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Pittsylvania County leaders erred two ways in a recent vote.
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Rural Pittsylvania County has received plenty of unwanted press of late. Between a fight over uranium mining and a lawsuit over sectarian prayers before public meetings, the county has some image rehabilitation to do. Supervisors did not help the cause last week when they eliminated the county Economic Development Office on a 4-3 vote.
Maybe that department needed to go as a cost-saving measure. Other county staff might be able to pick up the slack. It does seem odd, however, that a remote county that has fallen on tough economic times would choose to forgo one of the best tools to attract employers that can turn things around.
Still, it is a decision for supervisors. It is just not a decision they should have made out of the public eye. The board majority seems to have conspired in secret. Other members told the Danville Register & Bee they were blindsided. Even if they did not discuss the issue in advance, it is not at all clear that the state’s Freedom of Information Act permits discussion of the elimination of a county department in closed session.
The closed-door discussion was not the only questionable legislative move that night. Supervisor Brenda Bowman voted against eliminating the department. She should have sat out the vote because elimination of the Economic Development Office meant the loss of her husband’s job. She had a clear conflict of interest.
These sorts of shenanigans reflect poorly on the county and its government. In the spirit of Sunshine Week, supervisors might want to call in some experts for remedial lessons in open government and avoiding conflicts of interest.
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