Randall Adds New Closed Session Affirmations

Loudoun County supervisors will now individually affirm that they have followed the rules governing closed-door meetings after those meetings, County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) announced Tuesday.

“I’m going to ask for each of you individually, from here on out for the rest of term, to affirm individually on a roll call vote that nothing happened in closed session but what we went into closed session for,” Randall told supervisors before a closed session.

State law allows county supervisors to meet behind closed doors for certain purposes, such as consulting with legal counsel on ongoing lawsuits, discussing real estate negotiations, or giving the county attorney and county administrator performance reviews. Before entering closed session, supervisors must cite the specific exemption to open meetings rules allowing them to do so and hold a vote. Supervisors cannot take official action in closed session, and upon leaving closed session, must also vote to certify that they took no official action behind closed doors.

Now they will also individually affirm that the rules governing closed sessions, such as only discussing the topic of the closed session, were followed.

On Jan. 8, supervisors unanimously adopted a new provision in their rules of order dictating that if a supervisor discloses information from the closed sessions, the board may vote either reassert the claim that that was privileged information, or to formally release that information publicly. The new rule for the first time also raises the possibility of sanctioning or censuring a member who provides “improper disclosure” of that information.

After the new rule caused a social media stir, Randall called reporting on the change “misleading,” saying the Board of Supervisors is “an incredibly, incredibly transparent body, but there are times when we can’t do things in the open, so we don’t.”

County Attorney Leo Rogers said the new rules are necessary to protect the county’s claim to attorney-client privilege in the case of a lawsuit.

Most Board of Supervisors meetings include a closed session, often for consulting with legal counsel or discussing real estate acquisitions. Following the closed session Tuesday to consult with legal counsel, each supervisor did affirm the rules had been followed.

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