Parksley: Amending minutes rankles council

The newly renovated Parksley Town Office, seen on Friday, June 10. Photo by Carol Vaughn.

By Carol Vaughn

A motion to approve meeting minutes, typically a routine matter, resulted in a contentious discussion Monday after Parksley Councilwoman Carol Matthews asked that the July council meeting minutes be amended to include the fact she had stated the council had gone into executive session improperly.

The session apparently was called to discuss actions of her spouse, who also serves on Town Council, according to the discussion.

Matthews said state law says if a member of the public body asks to have a point of order included in the minutes, it is to be done.

Councilman Ricky Taylor said Matthews’ statement was made “while we were in executive session” and therefore should not be included in the minutes.

Taylor made the motion to approve the minutes as written.

Discussion ensued before the motion received a second.

Matthews said because the executive session was not convened properly, her statement should be included in the minutes.

“The executive session was illegal and according to the Virginia law code … if any member of the public body who believes that there was a departure from the requirements in the clauses … shall so state, indicating that there was a departure from the law … and it shall be recorded in the minutes of the public body,” Matthews said, adding, “I’m not asking for anything else, but I want to go on record saying that we went into an illegal executive session.”

Councilman Dan Matthews said, “If you go into a closed session and and you don’t do so correctly, then technically that closed session did not exist. It’s not a closed session; it’s still open.”

Dan Matthews said the council according to the Freedom of Information Act must specifically state the properly exempt reason for going into executive session and the section of law that allows it.

“Just saying we’re going to go into executive session for personnel reasons — that’s not enough. Legally, it’s not enough,” he said.

Council member Henry Nicholson said, “So you want us to bring that out, exactly what it was for? … It (the law) doesn’t say specifically, you have to put the reason we went into executive order is because Mr. Matthews decided to put things from last executive order on Facebook. Is that what you want? That’s what we went there for — for what you illegally did wrong.”

“How far do you want to take this?” said Mayor Frank Russell.

“There were no applicable exemptions mentioned,” Carol Matthews said.

Taylor restated his motion to approve the July minutes as written, which Councilman Sam Welch seconded.

Taylor then called for a roll call vote.

The motion was approved 4-2, with Dan and Carol Matthews voting against it.

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