When the Prince William Board of County Supervisors met in closed session during their last meeting to discuss what the board’s official response would be to Melissa Peacor instigating a criminal investigation of a private citizen for criticizing her, it failed to identify, as it is required under law, what provision of Virginia law authorized them to discuss matters without public observation. Sometimes the justification for having secret meetings gives us some idea of what is going on in these closed sessions, as they must cite a code section, usually one that deals with potential or ongoing litigation, or contract negotiations. We might not know exactly what was going on in closed session, but we have some idea of the general nature, based on what legal citation is used.
As a rule, the County Attorney always cites what provision of the code allows the board to hide behind closed doors to discuss public business that would otherwise be public. Occasionally such disclosures are somewhat comical, as the County Attorney rushes to get the citation in before the mics are cut, but even when that is, it’s at least appreciated that the citation is made. There’s some semblance of following the law going on, which is a start.
Not this time. Chairman Stewart announces “And now, we go into closed session!” and off the Supervisors run to their secret chambers without any mention of what legally justifies them in doing so.
I was somewhat curious about this, especially given how what happened during that closed session has since been leaked to the press. Why in the world would the board feel justified in hiding in a secret room to talk about what bloggers say about public officials and consider official correspondence to be sent as a response to a blog article?
Here’s the code section that was used to justify not making that discussion public, which was disclosed after the fact:
§ 2.2-3705.2. Exclusions to application of chapter; records relating to public safety.
4. Plans and information to prevent or respond to terrorist activity, the disclosure of which would jeopardize the safety of any person, including (i) critical infrastructure sector or structural components; (ii) vulnerability assessments, operational, procedural, transportation, and tactical planning or training manuals, and staff meeting minutes or other records; and (iii) engineering or architectural records, or records containing information derived from such records, to the extent such records reveal the location or operation of security equipment and systems, elevators, ventilation, fire protection, emergency, electrical, telecommunications or utility equipment and systems of any public building, structure or information storage facility, or telecommunications or utility equipment or systems. The same categories of records of any governmental or nongovernmental person or entity submitted to a public body for the purpose of antiterrorism response planning may be withheld from disclosure if such person or entity in writing (a) invokes the protections of this subdivision, (b) identifies with specificity the records or portions thereof for which protection is sought, and (c) states with reasonable particularity why the protection of such records from public disclosure is necessary to meet the objective of antiterrorism planning or protection. Such statement shall be a public record and shall be disclosed upon request. Nothing in this subdivision shall be construed to prohibit the disclosure of records relating to the structural or environmental soundness of any building, nor shall it prevent the disclosure of information relating to any building in connection with an inquiry into the performance of that building after it has been subjected to fire, explosion, natural disaster or other catastrophic event.
Melissa Peacor is now branding bloggers as terrorists?
Anyone want to help me fill some sandbags this weekend? The Queen of Prince William County seems to have upped the ante on what happens to commoners who have the temerity to criticize their royal betters, and I have the feeling my friend Bob Weir is going to need to bulk up on his defenses before the next escalation. First, they brand you a terrorist, and next they start rolling in those surplus MRAPs the Army handed over to local police to pay you a friendly, but perhaps somewhat noisy “armored protect and serve” kind of visit.
The Bill of Rights is dead in this county, my friends. Hold on tight, as it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
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