Shenandoah County leaders oppose rules, chairman pick

WOODSTOCK – Shenandoah County leaders began the new year much like they did 2014, with the newest supervisors protesting the status quo.

The Board of Supervisors held its annual, organizational meeting Friday to elect officers and to adopt schedules and rules and procedures for the year. Supervisor David Ferguson retained his chairman seat on the board by a 4-2 vote. Supervisors Cindy Bailey and Marsha Shruntz voted against the motion, but neither chose to nominate anyone else for the post. Bailey and Shruntz also opposed the board’s adoption of its rules and procedures, one of which the board has used to keep them from putting items on meeting agendas.

In a voice vote, all supervisors responded by saying “aye” to elect Ferguson to the office. County Attorney J. Jay Litten then reminded Ferguson that the board’s rules and procedures require that the chairman ask for a roll-call vote on the election of officers. In the roll-call vote, Bailey and Shruntz voted against the motion to elect Ferguson.

Bailey and Shruntz did support the re-election of Supervisor Conrad Helsley as vice-chairman. Helsley abstained and was re-elected by a 5-0 vote.

Also at the meeting, supervisors voted 4-2 to adopt a set of rules and procedures by which the board is supposed to follow. Bailey and Shruntz voted against adopting the rules. After the vote, Ferguson cited the section of the rules and procedures that allows the board to amend the document if four members agree to the changes at any meeting.

At the board’s organizational meeting last January, Bailey sought to at least delay action on the entire set of rules because she and Shruntz weren’t given a chance to provide input on the new, greatly expanded set of rules and procedures.

After the meeting Friday, Bailey and Shruntz commented on their votes. Bailey and Shruntz cited the specific section that allows supervisors to restrict any member from bringing a topic back up for discussion. Specifically, the section allows a supervisor to make a motion to prevent reintroduction of a defeated motion for six months. At least four members must approve the motion for the restriction to take effect. The preventative motion can be dissolved if at least four members vote to suspend the rules.

“We continue to disagree on the rules going from … nine items to 18 pages, to squash, basically, the new board members’ speech,” Bailey said. “It’s about free speech.”

Bailey and Shruntz tried on more than one occasion last year to get the board to talk about the county attorney’s position and contract. Bailey recalled that the board eventually voted 4-2 at a work session against bringing the matter up at a regular meeting. Helsley then invoked the board’s rule about restricting anyone from reintroducing the topic and three members supported his motion.

In the vote for chairman, Bailey and Shruntz could have nominated other members to serve in the position. Bailey pointed out that she and Shruntz lacked the support on the board to keep them from adopting the rules or picking a chairman. Bailey said she expects to see that change this year – when three members’ seats come up for re-election in November.

“We will take out what, in my opinion, squashes the public speech where they can’t even come in and talk about something for six months,” Bailey said. “I think that’s wrong. If we haven’t addressed the concern, the public should be able to come in and talk to us about that as a body.”

“The restriction is inappropriate,” Shruntz said.

In spite of the rules, Bailey said she and Shruntz received enough support to kill some items they opposed. Bailey said this happened only because she and Shruntz spoke to members of the public who, in turn, talked to their fellow supervisors.

Bailey said she and Shruntz intend to focus their attention on the board’s upcoming work on the next county budget.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com