Yet another lawsuit has been filed against Augusta County, this time from a private landowner whose property value increased in 2009 and who has accused the county of failing to conduct open meetings and failing to record minutes and votes.
Thomas Cline of Fort Defiance raised many questions, perhaps one of the most startling being the lack of record keeping and what he described as a sense of secrecy coming from the Government Center. From the Waynesboro News Virginia:
He learned that neighbors had prompted the board to review his property, but when he tried to find out who spoke up, and then tried to review prior meetings to learn how homeowners contested increases, Commissioner of the Revenue Jean Shrewsbury told him there were no minutes, Cline said.Interestingly, thousands protested the 2009 reassessments when 10,500 Augusta County residents signed petitions requesting the Board of Supervisors and Commissioner of the Revenue Jean Shrewsbury to roll back what many felt were outrageously inflated real estate assessments. The largest crowd in history, over 1,000 residents, attended a March 2009 Board of Supervisors meeting addressing the assessments.
“That didn’t seem right,” he said.
Shrewsbury was on vacation and unavailable for comment Monday, officials said.
Cline, put on edge by the secrecy he sensed, arrived early for his hearing and found the meeting room door closed with a note for people to wait outside until they were called.
Once inside, Cline said he asked about meeting minutes, but was rebuked and told to stick to presenting his case. “‘We’re not here to be interrogated,’” Cline said board officials told him. Within minutes, Cline was back in the hallway.
The board had not voted.
“No discussion, no vote in our presence,” he said. “We were not made to feel like we were welcome to stay there.”
Cline later showed officials an Attorney General’s opinion about meeting minutes and law code sections pertaining to the board.
Met with more walls and “attitude,” Cline moved to litigation, he said.
“Cost is not the point,” he said. “I tried to work it out with them before filing.”
Others have run into issues with the Government Center over lack of minutes or recorded minutes concerning meetings. In the Rocket Boy case, now under appeal in Augusta County, a request for the audio tape minutes from a Board of Zoning Appeals meeting was denied and a hard copy version was found to have numerous inaccuracies and omissions. When the Rocket Boys pressed for the audio tape so direct comparisons could be made, they were denied by the county.
Read more about Mr. Cline's lawsuit against Augusta County.