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Date of Meeting: July 1, 2008

 
 

#8.

 
 

 


BOAD OF SUPERVISORS

ACTION ITEM

 

SUBJECT: Finance / Government Services and Operations Committee Report: Transparency in Government Phase II Proposals (1) and (7)

ELECTION DISTRICT: Countywide

CRITICAL ACTION DATE: None

RECOMMENDATIONS:

Committee: The Finance / Government Services and Operations Committee voted 4-0-1 (Supervisor Buckley absent for the vote) to recommend that the Board of Supervisors adopt a Prudence in Political Contributions policy. The Finance and Government Services and Operations Committee also voted 3-0-2 (Supervisors Buckley and Waters absent for the vote) to recommend that the Board of Supervisors adopt the changes with regards to the posting of meeting documents as described in the staff report.

 

 

BACKGROUND:

At the January 3, 2008 Board of Supervisors Business meeting Supervisor Jim Burton initiated a series of proposals under the heading Transparency in Government, Phases II and III. The Board voted 8-1 (Supervisor Delgaudio voting No) to forward this item to the Finance and Government Services and Operations Committee for further review and recommendation.

The Committee began discussion on the proposed Phase II recommendations at its January 16, 2008 meeting and carried over the discussion to following meetings. At the June 18, 2008 meeting the Committee made recommendations on two of the original proposals and will continue work on the remainder at its July 16, 2008 meeting.

(1) Adopt a revised Prudence in Political Contributions policy as official Board policy.

The original proposal presented in the January 3, 2008 item read as follows:

“Include as official Board policy in the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors’ Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct and/or Land Development Guidelines a prohibition on the acceptance by members of the Board of campaign contributions from persons, groups, partnerships or corporate entities with matters before the Board during the period of time such matter has been submitted to the county to six months following action by the Board of Supervisors on the matter.”

At the June 18, 2008 the Finance/Government Services and Operations Committee agreed to the following language:

Members of the Board of Supervisors shall not accept campaign contributions from persons, groups, associations, partnerships, corporations, or other such entities that have submitted an application or applications for Rezoning, Special Exception, Proffer Amendment, Concept Plan Amendment, Zoning Appeals and other Appeals before the Board of Supervisors, Comprehensive Plan Amendments, or Request for Early Removals from Agricultural and Forestal Districts during the period of time such matter is submitted to the County to six months following final action on the matter by the Board of Supervisors or when the matter is withdrawn. If a donation has been accepted, the Board member has the option of recusing themselves from the matter or returning the donation.

ISSUES

During discussions the following questions and concerns were raised:

  1. the selected timeframe (3 months, 6 months, 12 months, or some other timeframe),
  2. the types of Board decisions to be covered by the policy,
  3. the provision of relevant and timely information to Board members, and
  4. how would the policy be enforced.

The language above attempts to address those questions and concerns.

  1. The timeframe recommended by the Committee mirrors that of similar proposals, including legislation recently passed by the General Assembly during its 2008 session.
  2. A matrix attached to the February 20, 2008 Committee item provided input regarding possible decision types that might fall under such a policy. A copy of this matrix can also be found in Attachment 1 of this item. The Committee selected the types of decisions to which such a policy might apply based on likely availability of information, volume and size of decisions, and limitations on staff resources.
  3. The matrix in Attachment 1 also provided input regarding how this policy might be implemented for each type of decision.
  4. As with any Board policy, there is no legal mechanism for enforcement. Two possible options when a violation occurs are included in the draft language. Should a Board member refuse to follow either option, the Board as a body could choose to censure that member and apply a variety of penalties.

FISCAL IMPACT

Some of the suggested implementation options in Appendix 1 require County staff to provide to the Board information already collected by the County but not currently distributed to Board members or distributed at a later point in the process. Thus, there may be some slight fiscal impact associated with Staff’s reporting of the information in the necessary timeframe.

SUGGESTED MOTIONS

1.      I move the recommendation of the Finance/Government Services and Operations Committee that the Board of Supervisors adopt as official Board policy in the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors’ Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct and/or Land Development Guidelines the Prudence in Political Contributions policy using the language agreed to by the Committee at its June 18, 2008 meeting. I further move that Staff set in place procedures ensuring that the necessary information is provided to the Board upon the submission of an application or applications for Rezoning, Special Exception, Proffer Amendment, Concept Plan Amendment, Zoning Appeals and other Appeals before the Board of Supervisors, Comprehensive Plan Amendments, or Request for Early Removals from Agricultural and Forestry Districts.

OR

2.      I move an alternate motion.

(7)   Require Timely and Complete Availability of Agenda Documentation to the Public

The original proposal presented in the January 3, 2008 item read as follows:

  • All meeting item documentation (both paper versions and online versions) must be made available to the public no later than the day of or after the packet distribution prior to the Board meeting or public hearing.
  • All meeting item documentation (including attachments) received by Board members in their packets for any item must be made available to the public in both paper format and electronically.
  • Any item which fails to meet the requirements of either (1) or (2) will be deferred to the next Board business meeting.

At the April 16, 2008 Committee meeting Staff stated that their goal is to post meeting materials ten days prior (public hearings), six days (Board business meetings), and five-six days (Committee meetings) in advance.

Currently, staff posts all business meeting items and attachments, on-line in the appropriate meeting “folder” either the day the packet is distributed or the following day. This is generally 6 days prior to the meeting. Action summaries following the Board business meeting and public hearing meetings are posted within two days of the meeting. Standing Committee meeting materials are posted either the day of packet distribution and/or the following day. The number of days prior to the committee meeting may vary as the packets are generally distributed on the Wednesdays (the week before) the meeting.

Should a member of the public want to review hard copies of the meeting items, copies are maintained in the County Administrator’s office and available once the packet is distributed to the Board members. A binder is also kept in the Board of Supervisors’ office that contains copies of the business meeting and public hearing items for public review.

The intention of this proposal is to address issues raised by citizens with implementation of this policy:

  • Neither the paper copies nor the electronic versions provide all of the relevant attachments to an item. For example, each land use application contains an affidavit of ownership and financial benefit. Such affidavits are part of the meeting materials received by the Board members, but are neither attached to the materials in the Copy Room nor posted with the materials online.
  • The agenda and items are not always available online in a timely fashion.
  • Agenda items are not always provided in either area for public review. For example, Agenda Item #18d on the 4 December 2007 was still not posted online even during the Board’s discussion of it that afternoon. While a paper copy of the item was available in the County Administration Copy Room, it did not include Attachment 1, the actual language on which the Board was voting. According to the Board clerk, her office had not received an electronic version of the item from the Staff Contact.

The above policy changes would ensure that citizens receive sufficient access to all relevant documentation and opportunity for analysis of items before the Board.

 ISSUES

There was a concern raised during discussion of this proposal that the Staff responsible for making the information available to the public is not usually the Staff responsible for producing the materials. As a result, the former do not have control over the timing of the materials’ availability. The Committee believes that the third bullet point should provide the latter Staff with an incentive to ensure that all materials are provided to County Administration in a timely fashion.

 FISCAL IMPACT

There is no direct significant fiscal impact associated with this proposal.

SUGGESTED MOTIONS

 1.     I move the recommendation of the Finance/Government Services and Operations Committee that the Board of Supervisors adopt the changes proposed above in the posting of meeting documents.

OR

2.      I move an alternate motion.

ATTACHMENTS

Matrix from the February 20, 2008 Finance/Government Services and Operations Committee Item.

 STAFF CONTACTS

Mary Bathory Vidaver, Staff Aide to Supervisor Jim Burton, x0210


 

Board Decision Type

 

Timing

 

Implementation Option(s)

Yes / No?

Legislative Land Use Applications

On-Going

- Planning staff already provide Board members with a schedule of all Pre-Application meetings. A similar list could be provided each week/month/etc. of all legislative land use applications submitted along with copies of the disclosure of the Real Parties in Interest affidavits submitted with such applications.

- Alternatively, the list could just include the application number and the Board member or their aide could check the affidavits in the File Room or on LMIS, if posted.

 

Land Use Ordinances and Policies

On-Going

Creation or review of ordinances and policies requires an action of the Board. Such action would alert a Board member to the need to screen donors.

 

Appeals

On-Going

Relevant County staff to alert Board members as soon as an appeal is filed.

 

Agricultural and Forestry District (Early Removals Only)

Periodic

Economic Development staff to alert Board members when a property owner files a request for removal prior to the ending of the district’s term.

 

Land Purchases by the County

On-Going

Staff would provide Board members with the name of the landowners and their representatives.

 

Tax Exemptions

Once a year

Once collected, staff would forward the list of those applying for exemption to Board members prior to evaluation and processing.

 

Purchasing of Goods and Services

 

On-Going

Procurement staff could provide Board members with a periodic list of vendors from whom bids have been received for contracts greater than $10,000. Alternatively, staff could limit the list to vendors selected prior to forwarding contracts to the Board.

 

General Fund Contributions

Once a year

Budget staff to provide Board members with an initial list of applicants.

 

Transient-Occupancy Tax Distributions

On-Going

Relevant County staff to alert Board members when requests made by organizations.