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Brooks again seeking raises for supervisors

Supervisors rescind adoption of 2001 board member manual

The King George Board of Supervisors voted to “un-adopt” a 2001 board member manual that had been adopted on Aug. 7 after falling by the wayside for a few years. That action took place last week at a special meeting on Nov. 26



The now-rescinded manual had been re-adopted in August as a stop-gap measure to appease Dahlgren Supervisor Ruby Brabo who complained at numerous meetings beginning in mid-May that rules were needed to attain what Brabo called “equal treatment” for board members by county staff and others.

Supervisors also adopted an existing code of ethics and standards of conduct from the  manual and agreed to bring them back up for approval each year in January, along with annual adoption of a meeting calendar and rules and procedures.

 

BACKGROUND
Brabo had contended for months that more rules were needed to ensure “every board member will have equal rights to every other board member, and the county administrator and county staff to each Board member shall disseminate all original reports, documents and information at the same time. No board member shall be provided the information in advance of other board members. And no board member shall be allowed to direct changes to the data in advance of it being disseminated to all other Board members for review.”

She was the only supervisor to complain about unequal treatment, though John LoBuglio and Chairman Cedell Brooks provided consensus to direct then-county attorney Matt Britton to provide a written report on the topic in mid-July.

Britton’s written July report followed his lengthy preliminary oral report at the meeting on June 26. The conclusion he drew both times was that a rule change or addition was not necessary.

It turned out that Britton’s presentation analyzed the 2001 manual, which was a former manual, and not provided to Brabo when she began her term in January. Senior supervisors had likewise thought the 2001 manual had been referenced in the rules and procedures, hence the confusion.

Supervisors last week agreed to maintain use of a manual for informational purposes, whether an updated version of the 2001 manual, or one provided annually by the Virginia Association of Counties (VACo).  Use of the VACo manual has the benefit that it is updated annually by that organization to conform to state law and standard practice.  

BUDGETS FOR INCIDENTALS AND MILEAGE, ALSO CONFERENCES
Supervisor Dale Sisson also brought up the topic and got general agreement for establishing an amount of money, beginning with the next budget cycle for 2013-14, for each board member to access for spending on such things as mileage, business cards and other incidentals related to board duties.

He wants the change, saying, “Right now I think we’re putting the county administrator in an awkward position sometimes with having to decide whether to approve those or not.”

There was likewise discussion of setting an amount per board member to attend conferences of their choosing at county expense.

The suggestions were likely prompted by Brabo’s expenditures for conference attendance and attendant hotel bills, meals and mileage reimbursements. Her attendance at a national conference soon after she took office raised eyebrows of the board members who actually take the time to review the warrants prior to approval.

County warrants indicate that Brabo’s trip to the National Association of Counties (NACo) conference cost $465 for the registration alone and $1,118.93 for four nights in the Washington Hilton.

That’s not a lot of money, but if all supervisors behaved similarly, it could begin to add up to a sizeable budget increase.

Her requests for funding to attend various other conferences finally prompted Quesenberry to deny some reimbursements because the budget line became exhausted prior to the end of the 2012 fiscal year on June 30.

Brooks asked, “How do we come up with a figure? Because I think people should be able to go to any type of conference they want to go to.”

Sisson responded, saying, “I think you set a budget for that like for every other element of the county budget and it would be up to us to manage that. So if you exceed your budget –I mean, I may want to go to a conference in Hawaii, but I can do it within my $350 budget - or whatever amount we set it at.”

Brooks suggested maybe having conferences for individual members approved by the board. Sisson was amenable, as were other board members. Details are yet to be nailed down.

County administrator Travis Quesenberry said the amounts could be set at a future meeting, following his provision to the board of the amounts spent for such things during the last five or six years.

RAISES FOR BOARD MEMBERS?
The discussion of board members and money also prompted Brooks to again bring up the notion of the board voting raises for itself. This is a familiar topic that he has returned to over the years of his tenure.

Brooks said, “This board has made $5,000 for 20 years, more than that. And we never got a raise. We’re one of the lowest-paid in the Commonwealth, really. Caroline is getting $20,000 and Westmoreland is only getting $3,500. But I think it’s time we step it up and I think we can do it next year.”

Brooks also said, “I wanted to bring it up so at least we can discuss it, because in the past we haven’t had three votes on that.”

There has never been support for the idea from other board members. But this time, it could be different.
Brabo might go along with it. At last week’s meeting, Brabo immediately offered her understanding of state law on the topic of board raises, noting it would have to be approved during the first six months of the year and if approved would go into effect the following January.

LoBuglio might also go for it, since he most often agrees with Brabo’s opinions.

Brooks directed that the interim county attorney look into the requirements for such a vote.

He most recently brought the topic up at a meeting last March, complaining that their stipends never go up.
Supervisors are each paid a nominal $5,000 per year for their public service. It’s not much, but it is in line with a lot of counties with the same population and higher than some others.  

Brooks has tried a couple times in the past to get Supervisors to seriously considering raising the amount of money paid to King George board members, but to no avail. Supervisors have in the past expressed the view that keeping the stipend low attracts those who run for election for reasons other than money, hopefully to provide public service.

Brooks also benefits by having his health insurance paid by the county. A few years ago, a resolution was passed that allowed Supervisors to opt-in to paid health insurance at Brooks’ request. He is the only member that opts-in to that benefit. This year’s cost to the county for that expense is budgeted at over $9,100 for this benefit.

Phyllis Cook

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