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CRC Waiting For Opinion From AG

FARMVILLE – The Commonwealth Regional Council is still waiting for an opinion from Virginia's Attorney General concerning the Council's requested amendments to its Charter as it currently operates with five member localities for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, according to an update provided by Chairman William “Buckie” Fore Jr., representing Prince Edward County, during the August 2 meeting.

Cumberland County did not include CRC membership dues in their yearly budget and is no longer a participating member at the regional organization's table.

The request to the Attorney General, according to information provided earlier, asks for an official opinion as to whether or not non-localities and non-governmental entities can become charter members of the planning district commission.

The member representatives appointed from participating localities to the CRC decided in February to formally request an official opinion of the Virginia Attorney General as to whether non-localities and non-governmental entities can become a charter member of a planning district commission. The inquiry is based on the proposed amendments to the Council's Charter.

According to the Code of Virginia, the Attorney General must give his advice in an official opinion before any changes can be made.

The Code states, “The Attorney General shall give his advice and render official advisory opinions in writing only when requested in writing to do so by one of the following: the Governor; a member of the General Assembly; a judge of a court of record or a judge of a court not of record; the State Corporation Commission; an attorney for the Commonwealth; a county, city, or town attorney in those localities in which such office has been created; a clerk of a court of record; a city or county sheriff; a city or county treasurer or similar officer; a commissioner of the revenue or similar officer; a chairman or secretary of an electoral board; or the heat of a state department, division, bureau, institution or board. (B)

Except in cases where an opinion is requested by the Governor or a member of the General Assembly, the Attorney General shall have no authority to render an official opinion unless the question dealt with is directly related to the discharge of duties of the official requesting the opinion. Any opinion request to the Attorney General by an attorney for the Commonwealth or county, city, or town attorney shall be in the form of an opinion embodying a precise statement of all facts together such attorney's legal conclusions.”

Prince Edward's County Attorney James Ennis assisted the CRC with a letter to the Attorney General earlier this year.

Chairman Fore explained the process previously and said, “Mr. (Wade) Bartlett (Prince Edward's County Administrator) has gone to Mr. Ennis for me and Mr. Ennis is going to be our county official to request the information from the Attorney General,” he noted to the Council. “We are starting with a letter to Mr. Ennis and along with that letter as an attachment will be the history behind the request for this decision and we'll pass it off to Jim who will attach his letter to it and send it to the AG and we'll see where it goes from there.”

When the request was originally on the table for consideration, Council member Gary Walker said, “If it's okay for Hampden-Sydney and Longwood to be a member, really, all we are pursuing is for people like Crossroads and/or another organization like that to be a part of us (non-localities).”

Both of the two higher education institutions have declined to join the CRC in recent years after receiving letters of request.

For now, the regional planning partnership will continue to operate with its five member localities while it continues to wait for the official opinion from the Attorney General's Office.

Currently, the CRC's members include the counties of Amelia, Buckingham, Charlotte, Lunenburg, and Prince Edward.

Cassandra Stish, Buckingham's representative, noted earlier when it was time to make a decision about the request, “I think we should pursue it with the Attorney General. Maybe we'll get lucky…”