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LoBuglio brags about “coordinating a coup” to increase school budget

Provides an implausible explanation for his email about “working behind the scenes”


King George Supervisor John LoBuglio embarrassed himself again at last week’s meeting when volunteering a far-fetched new excuse for his “behind the scenes” activity he wrote about in an April 19 e-mail for which he caught flak from fellow supervisors at a meeting on April 28.
Now he is saying it took place last January.  
Also, more of his e-mails reveal his bragging to take credit for increasing School Board funding, while using two of his colleagues as props and calling his behind-the-scenes efforts “coordinating a coup.”
Last week The Journal requested LoBuglio’s e-mail traffic for most of April and received it from County Attorney Matt Britton.  

LOBUGLIO:  “BEHIND THE SCENES COORDINATING” RESULTED IN A “COUP”   

LoBuglio took his “behind the scenes” activity a step further and referred to it as “coordinating” a “coup” in an April 15 e-mail.

 

“I did the behind the scenes coordinating of that coup last evening having Mr. Brooks lead the charge as our senior representative,” LoBuglio’s e-mail stated to a teacher.
LoBuglio’s e-mail boast was sent the day after a budget work session on April 14 when a new alliance of three supervisors had emerged.
They were on the same page, literally and figuratively.
At that budget meeting, Cedell Brooks, James Mullen and LoBuglio each pulled out a sheet with a chart of new school budget figures, saying it was e-mailed from School Board member Dennis Paulsen, which was confirmed by our e-mail request.
Chairman Dale Sisson and Supervisor Joe Grzeika were excluded on Paulsen’s e-mail.
That meeting ended with supervisors looking to fund the School Board operating budget at $33.7 million.  
LoBuglio’s April 15 e-mail where he credits himself for the “coordinating of that coup” also said, “Only after it was stated that we had 3 votes in favor did Mr. Sisson relinquish and up his recommendation to 100K short of ours, but I am still pushing for another 300K to bring it up to an even 34.0M.”
Thus, when supervisors met the next week on April 28 to adopt the county budget and $33.7 million for the School Board as had been proposed, LoBuglio, Mullen and Brooks wanted to increase the figure to $34 million.
LoBuglio said at that meeting that “after the public hearing the three same people discussed $34 million.”
It’s hard to believe they didn’t.
Brooks didn’t like LoBuglio’s continuing reference to private discussions and chimed in, saying, “Mr. LoBuglio I don’t want to hear anymore about what went on behind the scenes.” Brooks added that he did not operate that way.
That’s because it sounded as though the three supervisors were meeting behind the scenes, which would be illegal under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
FOIA’s first paragraph states in part, “The affairs of government are not intended to be conducted in an atmosphere of secrecy since at all times the public is to be the beneficiary of any action taken at any level of government.”
Its second paragraph also states, “The provisions of this chapter shall be liberally construed to promote an increased awareness by all persons of governmental activities and afford every opportunity to citizens to witness the operations of government.”
REVISED STORY ON BACK ROOM DEALINGS    
At last week’s meeting, LoBuglio came up with a new back story to excuse his e-mail about “behind the scenes” manipulations that had caused a public stir with his fellow supervisors at the meeting on April 28.
In an April 19 e-mail to a constituent, LoBuglio wrote, “I am doing my best to get a majority to vote in favor of the full school budget request.”
LoBuglio initially said the April 19 outgoing e-mail about working “behind the scenes” had never been sent and then later said it was just a “draft.”
A review of his e-mail traffic reveals it was actually a template, as he sent the same message with the same misspellings and wording to numerous school board supporters in response to their urging him to vote for increase in the 2010-11 School Board budget.
His latest version was volunteered during his board member comments last week on May 4.
“As far as last week’s session, um, I would like to clarify the words that were used in the e-mails that I sent out and published by the media,” LoBuglio said. “Quote ‘behind the scenes’ was a reference to our Board of Supervisors’ working session Jan. 26 at Firehouse 1, where after I had been in discussions with the School Board and Dr. Brown, I was specifically told by Chairman Sisson to stay out of it and leave it up to our county administrator to talk to, and that. So that’s where that reference comes from and that. I did not work behind the scenes. Also, Mr. Grzeika in his comments mentioned that what I was doing was illegal. There was absolutely nothing illegal that I ever did with the School Board meeting. All I did was to help facilitate communication. And for calling it seeking goals from my campaign, it was no reference or slight to the other two members who voted for it and that. It was strictly, you know, something I was trying to do for the communities and the schools and to make King George a better place for the future.”
The only public response to LoBuglio’s comments last week came from Sisson.
Bewildered by LoBuglio’s rambling commentary, Sisson said, “Mr. LoBuglio, I have no idea what you are talking about with that meeting. But I said my comments last time and will leave it at that.”

LOBUGLIO’S BOASTING      
His other e-mails provide further evidence of his work behind the scenes, taking full credit for the political manipulations.  
In an April 16 e-mail, LoBuglio wrote to a school employee (misspellings are his), “I am working very hark at pushing for more funding for our school system. What I need now is for as many pro funding KG residents to attend next Tuesday evenings (4/20/10) public hearing on the proposed 2010-2011 School Budget as possible to voice their opinions for more funding, especially to cover the teachers' health insurance increase of 17%. Please try to pass the word around to encourage as many to attend as possible.”
LoBuglio, who took office in January, added, “I have made a real impact since January and would have swayed the power to favor more funding and better relations for the school system. Right now it is in the citizens hands to speak up at the public hearing. Therefore, it is imparative that as many folks fill the board room and voice their comments on the public record to show support. I will be exuberent if I can get the board to fund $34.0M. Right now we are at $33.7M, so I need folks to request the additional amount to cover the health insurance increase.”

MULLEN CONFUSED OVER FOIA    
Prior to the start of that May 4 meeting, Supervisor Mullen volunteered to The Journal that he had not had any backroom meetings with LoBuglio or with Brooks to discuss the school budget.
Upon being asked, he responded that he had not read the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, which under state law is required reading for elected and appointed officials, who are tasked to become familiar with its provisions.
Mullen said he understood that it was all right for up to three members to get together between meetings.
He was immediately corrected by a long-time county staff member in the board room, who informed him no more than two board members can get together to discuss county business between meetings.
The extent of any coordinating behind the scenes between Supervisors LoBuglio, Brooks and Mullen is still not entirely clear.

  Phyllis Cook

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