Shenandoah County group to push for tiebreaker

A growing number of Shenandoah County residents want to add a tiebreaker to the Board of Supervisors to end the gridlock.

Responsible Leadership for Shenandoah County plans to ask supervisors to act on either of two options – pick a tiebreaker or support putting a referendum on the next election ballot that would add a seventh, at-large member on the board. The group formed shortly after supervisors elected a new chairman and vice chairman in a surprise vote earlier this month, the group’s director, Craig Orndorff said Friday.

But some supporters of the effort have felt disappointed in the board and at least two supervisors in particular for some time, Orndorff added.

The deadlock came to a head in January but supervisors ran into similar hurdles last year, Orndorff said. The board occasionally split on zoning matters, he noted. Even in the last decade the board voted 3-3 on some issues, Orndorff said. Supervisors eventually hashed out some of the more divisive issues, he added.

“But now you’re at a situation where the legitimacy of the board itself is a legal question,” Orndorff said. “Who’s signing the checks for the county’s employees is a question.

“It’s best for the business climate and for the citizens of this county to know that there is a clear majority on the board,” Orndorff added.

Whether or not the board supports either request remains uncertain.

“To be perfectly honest, we hope that they would pick one of the options for the good of the county but either one could easily end in a 3-3 vote itself,” Orndorff notes. “I mean it’s kind of getting down to personalities – who’s on which side of the issue that they’re gonna fall on.”

Organizers are preparing to take their cause to court in the likely event the board doesn’t support them. Orndorff said they could go to court before their April 1 deadline if it looks like the board won’t support either option.

A message on the organization’s Facebook page reads “finding that the Board of Supervisors of Shenandoah County is in an intractable state of gridlock where it’s very organization is in doubt, we the undersigned demand that the Board take action to change its form. It should do this in a way as to prevent the ties that are crippling and consuming the Board.”

The organization asks the board to take one of two actions within the next month:
• Adopt a tiebreaker via a county ordinance as allowed in state code – an elected individual who would vote only in the event of a tie
• Adopt and file a resolution with the circuit court requesting a ballot referendum to change to the county board form of government that would add an at-large member to the board. If ordered by the court, the referendum would allow the voters to decide whether or not the county should add, by election, a seventh, at-large member. The member, elected by the entire county, would have full privileges as other supervisors and bring the membership to seven. The at-large member would not automatically be chairman of the board.

Organizers warn that should the board fail to act on either recommendation by April 1, the group plans to circulate petitions and ultimately bring the question of adopting the second option to the voters. Organizers need to collect the signatures of at least 10 percent of the county’s registered voters to petition the circuit court to put the referendum on the next election ballot.

The addition of a seventh member accountable to all voters would bring “balance” to the board and protect against a faction representing a minority of voters who causes the gridlock, the organization indicates.

Representatives elected from each of Warren County’s five districts make up its board of supervisors, lessening the chance of gridlock and tie votes. Warren County’s board elects its officers. Frederick County’s board consists of elected representatives from each of six districts. Frederick County voters also elect an at-large member who serves as chairman of the board.

The Shenandoah County group has about 415 members on its Facebook page and 70 signatures on the petition, Orndorff. The organization also has begun to raise money. Orndorff, a former chairman of the Shenandoah County Republican Committee, said the organization is in the process of becoming a certified, political action committee. As a PAC, the organization could throw financial support to political candidates, Orndorff said.

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