Sayre, Fox try to limit closed session agenda

FRONT ROYAL – A couple of Warren County supervisors tried unsuccessfully this week to limit what the board could discuss behind closed doors.

The Board of Supervisors took the usual action at the beginning of its regular meeting Tuesday to approve the agenda that included a closed session.

County Administrator Doug Stanley requested that the board add two items under its closed session agenda – discussion of a prospective business or industry where no previous announcement has been made and consultation with legal counsel. The meeting agenda released last week limited the closed-session topics to personnel matters and acquisition of property. The board can change the agenda at the beginning of the meeting.

After about 10 minutes of discussion and debate over Robert’s Rules of Order and the board’s own by-laws, supervisors voted 3-2 to add the items as recommended.

Shenandoah District Supervisor Thomas Sayre sought twice to bar members from including Stanley’s late additions to the closed-session agenda by invoking Robert’s Rules of Order and the board’s own by-laws.

At one point during the discussion, County Attorney Dan Whitten told the board its by-laws do not address the addition of items to the agenda so members defer to Robert’s Rules of Order. It takes a majority vote of the board to add an item to the agenda under Robert’s Rules if members have not yet adopted the meeting agenda, Whitten said. If the board already has adopted the agenda, it takes a two-thirds, majority vote to add an item, Whitten explained.

Both times Sayre tried to stop the board from adding the items, the supervisor called for a point of order and argued that either Robert’s Rules of Order or the by-laws barred the addition of the topics. Sayre asked for a ruling from Chairwoman Linda Glavis and, each time, she supported the proposal to add the items to the agenda.

The board’s meeting policy and procedures adopted Jan. 3 state that every item to be placed on the agenda shall be received in the Office of the County Administrator before 1 p.m. of the work day on the Tuesday one week prior to any regular meeting of the Board. The by-laws trump Robert’s Rules, Sayre said. Whitten disagreed, stating again that the by-laws do not address changing the agenda at the beginning of the meeting. Sayre rebutted by saying that, under Robert’s Rules, the board cannot suspend its by-laws.

“The by-laws don’t address the matter at hand,” Whitten said. “So I agree that matters addressed in the by-laws, they trump Robert’s Rules. But the by-laws don’t address what we’re trying to do right now, which is to change the agenda.”

The board voted eventually 3-2 to support Glavis’ ruling. Sayre and Fork District Supervisor Archie Fox voted against upholding Glavis’ decision. Glavis, Happy Creek District Supervisor Tony Carter and North River District Supervisor Daniel J. Murray Jr. voted in favor of the chairwoman’s decision.

Carter then made a motion to add the two items to the agenda as Stanley suggested. Supervisors voted 3-2 with the same members voicing support or opposition.

Following the regular meeting and a work session, the board went into closed session. Fox and Sayre left when it came time to discuss the topics added to the agenda at the beginning of the meeting.