Something stinks in the Leesburg Town Council chambers. What else is new?
A slim majority of council is reportedly ready to oust veteran Town Attorney Barbara Notar for a host of reasons, most of them self-serving and seemingly none related to her legitimate job performance.
Instead, it appears, the four council members want to hire a town attorney that will play foot soldier in whatever their next scheme may be. That should scare Leesburg residents who don't have the luxury of listening in on an ever-expanding number of discussions their elected officials opt to hold behind closed doors.
As of Friday, there was no official word on Notar's current and near-term employment status. Mayor Kelly Burk and Vice Mayor Marty Martinez couldn't be bothered to respond to an email seeking clarity on the issue.
Last week council directed Town Manager Kaj Dentler to proceed “discussion with the town attorney as discussed in closed session.” In previous years, council had announced that Notar would receive a contract extension.
We agree there are a few admissible situations that call for executive sessions. But we don't think allowing four council members to show a loyal and respected public servant the door is among them.
Town Councilman Neil Steinberg, a supporter of Notar's, says colleagues Suzanne Fox, Ron Campbell, Thomas Dunn and Josh Thiel have launched “a concerted strategy to assist a Loudoun County developer in his attempt to subvert the planning processes of both the Town of Leesburg and Loudoun County.”
In a letter to the editor, Steinberg claims the four “accuse Ms. Notar of 'being in over her head.' But three of the four, by denying a motion for a closed council session, refused to hear legal advice that would have been provided by expert outside counsel hired by … Ms. Notar.”
“The four now appear determined to remove Ms. Notar whose only offense has been to represent the town in the face of an onslaught of legal attacks by the developer,” Steinberg says.
These emerging Leesburg Town Council cliques would be cute if they weren't so intent on disrupting lives for their own self-interest. (As Steinberg writes, “It may be useful to recall that Mr. Campbell and Mr. Thiel were responsible for a failed 2018 effort (based on no evidence at all) to remove Leesburg Mayor Kelly Burk.”)
Councilwoman Fox, it must be noted, has received $23,000 in campaign donations from the developer in question, David Gregory, who is seeking town sewer service for a proposed brewery, winery and co-housing development west of the town limits. Fox has decried any suggestion that the campaign cash is influencing her views on the project and, by extension, the town attorney's employment.
What the future holds for Notar remains murky, though the picture should come into clearer focus within a week or two.
But what the future holds in the way of good governance and transparency from Leesburg Town Council is still a forlorn fog.