- Published on Wednesday, 20 February 2013 00:01
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Those at the February Town Council meeting were stunned when Wanda Goforth announced she wanted to go into closed session to discuss the performance of the town manager concerning a possible lawsuit.
The crowded meeting room contained several town employees, presumably there to hear about council’s intentions to hire a consultant firm to evaluate employee performance.
What made the motion more puzzling was that council had previously passed a resolution to hire Whitestone Partners for the evaluations which would include evaluating Foulds, and council had asked several procedural questions of Town Attorney Andrea Erard prior to making the motion.
The resolution gives Foulds authorization to sign any and all necessary documents, subject to the review and approval of the Town Attorney, in order to fund Step One of this consulting work, up to an amount not to exceed a total of $17,000
A tense hour went by while council went into closed session with Erard present, later calling in Foulds.
A sigh of relief was heard from some members of the audience after Tim Curtin emerged from the meeting and announced to a member of press, “We didn’t fire anybody.”
The council then certified that no public business was discussed during the closed session and promptly adjourned.
When asked for a comment on the matters discussed during the closed session, Foulds replied, “As Martha Stewart liked to say, ‘It’s a good thing’. I treasure the opportunity to speak with the Town Council on most any topic.”
For such an unseasoned council recent moves have been really bold.
Many of the current council members are new and openly admit to being uncertain of proper procedures.
In the January meeting the new council went into closed session to discuss the performance of the then Chief of Police, Kenneth Blevins Sr., who emerged from the closed meeting, grabbing his belongings and leaving without a word to anyone. The council then returned, announcing Blevins’ resignation and the appointment of William Seay as interim Chief of Police.
A copy of Blevins resignation was hand written with one line announcing his resignation.
The Colonial Beach Town Council is made up of seven members, one seasoned member Gary Seeber and six new members. Town Mayor Mike ham is the most experienced of the new six, with two years under his belt.
Several members were asked Erard procedural questions before Councilwoman Wanda Goforth asked for the closed session.
Erard explained that the state code, through the Virginia Freedom of information act, says that everything is open. All meetings, all government activity and all documents etc.
“Exceptions,” Erard continued, “are to be narrowly construed. When in doubt err on the side that the exception does not apply.”
“Exceptions are discussion of hiring and firing, resignation or performance of a certain position. We can also go into closed session concerning specific legal matters such as lawsuits brought against the town or ones that may be imminent,” Erard explained.
Economic prospects where no prior announcements have been made or where closed bids are being discussed and real estate acquisitions are also exempt.
Erard explained that in order to have a closed meeting a motion must be made and voted on citing the specific exemption with specific details, including the state code section governing the exception.
Councilman Jim Chiarello asked about emails which Erard explained the rules of, in a short verbal tutorial.
It was after these discussions that Goforth asked for a closed session. Erard asked for a short break to discuss the matter with Goforth then council announced a closed session “to discuss the performance of the Town Manager.”