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Loudoun supervisors discuss repealing ‘Herring law’

Loudoun County Supervisor Suzanne Volpe (R-Algonkian) wants a state law that passed both chambers of the General Assembly in 2008 without a single 'no' vote either repealed or altered.

On Wednesday, during the Board of Supervisors' initial discussion of its 2014 legislative package for state lawmakers, Volpe introduced an item to initiate that action.

Every year before the commonwealth’s legislative session, Loudoun's supervisors and staff coordinate with local state delegates and senators to help draft laws they see as beneficial for the county.

The law in question Wednesday was Senate Bill 532 – the so-called “Herring law” for the bill's patron in the General Assembly, state Sen. Mark Herring (D-33rd). SB 532 “requires each individual member of the Loudoun County board of supervisors, planning commission, and board of zoning appeals in any proceeding before each such body involving an application for a special exception or variance or involving an application for amendment of a zoning ordinance map … make a full public disclosure of any business or financial relationship that such member has, or has had within the 12-month period prior to such hearing.”

Herring's legislation was approved amid an FBI investigation into several Loudoun elected officials' relationships with land developers and potential conflicts of interest.

“As a Loudoun County resident, I was sick and tired of reading in the paper about FBI investigations and unethical behavior on the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors,” Herring told the Times-Mirror Thursday after learning board members were discussing repealing the law. “We needed to take action to ensure a more transparent and open process, and so I stood up and did just that.”

Starting off the supervisors' discussion Wednesday of SB 532, Volpe said she'd like one of two things to happen: “Either this law apply across the state equally to every county board of supervisors or I would like it repealed.”

Volpe said it's “abhorrent” that Loudoun County is treated differently than other counties in the state. She said she has considered filing a lawsuit against the state under the equal protection act on the federal level.

The Algonkian supervisor expressed dismay that if a supervisor has received $101 in a 12-month span from someone associated with a land use case that supervisor must recuse themselves from a vote on that application.

After Volpe's initial proposal, Supervisor Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) offered a substitute motion to have the law applied statewide, rather than have it repealed. That substitute pass unanimously.

“I just think what's good for the goose is good for the gander,” Buona said. “We've had cases where supervisors haven't taken donations because, if we had, we wouldn't have had a quorum to take a vote on some applications. Literally ... It's causing some real problems for this board.”

The Ashburn supervisor said SB 532 “was put in place, in [his] opinion, as political grandstanding by Senator Herring.”

“Throughout the county, this is jokingly known as 'the Mark Herring thinks Loudoun County is more corrupt than the rest of the commonwealth law,'” he said.

Responding to Buona's comments, Herring said he "worked with Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill aimed at restoring the public trust in our local government.”

“I am proud of my record of fighting for more transparency in all levels of government and promoting stronger ethics laws,” he said. “These attacks by allies of Ken Cuccinelli and Mark Obenshain show why voters can’t trust them when it comes to cleaning up ethics in Virginia.”

According to Loudoun County's legislative affairs representatives, it's unlikely the General Assembly will pass any legislation that applies the Herring law to every county in the state.

“That's what Herring's did originally,” said Jeff Gore of Hefty and Wiley, a county-contracted lobbying firm. “That's not politically possible, in my opinion.”

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“Either this law apply across the state equally to every county board of supervisors or I would like it repealed.”  With an across the Board, Republican BOS, I think it wise to push for equal application within the commonwealth.  Our state ethics/conflict of interest laws are pretty broad as it is.

Once again I will state that all politicians are corrupt. Yeah, Mark, it’s a stupid bill. It should be state wide, not just Loudoun county. We have idiots in charge. As for BOS, get over it and don’t take any money from developers.

If Volpe or the rest of the Board aren’t happy with their current opportunities for graft, then maybe they should resign from the Board.  They speak like they are doing us a favor being on the Board at all.

Herring is for Herring. This bill was the heighth of his legislative record. Pathetic!

And coupled with this new development, our supervisors have done away with keeping minutes for their meetings.  Their logic is that since there is a recording of the meetings then if anyone wishes to know what happened they can just sit and look and watch for what they are looking for instead of seeing a quick print out of the minutes…....what better way to hide what they are doing.  The current BOS is full of hubris that will put them all out of office in the next election cycle.

The reason it was just passed for Loudoun County is because it was needed.

The BOS in this county are nothing but criminals.  The FBI needs to open yet another investigation into all off them.  They are by far a waste and all of them should be replaced. 

I wonder if the BOS can spell ethics.  I would bet not as they don’t even know the meaning of the word. 

Herring was about ethics from the get-go.

BoS doesn’t like or abide by ethics; their friends in LCRC don’t either.

Hey if its illegal to get paid off by developers in Loudoun County, what is the point of being a supervisor?

Wow….what on earth is she thinking??  With all the shenanigans going on in Richmond and the past developer connections that Loudoun supervisors have had—-she wants to do away with some type of assurance the supervisors will actually represent the people of Loudoun and NOT the developers?  Whoever convinced you to bring this up has not done you any favors…..

The fact that this ethically-challenged cast of characters wants to do away with anything that enables anyone to track what they’re up to should speak for itself.  Until we have the opportunity to vote their sorry selves out of office, we should certainly demand a basic level of integrity out of them.   

Wonder why on earth Ms. Volpe is so concerned with revealing her financial dealings with people who come before the board for a decision on something?

Sore sports that don’t believe in ethics? Abhorrent and grandstanding!

Every Democrat running for a seat on my board signed the existing BOS ethics pledge, going so far as to do so _before_ Election Day.

This board decided it didn’t need to have a pledge.

When 2015 comes near, let’s be sure to ask the candidates to make their commitments before we cast our votes.

This is just TOO much.  I am stunned in disbelief over this one.  The 9-0 republican board of supervisors no longer wants to be bound by ETHICS!  Shocking!  No, not that the republican board of supervisor members don’t want to be ethical.  What is shocking, is they don’t even care how bad they look.  Clearly, they hold the public in total contempt.  Next election, the whole board need to go.

If Buona is so proud of his record of fighting for more transparency then how can he justify his vote to have the transcribed BOS meeting minutes eliminated?

Seems to me requiring a citizen to view an entire video of a multi-hour meeting looking for something specific isn’t very transparent. I am going to miss the transcribed minutes. 

Further, what a waste of time to discuss SB532.  Talk about an item being political!?!  If Herring wasn’t running for AG this would never have seen the light of day.

Heck, if the abandonment of transcribed minutes was already in place, the BOS could have shoved this right through before anyone knew what happened. Hummm?  Is that the motive?

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