Late night vote


The amendment stipulates that Louisa will make “all reasonable efforts” to have 400,000 gallons per day of water for Fluvanna’s use at Zion Crossroads by Dec. 31, 2018.  Fluvanna will be able to purchase that water at Louisa’s then-current commercial rate.

But with Supervisor Mike Sheridan recusing himself from the vote since the proposed LCWA pipeline’s path will run through his land, and given Supervisor Bob Ullenbruch’s absence from the meeting, some Fluvanna residents are questioning just how the vote took place.

Typically, motions must be made by a supervisor then seconded by another supervisor before a vote can occur.  Chairpersons are prohibited from making or seconding motions.  Supervisor Tony O’Brien made the motion to approve the amended agreement, but Supervisor Don Weaver would not second the motion.  Since Chairperson Mozell Booker could not second the motion, some presumed the motion to be dead.  But County Attorney Fred Payne said the vote could proceed without a second.  Supervisors approved the amended agreement 2-1 (Weaver dissenting).

So why was this vote allowed to be held when others aren’t?  “Supervisor meetings over the decades are littered with motions that failed for lack of a second,” said Elizabeth Franklin, a Kents Store resident.  “At five to midnight or whatever time it was, this decision rains down like manna from heaven above.  Why hasn’t this happened before?”

The Board of Supervisors operates under its own bylaws and rules of practice and procedures, which it adopted in January.  One of the rules states, “When a motion is made and then cannot obtain a second, the motion will die for lack of a second and does not require a vote.”

When asked why he advised that the vote could take place without a second, Payne said, “As I understand the law, the chairperson has the right to call for a vote without a second.  If there is no second and the vote is held, the vote is nevertheless valid.”

The purpose behind needing a second in order to hold a vote, Payne said, “is to prevent the decision-making body from wasting time on hopeless motions.  Say we’ve got 14 members of a group and I’m the gadfly, and I make a motion and everyone knows I’m the only one who agrees with it, and everyone has to take a vote.  It just wastes everyone’s time.  If there’s a second it shows that there is at least one other member of the body that supports taking a vote.”

The issue really arises, Payne said, when there are few supervisors at the meeting.  “If you have one person [Sheridan] disqualified from conflict of interest and one person not there [Ullenbruch], you just lost 40 percent of your membership,” he said.  “It makes it almost impossible to conduct business.”

It’s within the chairperson’s discretion to decide whether a motion dies for lack of a second, Payne said.  “In this case, she supported the motion; she knew that she would vote for it,” he explained.  “There were three members there.  Clearly she knew that it was not a waste of time, that if the motion were brought to a vote, it would pass.”

If a motion can’t garner a second when five members of the Board are present, it is likely doomed if a vote were to be taken.  If there is no second when only three members are present, and one is the chairperson who is disqualified from seconding, the vote could still succeed.  “It was clear that Mozell [Booker] knew what she thought,” said Payne.  “She knew what the vote was going to be, and she was right.”

Payne wouldn’t say whether he and O’Brien had discussed the issue ahead of time.

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