Leesburg Town Attorney Barbara Notar’s job appears safe, at least for the moment.

The Town Council emerged from a closed session Monday evening for Notar’s performance evaluation, taking no action. Town Manager Kaj Dentler confirmed today that an additional closed session, regarding both her evaluation and last week’s controversial letter to the editor, will be held at tonight’s meeting.

Last week, a statement signed by Mayor Kelly Burk, Vice Mayor Marty Martinez and Councilman Neil Steinberg ignited a firestorm of controversy when they alleged that their four council counterparts were conspiring to terminate their town attorney. The three alleged, in a letter shared with Loudoun Now, that council members Suzanne Fox, Josh Thiel, Ron Campbell and Tom Dunn were unhappy with Notar’s legal handling of both the Graydon Manor project and the boundary line adjustment process with the county and that they intended to vote to terminate her contract. Fox, Thiel, Campbell and Dunn in turn have slammed their colleagues for airing a personnel matter in the public sphere.

Annually both the town attorney and town manager, the only two positions in Leesburg government hired directly by the Town Council, have performance evaluations in a closed session meeting with the council. Typically following a closed session, the council votes to approve a new contract for that employee, usually with with a pay raise or bonus of some sort.

Notar’s performance evaluation closed session Monday night lasted about an hour and was immediately preceded by another lengthy closed meeting dealing with pending litigation on the town/county boundary line adjustment. Dentler said the town has hired outside legal counsel, attorney Martin Crim, to represent the town during Notar’s evaluation. Crim was present during Monday’s meeting.

After reconvening out of closed session, the council passed motions acknowledging that only matters lawfully exempted from open meeting requirements were discussed. On the closed session regarding Notar’s evaluation Dunn dissented.

“We went into the [closed session] meeting to discuss certain areas of the town attorney’s evaluation. There were some other items [raised], while somewhat related, that were related to other issues dealing with action by council members in a public forum and letters going to the paper,” he said.

While Campbell did participate in the closed session, as did all seven council members, he was the lone member to vote against going into closed session regarding Notar’s evaluation. He pointed to last week’s events as his reasoning.

“I believe the time to go into closed session was certainly not in the atmosphere of putting things in the newspaper,” he said. “To think that we can fairly now give an evaluation under this atmosphere ... to have a clearing of the air is what’s called for first. Not talking about an evaluation process that’s already been tainted.”

There very well could be more fallout from last week’s controversial letter, as alluded to by some council members earlier during Monday night’s work session. Under the section of the agenda where council members propose additions to future council meetings, Dunn voiced support for a future agenda item on how to address the recent actions of Burk, Martinez and Steinberg in sending the letter to the editor regarding Notar’s employment. With the support of Thiel, Fox and Campbell, that topic will be before the council for discussion in the coming weeks.

krodriguez@loudounnow.com

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