A call for an explanation

Published 12:53 pm Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Crossroads Community Services Board went into closed session Aug. 23 to discuss, in part, real estate. Upon returning, it made a definitive decision.

Without any discussion, the board unanimously accepted a recommendation from its finance committee concerning the real estate matter.

If this seems vague, it is.

Email newsletter signup

After the meeting, Crossroads Executive Director Dr. Susan Baker and Board Chairman Sidney Smyth declined to provide either an explanation or comment and still, as of this writing, have yet to do so.

We believe an immediate explanation is needed any time a taxpayer-funded board or one using public funds takes a public vote.

The Code of Virginia provides an idea of the significance a closed-session discussion about real estate can carry. It says governing bodies may discuss or consider “the acquisition of real property for a public purpose, or of the disposition of publicly held real property, where discussion in an open meeting would adversely affect the bargaining position or negotiating strategy of the public body.”

However, at least some explanation about Crossroads board’s action is most necessary.

According to opinions offered by Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act Council, the substance of a motion voted on in open session must be reasonably identified.

The Virginia Coalition for Open Government’s interpretation takes into account a public body’s concern about revealing purchase prices before finalizing deals, but still asserts a motion being voted on could offer some specificity in terms of properties being purchased or sold.

We call on the Crossroads board to offer these specifics.