Sat08302014

Last updateWed, 19 Nov 2014 8pm

   2014 39.95 HSD w VIDor PH-Banner2-500-x-125

Supervisor’s backroom dealings overshadow budget vote

The King George supervisors may have been divided on the issue of the county’s budget but they were unanimous about one thing - their unhappiness with emailed comments made by James Monroe supervisor John LoBuglio.

By a 3 to 2 vote the Board approved a budget of $62,053,003, including $34 million for schools. Supervisors Grzeika and Sisson voted against the budget.Supervisor Grzeika voiced his concern that the decision to take funds from the county’s fund balance would require a tax hike of between 10 and 13 cents next year just to stay even with this year’s funding unless the reserves were raided again.

 

Let’s Fact-Check

LoBuglio first said the email was not sent and then said that he had sent it to a few people as a draft to get their comments about it.
However, LoBuglio sent the email out in response to an email from a constituent.
Here is the text of the email:

Thank you for your support and email. I came onboard in support of more funding for the school system and believe we can do it for this year without any tax increase. I believe we will have the necessary majority votes for the school budget if enough citizens show up tomorrow evening to voice their feelings at the public hearing. I am counting on that. I have worked behind the scenes to coordinate the achieving the $34.0M school budget and bringing the votes together. I will feel I've accomplished an outstanding goal if I can get this achieved this first year in office. Please pass the word for as many folks to attend and speak to fully fund the $34.0M. Thank you.  v/r John P. LoBu

While Grzeika and Sisson were disappointed with the move to take additional monies from the fund balance, the meeting was dominated by unhappy remarks from board members about LoBuglio’s comments in an email about “behind the scenes efforts to coordinate the achieving the $34.0M school budget and bringing the votes together.”
It did not take long for the issue to come up, and from there the meeting was dominated by a discussion of Mr. LoBuglio’s “behind the scenes” dealings .

After Deputy County Administrator Donita Harper gave a short budget presentation, Supervisor LoBuglio asked about going “up to what we discussed last week.” When Chairman Dale Sisson said that the figure of $33.7 million came strictly from the board’s last public work session where “three members agreed to that number,” LoBuglio said that “after the public hearing the three same people discussed $34 million.” Worried by LoBuglio’s continuing reference to private discussions, Shiloh supervisor Cedell Brooks hastily chimed in, noting that they didn’t discuss the school budget after the meeting; “Mr. LoBuglio I don’t want to hear anymore about what went on behind the scenes.” Brooks huffed that he did not operate that way.

In his usual manner, Dahlgren Supervisor James Mullen just wanted to be agreeable, saying that there had been no closed door, behind the scenes session without addressing the issue of any less formal but still questionable private communications.

After Brooks made a motion to adopt the budget at $62 million with Mullen hastily seconding, Supervisor Grzeika read from prepared comments. He noted that “in the past this board has debated in the open each and every decision. It wasn’t personal it was democracy in the sunshine.” He noted that he had received a copy of an email from a constituent. Grzeika said the email was very troubling. He had “never been consulted, contacted or informed. In doing this he (LoBuglio) had denied the people of my district of their elected representation.” He termed LoBuglio’s actions as “misguided at best, illegal at worst.”

LoBuglio tried to defend himself by claiming his  email was “never sent out. It was in draft form.” He said he had showed it to a few people but it was not sent out. Contrary to his claim however, the entire reason this episode has surfaced was because Mr. LoBuglio did send out this message. That was how it entered the public domain.

Sisson told LoBuglio that he hoped he had learned his lesson. He noted that LoBuglio had campaigned on open government and that he hoped LoBuglio would learn to live by that.

Brooks questioned LoBuglio’s email comment that “I will feel I’ve accomplished an outstanding goal if I can get this achieved this first year in office.” Brooks said he had been working to increase school funding.

Brooks told LoBuglio, “We hope, sir, that you have learned something from this.” LoBuglio had “made it seem like we’re in the back room and emailing.”

LoBuglio again denied that the email had been sent out. He said he had “sent it to a few individuals asking for their comments,” to which Brooks replied “everyone is not your friend. Be mindful of who you call your friend.”


Text of Grzeika’s prepared comments:


Tonight I find myself in a very unfortunate position, not that I may be on the losing end of the vote, no I have been there several times before and that is all part of the process.

In the past this board has debated in the open each and every decision reaching a decision when a motion is made and the votes taken, after which we moved on, it wasn’t personal it was in fact democracy working in the “sunshine.

Tonight, we are operating from an entirely different approach.

I received a copy of an email form a constituent that they had received which was authored by one of our board members, this e-mail is very clear and the board member states: “I have worked behind the scenes to coordinate the achieving the $34.0 M school budget and bringing the votes together.”

This is very troubling I was never consulted, contacted nor informed that this board member was doing this. I guess he knew my position and did not want to really debate the subject.

The problem here is that in doing this he has denied the people of my district their elected representation. I have become familiar with the Code of Virginia over these past 14 plus years and I have never seen where any one supervisor is granted any authority, none. The only authority is vested in the “BOARD” to conduct business in the shadows, line up votes, and railroad the individuals decisions is misguided at best illegal at worst. It also has another troubling and more devastating consequence we will no longer have the trust that has been developed over the years in knowing we all have a voice, an equal voice, and not until we all weigh in and make our points ,debate the subject and consider all perspectives and then vote to make the decision. No we will have to wonder has a subset worked behind the scenes to decide the issue.

I can not support the proposed changes to the County Administrator’s budget because I believe they are not warranted, not sustainable and the impacts in the coming year will have ramifications that will pale in comparison to anything that would come from the proposed County Administrator’s Budget.  I worry that next year despite the rhetoric about dipping into reserves is a one time event these same individuals will not have the will nor the desire to increase the taxes to fund that budget, the tax impact looks like it could be in at least the 10 -13 cent range and I doubt any of these members will support that. So we will wait and see what next year brings, not a plan I will ever support. Ever!

Mr Chairman thank you for the time.  

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