Friday, January 30, 2009

Correction and comment

Thanks to Linda Wise for good hearing and a great memory. She correctly pointed out that the supervisors voted to appropriate up to $50,000 to fund the forensic audit to be conducted under the auspices of Goochland Commonwealth’s Attorney, Claiborne H. Stokes, Jr. He pledged to spend the citizens' money carefully.
Accountants to perform a financial statement audit on all county departments other than utilities will be retained in accordance with the county’s normal procurement policy. The cost of that financial review is expected to be less than $20,000 according to a county employee in the audience who has some familiarity with county audits.

Please note, anonymous attacks on county officials that have no relation to policy discussions will not be posted. This is not high school. If you want to trash county officials in a personal manner, start your own blog.

Putting our house in order

A new era begins

The Goochland County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to conduct a forensic audit of the utilities department concurrent with a financial statement audit of all county departments, including the school system. They appropriated up to $50,000 to fund the audits, which will be performed by accounting firms other than those, which have audited county departments in the past.
The special called January 28 meeting, initially announced as a closed session, was held in public following objections from a local attorney. Its sole purpose was discussion of the upcoming audits with Goochland Commonwealth’s Attorney Claiborne H. Stokes, Jr.
Hours before the meeting, county administrator Greg Wolfrey announced his resignation and departed from county offices.
Jubilation generated by news of Wolfrey’s resignation bubbled through the standing room only crowd that filled the board meeting room and spilled out into the hall.
Reporters and TV crews tripped over each other to gather citizen comment and record the proceedings.
On December 23, the supervisors voted to send the matter of undeposited checks found in the utility department to Stokes. After meeting in closed session with Stokes on January 13 the board agreed in theory that a forensic audit of the utilities department and a complete audit of the entire county was in order.
Stokes told the supervisors that he contacted the forensic accounting firm he used whiile prosecuting a local embezzlement case. Those auditors, said Stokes, advised a forensic audit for the utilities department, but not for the entire county.
A forensic audit, explained Stokes, focuses on a specific target agreed upon by the forensic auditors and the concerned party, in this case, Goochland County. This type of audit is used in matters involving potential or actual criminal or civil litigation.
The analysis is typically conducted in phases and may evolve as work progresses. As each phase is complete, the results are analyzed and discussed with the client to determine if the scope is to be expanded.
Processes examined may include, but are not limited to: the evaluation of internal controls; investigation of fraud; tracing of funds; recovery of misappropriated funds and determination of damages.
Fraud, said Stokes, by its very nature involves deception. It is impossible to guarantee with complete certainly that all fraud will be discovered.
Given the circumstances, a forensic audit is an appropriate procedure to address the concerns in the utilities department, said Stokes. The board concurred.
Using the same procedure to audit all other county departments would be extremely expensive and difficult, because it would not have a focal point, Stokes explained.
He instead suggested a financial statement audit, which is an expression of an opinion whether the entire county’s financial statements accurately describe the county’s financial condition.
This type of audit, which follows guidelines such as Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards, would be appropriate for the entire county. If any problems come to light during the financial statement audit, they can be referred to the forensic auditors for further examination.
Stokes was careful to state that he can be involved only in the forensic audit because of the potential for criminal activity. He stated that he cannot yet determine if there has or has not been any criminal activity in the utility department.
“I believe that the citizens of Goochland County want a plan so the people see that we are going to get to the bottom of this,” said Stokes.
The good name of the employees of Goochland County also needs to be protected, he said.
Stokes said that a “guesstimate” of the cost of just the forensic audit is up to $30,000. With tax season fast approaching, the financial statement audit might not begin until after April 15.
Board chairman Andrew Pryor, District 1 said that his only contact with the auditors will be to sign contracts and authorize payments.
James Eads, District 5 contended that it is important to reinforce public trust in county finances and employees. He commended Stokes on his recommended plan of action.
“I personally do not believe that there have been any unlawful acts, but we’ll find out. What was done was inexcusable, but it was not criminal, in my opinion,” said Eads.
Supervisors will be free to consult with the forensic accountants, but Stokes must be present at any such meeting.
If the forensic audit reveals no criminal action, Stokes promised to make the results public and explain the details to the supervisors in open session. Should criminal action be discovered Stokes, will prosecute the alleged offenders.
News of these audits is balm to the sores of rumor that have plagued citizen confidence in county government in recent months.
The supervisors are wise to appropriate reasonable funding at the outset to move the process forward as quickly as possible. However, thoroughness must trump speed to erase all doubts.
A beneficial side effect of the process will be a strong and healthy fiscal foundation for Goochland’s future.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


Greg Wolfrey's letter to the Goochland County staff was dated January 28, 2009, shortly before he left the building. An error occurred in my haste to post. Regrettably, there is no "spellcheck" for numbers. Thanks to eagle eyed readers for catching the mistake. Please comment often and keep me honest.
Thanks for your support.
S. E. Warwick

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Change afoot

Wolfrey resigns

According to a memo sent by Greg Wolfrey to the county staff dated January 28,2009, he will be resigning as Goochland County administrator effective Sunday, February 1, 2009.

Change afoot

Wolfrey resigns

According to a memo sent by Greg Wolfrey to the county staff dated January 8,2009, he will be resigning as Goochland County administrator effective Sunday, February 1, 2009.

Sun to shine on tonight's meeting


The supervisors’ meeting tonight, January 28 at 7 p.m. will be an open meeting. For unknown reasons, the board decided to conduct the business on the agenda in full view of the public.

Also, Lisa Beczkiewicz, who is Deputy Clerk to the Board of Supervisors sent the following email to Wat Ellerson and all supervisors stating that the minutes of recent board meetings included the proper citation of Virginia law concerning closed sessions:

01.28.09 Gentlemen, Upon reviewing the minutes of 12.02, 12.23 and 01.6, the Board certified its closed session meetings in the minutes with the exception of 01.06 which they in fact did certify but I inadvertently failed to include-- it is in the written minutes on file . The “draft” is just that and I have now corrected it to be accurate. My apologies for the oversight.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Citizens, you are needed

Another closed meeting

The Goochland County board of supervisors will meet at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 7 p.m. in the board meeting room of the county administration building at 1800 Sandy Hook Road in Courthouse Village.
Once again, citizens are urged to signify by their presence that they do not want the “utilities mess” to be swept under the rug.
Recent discovery of additional uncashed checks in a utilities department safe, that was believed to have been emptied several weeks ago, needs investigation and explanation.
The board is expected to meet in closed session to discuss the upcoming forensic audit. However, comments below made by H. Watkins Ellerson in an email to members of the board of supervisors (printed below with the author’s permission) could change that. Ellerson, an attorney who lives in western Goochland, has extensive experience in government matters.
In addition, the board could also hear troubling new information about the serious danger posed by the venting of methane gas on or near soccer fields at Hidden Rock Park.

Email to supervisors Creasey, Pryor and Quarles


I just completed a Website review of the Minutes of the Goochland Co. Board of Supervisors from Jan. 6, 2009 (p. 16) and in 2008, Dec. 23 (the entire meeting) and Dec. 2 (p.11). All of this has taken over an hour, and I just don't have time to "fly-speck" any more. I don't think I need to, as these recent findings confirm my recollections of past practices and the stories I have heard out in the "ether."

I regret the Minutes show unanimous roll-call consent to enter into closed meetings, but in my opinion (and I realize it is JUST my opinion), the open-govt. laws are sorely violated by the procedures, insofar as they are enumerated in those Minutes.

As I said in my "primer" (attached), I believe the Minutes MUST reflect FULL compliance, and they do not in any case.

Your Board of Supervisors is going into closed meetings WAY too often, in my opinion. I have NEVER witnessed the frequency of use of closed meetings any more than by the Goochland Board of Supervisors. In my opinion, I fear you are not getting full and proper legal advice thereon.

The most glaring omission from the Minutes of all 3 meetings is the failure to note a roll-call vote taken AFTER the meetings to have each member of the Board declare that there was precise compliance with the open-govt. laws by enumerating SPECIFICALLY the items discussed, AND a declaration that there were no "secret" agreements. The declaration to the contrary by any Supervisor is not fatal to the propriety of the meeting, but I have found no exception to the requirement of the post-meeting poll.

FURTHER: a closed meeting cannot be held on "generic" grounds, like "real estate" or "legal discussion," nor even for "litigation." I believe there MUST be a declaration PRIOR to the vote to go into closed meeting not only of the factually specified matter to be discussed (specifics contained in the motion for the closed meeting), but in the case of litigation or a real estate sale or purchase, I think it must also SPECIFICALLY STATE that the County's negotiating or bargaining strategies and positions WILL BE unduly compromised if such are discussed openly. It may even be required that the specific nature of the impairment also be disclosed! I am not sure of that.

None of that was done in those cases. Citing a code section (not even labeled as such in the Minutes) is not enough. The actual factual bases for the actions must be stated.

As for closed meetings about "specifically named" personnel, the Minutes do not reflect the identities of those employees. I think they must. If stated in open meeting, then the Minutes must also reflect those identities, and they are not stated in any of them.

Also, discussion of the "successor Administrator" is not a valid grounds for closed meetings, where merely the job description or requirements are being discussed as opposed to the specific confidential information of a specific applicant, whom I believe must be identified as such in the motion and the Minutes. The names of any candidates being generally considered are not validly withheld from the public, in my opinion.

In short, I think the Goochland Co. Board of Supervisors, with the consent of each of you (because of the unanimous votes), has been in blatant violation of the open-government laws many times just in the past 2 months!

That is a lot of fines for each of you personally if the circuit court so says.

Things need to tighten up. The Board of Supervisors had better quit meeting in secret so much. Some of you need to start objecting to some of those meetings and always the lax procedures. A vote to close the meeting is a tacit embrace of any (flawed) procedures followed.

And, those who think they are being well-served by the County Atty. had better start looking at things more closely.

One other thing I want to note about the Minutes of Jan. 6:

In the "Public Comment" portion (p. 3), it is noted that "Ann James ... expressed her thoughts on the Public Utilities Department breakdown."

Apparently so. From what I have heard about her appearance (since I was not there), I would say that is an extraordinary example of understatement!

I am sure it was not pleasant to be on the receiving end of the harsh criticism that I heard about regarding the mess at the Public Utilities Dept., but I think that the critical nature of Ms. James's remarks should have been memorialized to some degree of specificity. This "missing checks" scandal is big news, but the Minutes reflect none of that. I am convinced that these Minutes are bowdlerized fluff to make the Board of Supervisors look good, and yet the truth is making the Board look bad. Why edit out such criticism in such a blatant fashion? It only reflects poorly on the Board. It makes the Board look fearful and reinforces the credibility of the criticism!

Wat Ellerson

Monday, January 26, 2009

We've only just begun

One meeting is not a revolution

A recent outpouring of citizen outrage at the workings of Goochland County government resulted in positive action.

There is still much to be done.

While attention has been focused on the utilities mess, sale of the Fairgrounds Building property seems imminent.
The matter has been on the supervisors’ closed meeting agenda so often in the past few years that it attracts little notice.

According to Wayne Dawson, proprietor of Dawson’s Pharmacy in the Courthouse Commons Shopping Center, the supervisors will soon sell the Fairground Building property to the shopping center’s developers, North Carolina based Chase Ventures, to build a Walgreens store there.

What does this mean for Goochland?

At first blush, the presence of a “big box” retailer brings sales tax revenues for the county and additional retail choices for residents. A closer look, however, raises some troubling questions.

In 2008, according to, the company opened 629 new stores as part of an aggressive corporate expansion program. Those new locations resulted in a net gain of 561 stores after closings and relocations. Sounds like customers at 68 stores had to make other arrangements for their pharmacy needs.
What if the Goochland store does not meet company expectations?
Since Walgreens is expected to lease rather than own the building, it will be easy to close a Goochland store and send its customers to its nearest store on Ridgefield Parkway to have their prescriptions filled by strangers. A vacant building would be left behind.

According to Dawson, Rick Palamar, a principal of Chase Ventures, told him that his lease, which expires at the end of 2009, will not be renewed but that Walgreens would offer him a job. As an alternative, Dawson could open a pharmacy in a new shopping center at Lake Anna. Dawson lives in Crozier.

Comments made by Palamar, said Dawson, suggest that his interest in locating a Walgreens in Courthouse Village has more to do with Chase Ventures’ relationship with the Walgreens company than the good of Goochland or the health of the shopping center. Dawson also said that Palamar indicated that only a major national company like a Walgreens could afford to pay the county’s asking price.

Owning his own pharmacy in a small town setting like Courthouse Village was Dawson’s lifelong dream. He has invested his life savings in Goochland. Dawson often gets out of bed in the middle of the night to help his customers. He is also a compounding pharmacist, which is a rarity in today’s world of corporate chain drug stores.

Dawson contends that he just wants to continue providing good service to his customers and be an active and supportive member of the community.

Dawson’s Pharmacy is a local business, owned and controlled by a county resident. While there are no guarantees that Dawson will be open forever, his business decisions will be based on conditions in Goochland, not made by far away bean counters to mollify corporate stockholders.

People who bemoan the county’s lack of suburban amenities need to understand that in Goochland “rural character” does not mean Short Pump with large lots.

This is another example of unintended consequences coming back to bite the county.

Several years ago, a developer allegedly expressed interest in purchasing of the entire parcel, including the Fairgrounds Building corner, to build a shopping center. That developer reportedly offered to build the county, at his own expense, a new community center to replace the existing derelict building in return for the corner lot.

The supervisors rejected that offer for unknown reasons. Had the property been developed in accordance with a master plan for the entire parcel, Dawson’s problem might never have arisen. This is yet another example of lack of foresight on the part of the supervisors.

The county needs economic development to pay its bills.

However, two separate efforts to develop senior citizen communities in the east end, which would have many brought jobs and much revenue without school children, recently evaporated during initial talks reportedly because of excessive demands on the part of the county. Senior community jobs should be especially attractive because they cannot be moved offshore.

Yet, the supervisors are ready to sell to Palamar with few conditions other than that the check clear.

Why hasn’t the county tried harder to attract types of businesses not already in Courthouse Village to the site?

If there are not enough nearby rooftops to support a small hardware store, are there enough to support a big box pharmacy? If Walgreens comes, what’s next, Starbucks and Best Buy to put Javajodi’s and Lacy’s out of business?

We have the start of a “there there” in Courthouse Village. A big box retailer would destroy the neighborhood ambiance that is taking root in the county seat. The size of a typical Walgreens is out of scale with the area. A chain mega-pharmacy is not a local sustainable business that builds and enhances a spirit of community. It’s just a quick buck with a long, bitter aftertaste.

On February 3, the supervisors are expected to decide whether or not to sell the property to Palamar.
Let your supervisor know that paving the way for a Walgreens in Courthouse Village destroys rather than preserves rural character.

Pay attention! We’ve only just begun.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Behind closed doors

The tide turns

More than 100 citizens attended a special called meeting of the Goochland Board of Supervisors on the evening of January 13. Their presence may have begun to turn the tide of local government conduct.
Board chairman Andrew Pryor, District 1, called the meeting to order around 7 p.m. and promptly lost control of the proceedings.
After Pryor announced that the meeting had been called for the sole purpose of discussing the public utilities department in closed session with the Commonwealth’s Attorney, Claiborne H. Stokes, Jr. and that there would be no opportunity for public comment, the meeting went on its merry way.
District 4 Supervisor Rudy Butler declared that he wanted to discuss the expanded provisions of the Supervisors’ Standards of Conduct (SOC) and proceeded to do so.
Butler said that he had been at a meeting with county employees that very afternoon who were “scared to death” to talk to him without the approval of either Greg Wolfrey, the county administrator or county attorney Andrew McRoberts.
Butler said he “had a problem” adopting the county administrator’s operations policy (printed verbatim below) and wondered why Wolfrey, who has been county administrator for almost 22 years, waited until now to formally articulate his policies.
He also condemned the way that the new provisions in the SOC were being used to intimidate county employees, some of whom feared that their phones were tapped. Butler also contended that if they had been in place last year, the fiscal chaos in the public utilities department would never have been discovered.
Kim Cross, a county employee, strode to the lectern and told the board the she believed that the policy violates her rights as an employee, county citizen and taxpayer. Cross said that she likes being able to talk to the supervisors directly and believes that the interaction between board members and county staff is beneficial to everyone.
Butler contended that provisions 13 and 14 or the SOC (see “Gulag” below), were not included in the board information packet he received several days before meeting, but had instead been included among last minute items given to he and Ned Creasey, District 3 just before the start of the January 6 workshop.
Ann James of Oilville, an outspoken thorn in the side of public officials for years, chimed in to ask why the SOC in the meeting room copy of the board packet and that posted online did not include the new provisions 13 and 14.
Confused mumbling by Pryor, James Eads, District 5 and William Quarles, Jr., District 2 Quarles shed no light on the contents of the packets they received several days before the meeting of if they contained the new language.
However, from their actions at the January 6 meeting, it seems clear that Pryor, Eads and Quarles were familiar with the new provisions and not anxious to discuss them in public.
Eads balked at discussing a matter about which he had not been informed beforehand, yet that was exactly what Butler and Creasey were expected to do at the January 6 meeting.
It is still unclear who authorized inclusion of the provisions in the SOC. It is less clear who authorized Wolfrey to use the new policy to intimidate county staff.
Quarles regretted the heavy-handed implementation of the policy, but defended its existence contending that there is a need to establish a clear chain of command so that all of the players in county government understand their roles.
Butler moved to rescind the new language, but Pryor said the motion was improper and finally moved the meeting into closed session.
Most of the people stayed.
About an hour later, the board emerged. Pryor announced that Stokes has the sole authority to conduct a comprehensive audit of all county departments. The Commonwealth’s Attorney will select and hire auditors, receive their reports and then present his findings and recommendations to the board. No time frame for these actions was announced, but it is expected that thoroughness and accuracy will take precedence over speed.
Only the five board members returned to closed session to discuss specific named personnel and at Butler’s insistence, the county administrator and county attorney.
Returning around 9 p.m. Pryor announced that the supervisors had retained an executive search firm to find Wolfrey’s successor. He indicated that the process would move forward in a somewhat expedited manner.

Creasey then made a motion to terminate the employment of the county administrator that was seconded by Butler. Quarles declared the motion out of order because it did not adhere to county’s processes and procedures.
Quarles then attempted to modify Creasey’s motion, without support, that action died.
Because Wolfrey and McRoberts left before the second closed session, Pryor, who has been in office for several decades, did not seem to know what to do next without direction from the county attorney. Members of the audience familiar with parliamentary procedure called out helpful suggestions.
The vote was 3-2 against termination of the county administrator.
Another vote, taken on a motion by Butler to rescind the new provisions of the SOC and revisit the issue in the future, passed unanimously.
The meeting was very productive.
Authorizing Stokes to perform a comprehensive audit of all county departments will allow Goochland to identify weak points in its fiscal processes and procedures and put its financial house in order. This will give the incoming county administrator a solid foundation on which to build the future.
Expedition of the search and hiring process for the county administrator is the right course of action given the problems in the public utilities department.
Repeal of the expanded provisions of the SOC was really the only course of action open to the board. Their intent to revisit the matter and develop a policy creating a clear chain of command in county administration bodes well for the future.
However, that policy should be the product of an open and deliberate process that includes input from the county employees. Their front line experience makes them uniquely qualified to help craft policy to effectively and efficiently operate the county and in turn better serve the citizens. After all that is the reason that government exists and for which the governed give their consent.
The supervisors also need to keep a guide to parliamentary procedure in the board meeting room for times when they are left to their own devices. offers the classic “Robert’s Rules of Order” in paperback for $4.99 or “Robert’s Rules for Dummies” for $11.95.

County Administrator’s Operations Policy
Thoughts to share and points to make

The following is offered to the Board of Supervisors as a personal communication from the County Administrator to each member. These thoughts, points and suggestions are a compilation of my practices over the years that seem to work either in terms of promoting efficiency or keeping me out of trouble. They could be referred to as a list of "suggested best practices". They relate to the relationship of the Board of Supervisors with the County Administrator, staff, the press, and the public. The thoughts and points made here are not found in any other information that may be provided and are not absolute. Each Board member will find his or her own individual way of addressing the issues listed below. Please let me know if there is anything offered here that you would like to discuss.
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My Code of Ethics.
· I will never lie to you.
· I will never purposefully do anything that might embarrass you.
· When I disagree with you, I will do so respectfully.
· Although I will do all that I can to support you individually, I work for the entire Board acting as a whole.
· When I tell you that I cannot do something, I will explain why.
Information Sharing & Communications.
· The County Administrator's Office exists to serve the Board individually and collectively. Information gathered for any individual Board member is shared with all Board members unless we are specifically asked not to.
· We are committed to open and honest communication on all matters.
· Information provided to the Board is (with limited exceptions) public information and is subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
· Please treat any information provided to you that is stamped "Confidential" or "Attorney Client Privilege" appropriately. This information is not public information, as allowed by the FOIA for specific purposes.
· We will be glad to research any issue for you.
· Effective communications is a two way street. If you feel that communication is lacking at any time, please initiate contact.
· We will flood you with information, please read it.
· Returning your phone call is our priority.
· Please be accessible and responsive to phone calls from this office.
· Agenda packages are prepared and hand-delivered on the Thursday before the regular Board meeting. Please feel free to contact this office or responsible staff members with any questions once you have reviewed the package.
· If you have an issue that you feel the Board should discuss, let us know in advance and we will schedule the matter for a future work session. That way staff can prepare appropriate information to facilitate the discussion. Board work sessions allow Board members to bring matters forth for staff follow-up. If we know about the matter in advance, however, we can respond sooner or with better information.
Dealing with Rumors.
· Don't believe everything you hear, but don't completely dismiss it either. Most rumors have some basis in fact, but sometimes the truth can get so twisted as to be barely recognizable.
· Part of our service to the Board is to help separate the facts from the fiction.
· Please check with us before reacting. Although we are sometimes guilty, more often we are not.
Individual Authority v. Board Authority.
· Although we will give you as much individual deference as possible, your true authority exists as a complete body, the Board of Supervisors.
· We may have to tell you no if you ask for things that are counter to established policy or require a commitment of resources not previously identified by the Board as a body. In that case, you will have to convince a majority of the Board to make the change or commit the resources.
Handling Constituent Complaints and/or Inquiries.
· Many issues can be handled quickly and efficiently by referring the constituent to the County Administrator's office.
· Be responsive, but please bear in mind that you may initially hear only part of the story.
· Please use County staff for answers and assistance. Hold us accountable for timely and complete responses.
· Don't make promises that you or the staff can't keep. A good response is, "I will look into the matter and I (or staff) will get back with you."
· Sometimes the answer really is "no". We will try to convey that as gently as possible.
· You interpret the Zoning Map and the County Code, especially the Zoning and Subdivision Ordinances, at your own risk. Remember that sometimes the wording or graphics are not clear and you may be looking at an outdated document. Inquirers will tend to hear what they want to hear and may make decisions or investments based on an erroneous interpretation. They should be referred to the appropriate staff person for the final word.
Personnel Matters.
· The County Administrator is responsible for personnel matters involving County staff. Please refer such matters to this office or Human Resources if you receive an inquiry or a complaint.
· We have fairly extensive personnel policies and procedures. Please let us
know if you have any questions.
· We are committed to responsibility and fairness.
· Personnel matters should be handled with respect for privacy.
• i Potential and current employees should be encouraged to follow established procedures.
Interaction with County Employees.
· Board members can be intimidating (always unintentionally!) to County employees. In his or her desire to please, the employee may not completely understand the situation, may not have the correct information at their disposal, and, as a result, may not give accurate information or may overstep his or her authority.
· County employees are expected to be respectful of citizens, co-workers and Board members. Being treated with similar respect and being recognized and appreciated by Board members for the good work they do really gives the employees a boost.
· Interactions with employees should go through the Department Heads to ensure prompt, accurate and effective responses.
· The County Administrator's Office will be glad to coordinate necessary contacts with employees, and would actually prefer that. Over time, Board members may grow more comfortable working directly with Department Heads and that is fine. Department Heads are expected to keep this office informed of interactions with Board members. This helps to insure their accountability.
· Complaints suggestions from County employees should be passed on to this office. Employees should be willing to identify themselves so that the appropriate follow up can be accomplished. You should ask the employee if he/she has followed the chain of command; have they expressed their concern to their immediate supervisor and/or Department Head? This office is in the chain of command and we have a well-publicized open door policy; the employee should come here before approaching a Board member with an issue.

How to Deal with the Press.
· Be accessible.
· Feel free to check with this office prior to speaking with the press.
· Don't say anything that you don't want published. Nothing is "off the record".
· Tell the truth. It's ok to say, "I don't know."
· Be careful that your remarks aren't represented as the Board's position, unless it clearly is the Board's position.
How to Deal with Rezonings & Conditional Use Permits.
· It is your decision if and when to meet with developers/property owners on planning cases.
· It is advisable to have staff present in such meetings and to conduct the
meetings in a public place. Both the Community Development Department and this office have convenient, accessible facilities for such meetings.
· Utilize the Community Development staff to the greatest extent possible.
· Be careful about making perceived deals or promises. While the rest of the Board may give your position deference, a majority of the Board must make the ultimate decision.
How to Handle Property Acquisition.
· Premature disclosure of County interest in property can affect the price.
· Fair market value is the yardstick by which acquisition is measured.
· Condemnation (eminent domain) is not a dirty word and may be the last resort if the public purpose is to be served.
Contact with Managers of Other Jurisdictions.
· I will be advised, as a matter of ethics, if you contact the manager of another jurisdiction seeking information. This office will be glad to coordinate requests for information from other jurisdictions, either regionally, across the state or nationwide. Staff has a number of professional contacts and can gather the requested information efficiently.
The Budget Process.
· Adopting the budget is one of the biggest decisions that you make as a Board and drives operations for the following year.
· The budget process is ongoing, year round. The most intense period for the Board is February to April.
· It's all about choices and setting priorities for the coming year.
· Goal setting is important.
· Creativity is priceless.
· The process is open, inclusive, and designed to promote discussion.
· Staff is committed to providing accurate and timely information and will be glad to run any scenario suggested by any Board member.
· We are constantly trying to improve the budget process; recommendations are gladly accepted.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Special meeting January 13, 2009

The Goochland Board of Supervisors will hold a special called meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday Janaury 13, 2009. The meeting will be held in the board room at the county administration building at 1800 Sandy Hook Road in Courthouse Village. The Board is expected to go right into closed session and there may be no comment from the supervisors nor any opportunity for public comment. However, your attendance will show the supervisors that citizens care about honest, effective and open local government and will not permit the financial chaos in utilities department to be sewpt under the rug.

A cloudy day in the gulag

County imposes cone of silence

In a breathtaking display of arrogance, the Goochland Board of Supervisors began the new year by adopting expanded Standards of Conduct with little discussion.
As soon as Andrew Pryor District 1 was elected board chairman for 2009, he introduced adoption of the board’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct (printed below) and quickly called for a vote with very little discussion. This action is traditionally part of the housekeeping measures of the first board meeting of the year.
The Standards of Conduct included in the published and circulated board packet did not include provisions 13 and 14, yet were voted into place in plain sight of the public. Rudy Butler, District 4 and Ned Creasey District 3 cast dissenting votes. This piece of supervisorial slight of hand violates the board’s own rules about conducting its business in public.
The new provisions, 13 and 14, prevent supervisors from having contact with a county employee, or those in other jurisdictions, without first clearing that contact with either the county administrator, Greg Wolfrey or Andrew McRoberts, the county attorney.
What are they hiding?
If Goochland is indeed the well-run county that Wolfrey regularly declares it to be, county officials should be anxious to show off their operations.
For many years, presentations to the board by department heads or other county employees explaining new projects, equipment or procedures included an open invitation to the supervisors to visit their department and see first hand for themselves. It is doubtful that many board members ever actually accepted those invitations. It’s also hard to believe that supervisor visits are so frequent and intrusive that they interfere with county business.
At first blush, the new provisions look like a reasonable set of ground rules for interaction between the supervisors and county employees.
Yet, they have become a cudgel to impose a hostile and repressive gulag-type work environment on county employees.
To no one’s surprise, Greg Wolfrey remains Goochland County Administrator, although the board did go into closed session late in the afternoon of January 6 to discuss “named personnel” and the selection of a new county administrator. Last year, Wolfrey announced plans to retire in 2009.
Jim Eads, District 5 commented following the vote that the adoption of the new provisions “should help.” Help what?
The new policy is very curious. Even though the county administrator and county attorney are believed to serve at the pleasure of the board, the new policy suggests that the supervisors are beholden to Wolfrey and or McRoberts.
At a staff meeting on the morning following the supervisors’ meeting, Wolfrey reportedly explained the new policy to county employees.
Wolfrey allegedly said that failure to follow the policy will be considered insubordination and result in termination. Is that how Goochland County creates a work atmosphere conducive to effective and efficient performance of governmental duties for the good of the citizens?
What sort of reporting are Wolfrey and McRoberts supposed to do about their contacts?
Is McRoberts expected to report each instance that he confers with one of his counterparts in another jurisdiction? Does this include communication by email, cell phone, regular phone? If so, to whom does he make his report?
Is Wolfrey required to report on conversations he might have with fellow members of the board of directors of a local financial institution? Should Wolfrey learn something about fiscal matters that could ether hurt or benefit the county when playing golf is he required to share that information with the supervisors or perhaps the county attorney?
How exactly will this new policy work? Did anyone bother to think about the consequences, long and short term as well as unintended? Or, was this just another panicked measure to keep the lid on whatever it is that needs to be concealed?
Why are supervisors Pyror, Quarles and Eads as well as Wolfrey and McRoberts essentially placing county employees on lockdown?
This action seems to violate the supposed commitment of the Goochland Board of supervisors to conduct the county’s business in the open. Instead, this is a reversion to the worst sort of backroom good old boy exclusive governance.
Had this policy been in place last year, the problems in the utilities department might never have been discovered. District 3 supervisor Ned Creasey would never have been able to ask the questions that led to discovery of that mess.
We still don’t know why Wolfrey didn’t notice, for several years, that water bills were not generating much revenue.
If the supervisors are prohibited from inspecting county operations without the oversight of county administrator or county attorney, how can they determine if the county administrator is doing a good job? Are they just supposed to take his word for it?
The actions taken by Eads, Pryor and Quarles indicate that they do not believe that the utilities matter was serious. As the economy worsens, and the county tightens its belt, every penny of expected revenue is important.
You would think that all of the supervisors and county officials would want to brag about a well-run administration with no secrets ready for anyone’s inspection. Are taxpayers of Goochland County, who foot the bill for the government, going to be kept in the dark about how their money is spent?
Just what is going on here?
The expanded Standards sound great on paper, but their execution leaves much to be desired.
When Goochland government says that it wants to perform its duties in the public eye except in rare cases to protect the privacy of an employee or sensitive transactions, does the board of supervisors really it means that it prefers to do as it pleases with little public oversight?
While regular meetings of the supervisors are open to all comes, few people bother to attend.
When the board says that it seeks and welcomes citizen input it really means that it is will do as it pleases regardless of citizen will, because after all the supervisors have been anointed.
Before vacating the role of chairman, Bill Quarles District 2 disappointed greatly by failing to present an update on the investigation into the fiscal chaos in the utilities department. Has he already forgotten December 23 his promise that there will be more to come?
These actions by supervisors Eads, Pryor and Quarles raise many unpleasant questions. The citizens and taxpayers of Goochland deserve answers.



Recognizing that persons who hold public office have been given a public trust and that the stewardship of such office demands the highest levels of ethical and moral conduct, any person serving on the Goochland County Board of Supervisors should adhere to the following Code of Ethics.

1. Uphold the Constitution, laws and regulations of the United States and of all governments therein and never knowingly be a party to their evasion.

2. Put loyalty to the highest moral principles and to the county as a whole above loyalty to individuals, district, or particular groups.

3. Give a full measure of effort and service to the position of trust for which stewardship has been granted; giving earnest effort and best thought to the performance of duties.

4. Seek to find and use the most equitable, efficient, effective, and economical means for getting tasks accomplished.

5. Adopt policies and programs that support the rights and recognize the needs of all citizens regardless of race, sex, age, religion, creed, country of origin or disability. Avoid adopting policies, supporting programs or engaging in activities that discriminate against or offend individuals because of race, sex, age, religion, creed, country of origin or disability.

6. Ensure the integrity of the actions of the Board of Supervisors by avoiding discrimination through the dispensing of special favors or unfair privileges to anyone, whether for remuneration or not. A member should never accept for himself or herself or for family members, favors or benefits under circumstances which might be construed by reasonable persons as influencing the performance of governmental duties.

7. Make no private promises of any kind binding upon the duties or any office, since a public servant has no private word which can be binding on public duty.

8. Engage in no business with the county government, or the school system, either directly or indirectly, which is inconsistent with the conscientious performance of government duties except as may be consistent with the conflict of interest statutes in the Code of Virginia.

9. Never use any information gained confidentially in the performance of governmental duties as a means of making private profit.

10. Expose through appropriate means and channels, corruption, misconduct, or neglect of duty whenever discovered.

11. Adhere to the principle that the public's business should be conducted in the public view by observing and following the letter and spirit of the Freedom of Information Act using closed meetings only to deal with sensitive personnel, legal matters, contractual matters or as otherwise provided by the Code of Virginia.

12. Avoid using the position of public trust to gain access to the media for the purposes of criticizing colleagues, citizens or personnel, impugning their integrity or vilifying their personal beliefs.

13. Make sure, when responding to the media, that a clear distinction is made between personal opinion or belief and a decision made by the Board.

14. If requested by any member of the Board of Supervisors, review orally and in public session at the annual organizational meeting each of these principles. ­
15. Pledge to honor and uphold these principles, ever conscious that public office is a public trust.


Recognizing that persons holding a position of public trust are under constant observation by the media and interested county residents, and recognizing that maintaining the integrity and dignity of the public office is essential for maintaining high levels of public confidence in our institutions of government, every member of the Goochland County Board of Supervisors should adhere to the following Standards of Conduct:

1. Avoid during public meetings and during the performance of public duties the use of abusive, threatening or intimidating language or gestures directed at colleagues, citizens, or personnel.

2. Pay all taxes due to the county, state, or national government.

3. Attend all regularly scheduled meetings of the Board or committees to which he or she has been assigned, resigning whenever personal circumstances preclude regular attendance.

4. Avoid a private lifestyle that casts public doubt upon the integrity and competence of the county government.

5. Make a conscientious effort to be well prepared for each meeting.

6. Offer criticism of colleagues or county employees only in private meetings with appropriate individuals or in closed meeting.

7. Work to create a positive environment in public meetings where citizens will feel comfortable in their roles as observers or participants.

8. Maintain an attitude of courtesy and consideration toward all colleagues and staff during all discussions and deliberations.

9. Be tolerant. Allow citizens, employees, or colleagues sufficient opportunity to present their views.

10. Be respectful and attentive. Avoid comments, body language or distracting activity that conveys a message of disrespect for the presentations from citizens, personnel or colleagues.

11. Be concise. Avoid the practice of taking more time to address an issue before the body than is necessary and essential for an adequate consideration of those matters being discussed.

12. Provide appropriate mechanisms for disciplining members who violate the code of ethics and standards of conduct by using, as a final measure of discipline, censure or removal from the position.

13. Policy Role of Members; Requests for Staff Assistance: The Board of Supervisors, acting as a public body, determines the policies of the County with the advice, information, and analysis provided by the public, boards, commissions, and committees, and County staff. The Board of Supervisors delegates authority for the administration of the County to the County Administrator.

Members, therefore, shall not interfere with the administrative functions of the County or the professional duties of County staff; nor shall they impair the ability of staff to implement Board policy decisions. Inquiries of staff for information, and referral of citizen complaints and concerns shall be made through the County Administrator or the appropriate department manager or director, who shall inform the County Administrator. Any instructions or directions to staff including department heads shall come from the County Administrator.

Requests by Board members for assistance by administrative staff members, including department heads, in projects requiring more than an insignificant amount of time shall be directed to the County Administrator. Such requests may include, but are not limited to, requests for research, the compilation of information, the preparation of ordinances, resolutions or policies to be presented to the Board of Supervisors, attendance or presentation at meetings other than Board meetings, preparation of documents, etc. It shall be the responsibility of the County Administrator to assure that the project is consistent with Board policy, referred to the appropriate department or departments, consistent with the administrative staff’s work priorities and schedules, and performed in an adequate and timely manner.

All requests for legal assistance in legal matters shall be directed to the County Attorney.

If the County Administrator or County Attorney feel that a request for assistance cannot reasonably be accommodated within existing policy and consistent with the existing work load and priorities, the individual Board member shall be so advised and, if necessary, the matter shall be placed on the next available Board agenda for further guidance.

14. Positive Work Place Environment: Members shall support the maintenance of a positive and constructive workplace environment for County employees and for citizens and businesses dealing with the County. Members shall recognize their special role in dealings with County employees and in no way create the perception of inappropriate direction to staff.

Adopted March 7, 2000 by the BOS
Amended January 6, 2009 by the BOS