Three members of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors believe an upcoming summit focused on rural issues organized by Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) is for “political purposes” and a possible “ethics violation."
Tensions about the event surfaced Thursday when Supervisor Geary Higgins (R-Catoctin) raised the issue during the board’s business meeting.
“The person who is emceeing the meeting is, in fact, a declared candidate in western Loudoun to run against one of us, which I find a little interesting,” Higgins said, referring to the board's elections next year and specifically the Blue Ridge District race.
In a phone interview with the Times-Mirror, Randall denied that the event was for any political purpose and said that some Republicans may be criticizing the gathering because they are feeling frustrated after Democrats across Virginia made gains in Congress during last week's election.
“It’s been a tough week for my colleagues,” Randall said. “And, sometimes you have to put those emotions somewhere.”
She also said Board of Supervisors candidate Tia Walbridge, the emcee and a candidate for the Blue Ridge District seat in 2019, "is well qualified" to emcee the rural summit event. Walbridge is a farmer in western Loudoun County.
The purpose of the rural summit organized by Randall’s office is to discuss the challenges of and opportunities for the rural parts of the county, according to Randall.
The event will be held on Nov. 16 in Middleburg at the Salamander Resort and Spa, which is in the Blue Ridge District represented by Supervisor Tony Buffington (R).
The Blue Ridge District supervisor addressed the issue during Thursday’s business meeting and on social media.
“It does appear, unfortunately, to have become a political event,” he said at the meeting. “And I think it’s unfortunate, because we’re missing a real opportunity where we could have made progress on some of these issues in western Loudoun County.”
Higgins said neither district representative was invited to Randall’s event until they asked about it.
Randall said that the planning and scheduling for the rural event was no different than her first two summits, which were focused on faith and substance abuse. She said neither Higgins nor Buffington attended her two previous summits or questioned the events.
“My colleagues are public servants, and I’m not going to say anything negative about them,” Randall said. “They have a right to their feelings, and it is what it is.”
Supervisor Ron Meyer (R-Broad Run), who was absent from the meeting because he was out of town on business, addressed the board by phone on Thursday.
“I do find it extremely troubling that it seems like we’re already becoming more partisan on the Board of Supervisors stuff more than we should be,” Meyer said. “I just think we need to keep a pledge that has been made not only on the ethics ... but to each other to try and keep the politics out of official business as much as possible, and it is troubling, like I said, to see that creep in, and I hope we can keep that out with the next election year coming up.”
Higgins pointed out that the supervisors were asked at the start of their term to sign a code of ethics conduct pledge arranged by Randall.