Supervisors meet


The code contains standards such as “recognize the public’s right to know the public’s business,” “carefully guard against conflict of interest or its appearance,” and “be a good listener, carefully considering all opinions and points of view.”

But when it came time to approve the document, things got tricky.

County Attorney Fred Payne made revisions to the code before the meeting, most notably changing language that would have had supervisors “adhering” to the performance standards.  Now they will “aspire” to them.

“This is what I would call an aspirational document,” Payne said.  “This is the way we think the world ought to be.  It does not have any legal significance in that if you do something counter to this it doesn’t mean you will be removed from office, or you’re going to jail, or anything like that.”  He went on to say, “I’d be just as happy if you didn’t have this document because it does allow people to spin what you say.”

Explaining the reasoning behind the code, Chairperson Mozell Booker said that during the Board’s January retreat, “We felt like we were losing somewhat of the trust and confidence of the public, and we wanted to make sure that the public understood that we recognized that and that we wanted to put something in place.  All of us try to do these kinds of things, but when you put it in writing and you put it before you, it takes on a different kind of commitment.”

“You can’t change the integrity, basically, of an individual by putting it on a piece of paper,” said Supervisor Don Weaver.  Noting that what constitutes “good ethics” to one person may be “bad ethics” to another, he asked, “Who’s to determine whose ethics are right?… I think it’s just a can of worms.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever worked anywhere that I did not have some code of conduct,” Booker countered.  “We went to the retreat; we said we wanted to do this.”

“There have been counties that have enacted something on the fly and then they’ve rescinded it after they ran into some legal questions – in other words, accusations – things like that,” Supervisor Bob Ullenbruch said.  “And it turned into more of a problem than it was.”  Speaking of the document’s legal and enforceable standing, he said, “This doesn’t mean anything.”

“That’s like saying the Ten Commandments mean nothing,” Supervisor Tony O’Brien said.  “Nobody’s going to force [them] over you.”

“At the end of the day, we’re arguing over something that has no standing whatsoever,” Ullenbruch said.

“What we’re trying to do is send a message to ourselves and to the public that this is the way we intend to behave,” O’Brien replied.  “Are you going to be a good listener?  Are you going to consider all points of view?  Are you going to be informed when you come to a meeting?  Are you going to work in partnership with folks?  Are you going to guard against conflicts of interest?  These are not complicated things to do.  It shouldn’t be difficult for any of us to put our name to it.”

Pointing to the part of the code that mentions involving citizens in the decision-making process, Payne cautioned supervisors about the potential for citizens to come in and complain that their opinions weren’t sought.

Agreeing, County Administrator Steve Nichols predicted that where there is a code of ethics, there will be people who use it against the supervisors when they do something the citizens don’t like.  And that is why they changed the “tenor” of the code to be aspirational, he said.

When Supervisor Mike Sheridan asked Payne for his opinion on whether supervisors should approve the code, Payne replied that he had no problem if it was clearly understood and worded as an aspirational document.  Otherwise, he thought it was a bad idea.  “Nobody can challenge your action based on your ethics,” he stated.  “They can challenge your actions based on the rules of law.”

“The problem with this is we all have a different opinion sitting here,” said Ullenbruch, “so it’s obviously not a consensus.  And when you pass a resolution it should be a consensus of the Board.”  Payne clarified the technical aspect of Ullenbruch’s comment by stating that resolutions do not have to be unanimous.

“This document [is like] sitting down with a team and writing out your list of goals,” Sheridan commented.  “This is no more than a list of goals for us to accomplish, and a standard that we hold ourselves to.”

On that note, Booker took a vote.  She, Sheridan, and O’Brien supported the resolution, which passed 3-2.

In less controversial matters, the Board voted unanimously to reject the proposal from Aqua Virginia to construct a water system at Zion Crossroads.  Last December the Board submitted a counter-proposal to Aqua, but Aqua never responded.  After the meeting Booker said, “If we come up with something where we need them, we will give them a proposal… They want to partner with us.”

The Board also directed staff to look into how to tighten ordinances regarding animal control.  Reporting a large number of animal control complaints in the Palmyra district, Ullenbruch specifically mentioned a house with 14 dogs and 32 cats.  The owners of the lot next door can’t get a realtor to take the listing, he said, because of the dogs hanging on the fence.  “It’s legal and there’s nothing animal control can do about it,” Ullenbruch stated.  He suggested dividing the county into “congested” and “rural” areas for the sake of ordinances.  Payne recommended following objective criteria such as zoning or subdivision plats.

Related Posts

dewi88 cuanslot dragon77 cuan138 enterslots rajacuan megahoki88 ajaib88 warung168 fit188 pusatwin pusatwin slot tambang88 mahkota88 slot99 emas138