I would like to extend my appreciation to Eric Tollefson for his letter to the editor in last week’s Rappahannock News. “What’s Past is Prologue” affords an opportunity for the accused to set the record straight on a topic that has been politicized by persons who take it upon themselves to vilify their elected officials.
In his letter, Tollefson confuses General Assembly legislation requiring contract negotiations be held in closed session with what he perceives as school board members circumventing the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Closed session is required by law and is not “secret.” Nor was the subject matter of that closed session illegal. The school board did reach an out-of-court settlement with plaintiff Tollefson on a technicality that simply involved amending language that it uses to move into closed session. The board appreciated the suggested language and has used it at its meetings since the case was settled in January 2015.
On the matter of legal counsel, the county attorney’s remarks on the draft lease document were greatly appreciated and free to the school board and taxpayers. At no time did Peter Luke state the contract was unfavorable and he recommended the school board hire counsel to act on its behalf. The board legally retained the services of Fallon, Myers and Marshall, LLP, of Warrenton. Merle Fallon provided the board with expertise in telecommunication law and contract negotiation and provided valuable advice to the board which worked to protect the interests of the school division and the taxpayers.
Mr. Tollefson’s letter neglects to mention his failed lawsuit against the board to halt its constitutional right to vote on the cell tower matter. Because the school board does not, unlike the supervisors and Washington’s town council, have in-house counsel, his suit triggered events for which the school board’s insurance provider was required to hire counsel.
This set into motion the sequence of events that cost taxpayers “money that could have gone to some useful educational purpose for our children.” It was not “squandered on a cover up,” as put forward by Tollefson, but was required by law to protect the very Rappahannock County taxpayers that he purports to champion.
Finally, to suggest that Rappahannock County can command the same economic terms and conditions from a tower company offered to a county of 900,000 people (according to the 2014 census estimate for Prince George’s County, Maryland, his example) ignores the reality of the market.
If past really is prologue, elected officials should brace for more wasteful legal proceedings by persons who are upset when empowered boards and councils do not agree with their positions.
Chair, Rappahannock County School Board