STRASBURG – Mayor Richard A “Rich” Orndorff Jr. plans to be at next week’s Town Council meeting, Vice Mayor Scott Terndrup announced Monday at the start of a council work session.
“To the best of my knowledge, Mayor Orndorff will resume his duties in presiding over the August regular council meeting,” Terndrup told council members and a handful of others. “That is the last information I have on his condition.”
The regular council meeting will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday at 174 E. King St. when the council plans to present revisions to its longstanding Code of Conduct and Ethics.
After the session, Terndrup said he couldn’t predict how town residents will take the mayor’s return after more than two months’ absence from meetings.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said.
On July 12, Orndorff, 55, was charged by Virginia State Police with driving under the influence of alcohol. The charge stems from a May 17 vehicle crash in downtown Strasburg.
Orndorff was driving a recreational vehicle when he struck the Strasburg Community Library at 195 W. King St., according to a May 20 state police news release.
He was flown to INOVA Fairfax Hospital with serious but not life-threatening injuries following the crash, the news release stated.
Minimal damage was done to the library, but police began an investigation into the crash. This was Orndorff’s second offense within five years of a previous conviction on the same violation.
State police trooper C.S. Peer also charged Orndorff with driving an all-terrain vehicle on a public highway, the Northern Virginia Daily previously reported. Both charges are classified as misdemeanors.
Orndorff has been issued summonses to appear in Shenandoah County General District Court on Sept. 10.
Terndrup has been acting in the capacity of mayor since May and on Monday likened the responsibility to steering a ship.
“That’s what the mayor does,” he said.
Tuesday’s meeting will revisit the Town Council Code of Conduct and Ethics, which Terndrup said had not been updated or likely viewed in several years.
“The Code of Conduct was originally a council pledge to our citizens to behave well on their behalf. That was 13 years ago,” he said.
“There was kind of a broken trust at that time between the council and the citizens at large.”
Commenting on the matter, Councilwoman Taralyn Nicholson said she took offense to Terndrup’s mentions of previous council members being unethical — in particular, council members who served in 2006.
Explaining she served on council in 2006, she said, “I was ethical then and I am ethical now.”
“Constantly, I hear about your personal attacks of council members and previous ones, but … they did the best that they could, and that’s not fair,” she said.
Terndrup said he also served in 2006.
“At my very first meeting, half, four members, walked out of the meeting, so we could not even have a business meeting,” he said. “I sat here and listened to council members up there challenge each other to fistfights out in the parking lot.
“It was the mayor, [Tim] Taylor, who came at that point and said, ‘We have to do some healing here...’ I’m saying, as a council, honestly you were kind of a laughing stock.
“And so this [code] was meant to repair a sense of trust. This wasn’t aimed at, certainly, you.”
Nicholson clarified that 2006 was her last year, which ended on June 30. Terndrup said he began serving as of July 1, 2006.
“It shouldn’t be ‘all of council,’” she said, “’cause there’s two different councils in 2006.”
Pledging to sign the revised document, once it’s complete, Terndup said he takes it as a personal responsibility. The signing of the code will be voluntary, but he said a version of the code will be included in all future welcome packets for anyone who accepts an appointment with the town.
Following last week’s Boards and Commissions meeting, Town Manager Wyatt Pearson said members were “very open to this idea of a pledge.”
Though Terndrup has offered his own revisions, he said he leaves it up to council members to suggest their own.
The proposed code, included in a work session packet, has a new title: Elected and Appointed Official Code of Ethical Conduct.
It asks public officials to pledge their commitment to points outlined in the document, such as respecting other council members and supporting a positive work environment. A previous section on communication at council sessions has been removed from the revised document, though some ideas from that section appear to have been absorbed into other sections. The new document is meant to be shorter and comprise two sides of one sheet of paper.
Terndrup said his reason for wanting to change the code is to say, “Look, hold me accountable.”
The code “has sat in a drawer for years,” he said. The council used to bring it up at the beginning of each fiscal year “so council persons could have an opportunity to sign,” he said.
“Our current mayor isn’t interested in that, so it’s not been brought up in the last three years that I can think of...
“Again, sitting in the drawer is pointless. It has no teeth to it. And maybe it’s lived its course. You know, sometimes things just need to die. So maybe that document just needed to die. In my view, it’s done its thing and we’re done.”
Offering a different take, Councilwoman Kim Bishop pointed out that members take an oath when elected to the council. Signing a code of conduct is therefore superfluous, she said, and wouldn’t matter to unethical people anyway.
“I prefer that our actions speak louder,” she said. “I would say put it aside and let our oath that we took be our guiding force.”
To those who do want a written code, she said: “If you have it, you should use it. If you don’t want to use it, then put it on the trash heap and be done with it.”