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Posted August 28, 2012 | comments 13 Comments

Shenandoah supervisors get earful from critics

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK -- The Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors took more criticism Tuesday about government transparency and public meetings.

Supervisors heard a report by Assistant County Administrator Mary Beth Price on a possible way to record and make meetings available to the public on the Internet. Price presented the board a software system that would allow the county to record the audio of the meetings and make separate tracks for each agenda or discussion item.

Chairman Conrad Helsley Jr. did not attend the meeting.

Before Price's presentation, at least two residents who spoke during the comment portion complained about the administration and board's practice of making only a summary of the meeting minutes available to the public. Quicksburg resident Paul Knauff first criticized the board for not upgrading its system of recording minutes and meetings sooner, then questioned why the administration has to go through the supervisors to receive the approval.

Later in the meeting Knauff spoke again and criticized the county for requiring him to go through the formal process to obtain information.

Vice Chairman Dennis M. Morris told Knauff that Price's presentation likely would address his concerns about an upgrade. Supervisors after Price's presentation decided to take the issue to their next work session.

Price told the board and the speakers the county can provide audio recordings of meetings on compact discs. The county currently uses a portable digital recorder to tape certain meetings. While the meeting room has a microphone system, the devices are not plugged in directly to any recording device, Price explained after the meeting.

Knauff and Woodstock area resident Cindy Bailey also criticized the board and the administration for the policy to compile summary and not "verbatim" minutes of meetings as they once did. Knauff and Bailey asked the board to return to having the county provide verbatim minutes to the public. Supervisor Sharon Baroncelli advised the board that Knauff had spoken beyond the usual three minutes afforded to speakers.

"The minutes should be verbatim, exactly how they are spoken here, exactly what you all are saying, exactly what the public is saying and the questions that are being asked that are not being answered because certain supervisors say 'we're done with you,'" Bailey told the board.

Elected officials rarely answer questions posed by a speaker during hearings or comment periods.

Supervisors at a previous meeting asked County Attorney J. Jay Litten to look into whether the board should craft a specific set of rules by which the public would need to follow in their meetings.

Supervisors' meetings at times have erupted with audience members speaking out of turn, during points in the session not available for public comment, and often Helsley or the next person in charge has had to call for order.

Morris on several occasions Tuesday night had to ask people not to speak from the audience. Knauff tried to ask questions of supervisors or make comments on issues discussed but was told he had his chance to talk at the beginning of the meeting.

Also at the meeting supervisors:
• Discussed documents required by the Department of Housing and Community Development for the Community Development Block Grant for the Shenandoah County Free Clinic project.
• Approved a request to rezone property at 23101 Old Valley Pike, Woodstock from agricultural to general business use. Patrick and April McMullen, doing business as Valley Collision, made the request. Morris lauded the business and its appearance.
• Discussed in closed session an award of a contract with Charterhouse School for educational services in the old Edinburg School and a contract with Caldwell-Santmyer for design-build services for the Edinburg School/Historic Courthouse project.
• Discussed in closed session the appointment of people to serve on the Department of Social Services Board, the Tourism Council and the Board of Zoning Appeals.

13 Comments | Leave a comment

    Most certainly the minutes of the Board meetings should be verbatim! The voters that put the Board in place deserve to have ALL the facts. Especially lately, the Board also would have been protected by the minutes being recorded exactly as they were at the meeting. Why is there not already a specific set of rules for public speaking and also for the Board to follow? Seems to me that this should have been in place for a long time to maintain order at the meetings; I guess I now know why some of these meetings have turned into such chaos.

      This is a board meeting not a court. Transcripts are not needed. Do you want to pay for this. I can imagine how long this mintues will be if all the bloviating needs to be verbatim. If the public wants to know what is said they can show up a the meeting to hear it verbatim. Cindy your antics are getting old and you can take that verbatim.

        Take it and do what Mohawk Man? Who are you to tell anyone what to say or do. Sit on your rear, watch reality TV and leave the real would to others. I think Cindy has done an incredible job of calling them out.

        When tax dollar are used, WE the taxpayers have a right to know the details if we attend the meetings or not.

        So what's your beef anyway?

    CRITICS ???
    These are people who live in and love
    Shen Co. !
    We want to know what is said and by whom !
    Any meeting should have the minutes recorded !
    Vote them all out and replace them with
    those that have a real understanding of the wants and needs of the residents, not personal interests !

    "Do you want to pay for this". I'm pretty sure we could, probably with the money they get to keep because we didn't reassess. But I would still guess recording the meetings would be cheaper than say, a regional jail, or a school/community center, or bumpouts in the road, or. Well, you get the idea.

    Diana, did you say 'beef' ? you are shameful!

    It is neither complex nor expensive to digitally record meetings (audio or video) and post them to the web. Nor is it complex or expensive to use software to convert audio files to text. One must assume that the intent is to restrict and or edit the information readily available in the use of the current system, thus creating FOI requests and the related "charges" for media and staff time.

      Thank you shenvaltech for an intelligent and knowledgeable answer instead of political blah, blah, blah!
      Personally, with kids and their activities, I would like to know more about what is actually going on at the meetings. Most residents cannot attend the meetings unless they make special arrangements to attend for a specific reason. I have not been able to attend meetings, but I do read the agendas and minutes. I would be very interested in having the exact account of what was said instead of hearing Cindy Bailey's version thru NVD comments and letters to the editor.

    The attendees were rude and out of place. I was there. There is no excuse for people to make personal attacks on the supervisors -- questioning their honesty, their Christianity, etc.

    If they had waited to listen to the related report first, instead of lashing out THEN listening, they would have heard a proposal for the meetings to be recorded and published on the website wherein everyone in the world could listen to any section of the meeting or the whole thing. So their point about needing a full written report of the meetings was moot.

    National politics is full of lies but I expect more civility from our neighbors to our neighbors!

    Oh Diana, youre priceless! You are always spouting off on this board about how people should behave... eat...play at the fair or whatever the topic of the day is....etc..and now you question someone else. Oh lord I can't stand it..priceless!

    Perhaps Shenandoah County could consider having the Board of Supervisors meetings filmed by the local tv station as Frederick County does for every BOS meeting.

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