Board disagrees on panel pick

WOODSTOCK – Half of the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors failed to change the roster of a local advisory panel Tuesday.

Supervisors who tried to appoint a resident to the Social Services Board claimed that at least two members of the panel also have served far longer than allowed under Virginia rules.

District 4 Supervisor Cindy Bailey made a motion to appoint Frances Bowman to the Social Services Board. District 5 Supervisor Marsha Shruntz seconded the motion. Ordinarily supervisors discuss appointments in closed session and then take action on recommendations as part of their consent agenda in an open meeting. This proposed appointment came on as a separate action item on the supervisors’ regular meeting agenda.

Virginia law requires that each county have a Social Services Board with no fewer than three members, nor any more than five, one of which is a supervisor, Chairman Conrad Helsley said. Helsley serves as the supervisors’ representative on the Social Services Board, which currently has four members.

Social Services Board member Dennis Morris, a former District 5 supervisor, has served one term that expires soon. State law allows Morris to serve a maximum of two terms. Supervisors could appoint Bowman and reappoint Morris, Helsley said.

Vice Chairman Richard Walker called for a point of order and said that rules set by the state Department of Social Services indicate a member can serve no more than two, four-year, consecutive terms. Walker contended that Helsley and Morris have served on the Social Services Board for 12 years or three full terms. Walker said he didn’t feel either member was eligible for reappointment.

The limitation doesn’t apply to supervisors serving as members, Helsley said, citing state code pertaining to board and committee appointments. Walker, citing a copy of the state department rules, said the handbook for Social Services Board members does not mention the exemption.

“There’s something called the difference between form and substance,” Walker argued. “The substance of this rule is that you do not want an entrenched continuation forever of the same people calling the shots.

“You want some turnover,” Walker added. “You want some fresh community input and, very frankly, trying to recast those roles every time something doesn’t appear right is wearing awful thin.”

Supervisors had discussed appointing someone to fill one empty seat as well as another possible vacancy, Bailey said. But Helsley’s assertion that supervisors could reappoint Morris at that meeting was not correct, Bailey added. Supervisors were only considering one appointment to which she proposed they pick Bowman, Bailey said.

Helsley said one member of the Social Services Board might resign before the term expires. Supervisors can both appoint someone to fill that seat and reappoint Morris, Helsley said.

“I probably know Mrs. Bowman better than either one of the two of you,” Helsley said, referring to Bailey and Marsha Shruntz. “She’s a fine person. I don’t have a problem with that.”

Walker called for the question and the board voted 3-3 on Bailey’s motion. Bailey, Shruntz and Walker voted in favor of appointing Bowman to the Social Services Board. Helsley, District 1 Supervisor John R. “Dick” Neese and District 2 Supervisor Steve Baker voted against the motion.

The Virginia code section pertaining to local board appointments and terms of office states that, “No person may serve more than two consecutive full terms; however, this section shall not apply to a member of a local board who is also a member of the board of supervisors for a county represented by the board, who shall serve at the pleasure of the board of supervisors of which he is a member or until such time as he ceases to be a member of the board of supervisors, or in cases in which a local government official is constituted to be the local board. A member of a local board who serves two consecutive full terms shall be ineligible for reappointment to such local board until the end of an intervening two-year period dating from the expiration of the last of the two consecutive terms.”

The Department of Social Services local board member handbook cited by Walker states in one section that county advisory boards of social services shall be a local panel consisting of residents with three or more members. The governing body shall appoint a member of the board of supervisors to serve as a member of the local board. The handbook states elsewhere that an advisory board consists of no fewer than five and no more than 13 members who may serve no more than two, consecutive terms.