Board of Supervisors Mosque Vote Violated Procedure, Says Parliamentarian

| July 16, 2017 | 0 Comments | News

Brentsville Supervisor Jeanine Lawson speaks at the June 28 Prince William County Board of County Supervisors Special Hearing.

A parliamentarian found nine instances in which the Prince William Board of County Supervisors improperly conducted its vote on the Special Use Permit [SUP] for the ADAMS Mosque, June 28. These procedures are governed by Roberts Rules of Order.

However, he does not believe that those infractions necessarily invalidate the vote taken.

Prince William County Attorney, Michelle Robl also provided her legal opinion that the vote could legally stand.

In his letter to Brentsville Supervisor Jeanine Lawson (R), dated July 4, 2017, Thomas J. Balch, Professional Registered Parliamentarian, concluded that the violations of procedure needed to be addressed promptly in order to invalid the votes taken by the board.

“Despite numerous violations of parliamentary procedure at the June 27, 2017 Board of County Supervisors meeting, it is questionable whether any of them can be cited to invalidate the actions taken at the meeting. The reason is that under Robert’s Rules, a point of order ‘must be raised promptly at the time the breach occurs (RONR 11th ed, p. 250, 11. 18-19).’”

“After debate on such a motion has begun- no matter how clearly out of order the motion may be – a point of order is too late…Points of order regarding the conduct of a vote must be raised immediately following the announcement of the voting result.”

View video of meeting below, outlining the breeches in parliamentary procedure according to Thomas J. Balch, PRP.

 

The Prince William Board of County Supervisors met June 27 for a public hearing on the ADAMS Mosque for the Vint Hill site in Nokesville. After a lengthy citizens’ time, it was the early morning of June 28 before the board conducted its vote.

Among the items the Special Use Permit requested, one was for sewer hookup to the mosque. Sewer is not usually allowed in the county’s Rural Crescent. In this instance, there was an existing sewer line that was there to serve a few public schools near the site. However, hundreds of residents who came out to speak felt allowing sewer would for the mosque could open up further development in the rural area.

At one point, Supervisor Frank Principi (D-Woodbridge) suggested dividing the question into two parts: approval of the mosque and approval of the sewer hookup.

The supervisors unanimously approved the mosque without sewer, whereas the sewer hookup question yielded a tie vote. Only after a controversial revote on the sewer question, was the mosque approved.

Supervisors Lawson, Pete Candland (R-Gainesville) and Ruth Anderson (R-Occoquan) voted against the sewer hookup twice. John Jenkins (D-Neabsco), who originally voted for against sewer, changed his vote the second time.

After the conclusion of the meeting, Lawson and Candland sent emails to their constituents, expressing concern over how the votes were conducted. Lawson also contacted Balch, who provided his professional opinion on the matter.

Balch listed nine items that were done incorrectly at the meeting, some more egregious than others.

According to Balch, the question should not have been divided; the board should have reverted back to the main motion; no recess should have been taken without a vote; the chair should not have called for a vote without completing debate; and a revote should not have been called by a supervisor who approved of the motion during the first vote.

Additionally, the chair should not have spoken during the final vote, in which he encouraged supervisor Jenkins to vote “yes” as Stewart said that he would do. Two more lesser infractions were also committed.

Despite these breeches of procedure, Balch determined that the supervisors would have needed to object before the votes were taken. Since they were all conducted, they will likely stand as approved by the board.

Even if the vote were to be retaken, the outcome would likely be the same unless a supervisor changes his or her vote.

The county attorney also sent a letter stating that the vote should stand. According to a county spokesperson Jason Grant, County Attorney Michelle Robl wrote in a letter that has not been made public that she recognized breeches in procedures according to following Robert’s Rules of Order; however, as a majority vote was achieved by quorum, the vote is binding.

In an email to her constituents, Lawson lamented the way in which the votes were taken.

“For democracy to work we must be able to trust that our public officials are operating within a set of rules for public meetings. To knowingly break those rules to achieve a desired outcome violates what we are elected to do,” said Lawson.

Candland sent a similar to his constituents, and posted a video clip of his comments during Citizen’s Time, Tuesday.

 

On his Facebook page, he introduced the video clip, saying: “Last week, led by Chairman Corey Stewart (R-at large) and Frank Principi (D-Woodbridge), the Board shattered the trust of the citizens by forcing through a vote that had previously failed multiple times.”

“Chairman Stewart and the Prince William Board of County Supervisors should not be above the rules. I reaffirm my personal commitment to aggressively defend the citizens of Prince William County and hold all our elected officials accountable.”

Tuesday, Supervisor Maureen Caddigan (Potomac) defended her vote on the mosque, saying, “I will never vote against a church.” Caddigan said she was on the board when the Rural Crescent was approved, and does not feel that the protection of the Rural Crescent hinges upon religious institutions being limited to septic.

“It was never the intention to punish churches,” she said, explaining that the Rural Crescent was created to limit housing.

© 2017, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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