a turkey from Barry, just not to vote for him.)  Gee, something like that would never happen in Prince William County, would it?  Unfortunately, it has.

So, what are some of PWC’s turkeys?  There’s the Rainbow Therapeutic Equestrian Center (Wally Covington), which is what helped build critical mass for abolishing supervisors’ slush funds.  There’s the Hylton Performing Arts Center (Covington and Maureen Caddigan).  There’s the National Museum of the Marine Corps commemorative bricks (Caddigan and John Jenkins).  And those are just the ones off the top of my head.  I want to once again commend BVBL, The Sheriff of Nottingham of Primce William County, The Derecho and Al Alborn for their excellent work this year in tackling county government issues on behalf of PWC taxpayers.  They deserve a great amount of credit for helping to create the public pressure necessary to finally do away with the slush funds (and I am pleased to see they are continuing the effort against the carry-over budget process.)

There is one big difference between Barry’s turkeys and Jenkins’, Caddigan’s, and Covington’s turkeys.  Barry’s were funded at least in part by a firm founded by Jeffrey Thompson, who is under federal investigation for his role in conjunction with DC Mayor Vincent Gray’s campaign.  Caddigan, Covington, and Jenkins used taxpayer funds in their vote buying schemes.  I’ll leave it to you to decide which is worse in your opinion.

PWC Supervisors Stonewall Public On Police Chief Search

Shouldn’t the first thing about Prince William County’s search for a new top law enforcement officer be that it conforms with the law?  Sadly, that is apparently not even a consideration for 7 of the 8 sitting supervisors with Gainesville Supervisor Pete Candland being the lone exception.

PWC blogger Al Alborn made what he thought was a simple request of his supervisor, Marty Nohe, asking him who the Board had appointed to the citizens panel that was formed to help with the search for a new police chief.  Before he knew it, his friendly email to his longtime supervisor was being treated like a formal Freedom of Information Act request and the county attorney’s office had become involved.  Needless to say, Mr. Alborn was given the runaround.  He, however, was persistent and was not about to take “no” for an answer.  Alborn contested the county’s interpretation of the law which they relied upon for the denial.

Typically, appointments to boards and commissions take place during the open portion of a BOCS meeting and the members of such bodies are publicly disclosed – not only at the time of appointment and included in the meeting minutes, but also listed on the county website (as when I served as the At-Large Representative on Prince William County’s Housing Board and was listed on its webpage.)

Of course there are instances allowed by Virginia law that permit bodies to go into executive (a.k.a. closed) session, but there is no provision in Virginia law to keep secret the members of a public body.  Let’s take a quick look at some basic provisions of the Virginia Open Meetings Law.

An Exception: Closed Meetings or Sessions

The general rule is that all meetings of public bodies must be open to the public. If a public body wants to hold a closed or “executive” session, it must identify a specific statutory exemption. Under Virginia FOIA, a public body may hold a closed session when it is dealing with one of forty-four subject-area exemptions found in Va. Code § 2.2-3711. If a governing body is dealing with one of these enumerated subject areas, then it may hold a closed session, but it must also meet the following procedural requirements:

  • The public body must affirmatively vote during an open meeting on a motion that
  1. identifies the subject matter of the closed meeting;
  2. states the purpose of the closed meeting; and
  3. makes explicit reference to the statutory exemption relied on to close the meeting.
  • At the end of the closed meeting, the public body must reconvene in an open meeting and take a vote certifying that that they discussed only exempt subject matters identified in the previous motion.
  • Decisions made in a closed meeting do not become official until the public body reconvenes in an open meeting following the proper procedure, reasonably identifies the substance of the decision, and takes a recorded vote on the decision agreed to in the closed meeting. Va Code § 2.2-3711(B). Any and all votes taken to authorize the transaction of any public business must be taken and recorded in an open meeting. Va. Code § 2.2-3710(A).

Public bodies are not required to record minutes for closed meetings.

For more information on the exemptions to the Virginia open-meetings requirements, see the Access to Public Meetings Guide and the Open Government Guide: Virginia.

In other words, while this body can hold closed meetings, it must still have at least a public opening and closing.  In order to do that, however, the public would have to know who was on the panel as well as when and where they were meeting.  (The PWC Board has shown no regard for Virginia’s Open Meetings Law, so why should we expect them to start now with a creation of their own?)

According to Potomac Local:

[Prince William County Chairman Corey] Stewart was not in favor of releasing the names of anyone on the interview panel keeping with concern aired by county officials that if the names get out, those on the panel, and their decision, may be unduly influenced by friends and neighbors.

Is that a legitimate concern?  I’ll let you decide that for yourselves.  (I have my own opinion that I will share at some point.)  It is not, however, a legal justification.  Similar non sequitur responses have been given by other supervisors including John Jenkins and Frank Principi.

All of this raises the simple question — why?  Speculation has abounded by commenters on the Sheriff of Nottingham in PWC’s blog with people claiming that this panel is being kept secret because one or more of the appointees may be controversial.  The Derecho also has a nice summary of the proceedings to date.

All I know is that for the past six months or so, nearly every time the PWC Board could make a wrong decision, they either did so or were dragged kicking and screaming into making the right one.  (Is someone feeding these people lead paint chips for snacks during meetings or something?)

This decision is too important to the future of the county for it to be made in such a secretive manner.  I have long expressed my frustration with former Chief Deane (as well as with former County Exec. Craig Gerhart) and advocated for wide-open national searches to be conducted in order to find top-notch people who can guide Virginia’s second largest county and one of America’s top ten wealthiest ones.  We did not get that with the selection of Melissa Peacor as County Executive who was promoted from within and merely compounded the problems wrought by her predecessor.  We certainly cannot afford for the same thing to happen in this instance.

“Let Them Eat Steak…”

I had to get this one in before Ash Wednesday given tomorrow is a meat-free day for observant Catholics such as myself.

From the WashPo:

Pr. William supervisors dip into discretionary funds for steak dinner

It is unbelievable that after the recent bad publicity supervisors’ discretionary funds received, which even the WashPo eventually picked up on, that they couldn’t see this headline coming as sensationalistic and somewhat misleading as it is.  The Prince William Committee of 100 even had an entire forum dedicated to this practice just this month.

I have nothing against charitable contributions – when they come out of one’s own pocket. I do have a problem with those who use the public till for it like this.  The Prince William Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington is a worthy organization and I’m sure this is a great fundraiser for it, but we do not elect our Board of Supervisors to pick and choose which charities should receive donations in the form of our tax dollars.  As I’ve said before:

I think many of us would personally be favorably predisposed towards such charities, but this is wrong for our supervisors to be using tax dollars to make these contributions. They can give personally. They can host fundraisers for these charities to get residents to voluntarily donate to them. It is time to put this practice to an end.

Let these people put their OWN money where their mouths are once and for all.

Pr. William BOCS Directs Staff To Notify Them Of Health Care Law’s Unfunded Mandates

This is a completely common sense approach that should have been approved by a unanimous vote.

With a vote of 6-2, Prince William supervisors Tuesday passed a resolution that directs staff to find out how much new federal health care regulations will cost the county.

The resolution also requires staff to report these costs to the board and to alert state and federal authorities if there’s a problem—that is, if the regulations amount to unfunded mandates that will require supervisors to raise taxes or cut essential services.

Supervisors John Jenkins, D-Neabsco, and Frank Principi, D-Woodbridge, voted against the measure

So, apparently Frank Principi and John Jenkins aren’t concerned about unfunded mandates that DemoCare may place upon Prince William County and its residents simply because they each have a “D” after their names.  The resolution that passed does not opt out of the federal health care plan and does not reference or take a stand on Virginia’s lawsuit contesting the constitutionality of the new health care law.  Furthermore, the county attorney provided an opinion that the resolution as passed was lawful and did not constitute a challenge to federal law.  Is it too much to ask of these two supervisors that the county’s taxpayers be protected?

Now, their excuse for voting against this resolution is that they couldn’t amend it to establish a committee that would study the issue (that is nothing more than a cop-out and a delaying tactic) or issue a directive for staff to research and report on any tax-saving benefits from the health care law.  Assuming that there is even any tax-saving benefits to the county from the law, you would think that they would at least want to know what costs or unfunded mandates may exist.

Principi and Jenkins are playing pure politics with our tax dollars, but that should come as no surprise to anyone. After all, Principi was hired in 2008 by The Greater Prince William Community Health Center in his capacity as a professional crisis manager to wind down and close the facility, but decided that he would instead seek to keep the health center open, thus permanently employing himself as the facility’s executive director. His close political ally, U.S. Rep. Gerry “Hit and Run” Connolly, then used his position to earmark $1.5 million in federal stimulus dollars to the center thus ensuring that Principi was permanently employed. Never mind that the Prince William Area Free Clinic has been established longer, serves more patients, could have used the federal stimulus funds to expand its hours of operation to meet patients’ needs, and would have been the more logical recipient of the funds.

There was no need for Principi and Jenkins to be partisan on this issue and they each should be ashamed for their roles in trying to cover up any unfunded mandates that the taxpayers of Prince William County may be saddled with by the new health care law.