Sunday, August 26, 2007

Waynesboro councilwoman refuses to recuse herself from stormwater vote

Husband of councilwoman Lori Smith works for stormwater division ... conflict of interest?

Today's Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that Waynesboro businesses opposed to proposed stormwater fees are considering whether to take city councilwoman Lori Smith to court over conflict-of-interest claims. Smith's husband, Bert Smith, is the head of the city's stormwater division.

After lawyer Lucy Ivanoff requested that Smith recuse herself from the vote, a decision was sought from Commonwealth's Attorney Charles P. Ajemian who ruled there was no conflict because her husband was employed with the city before her election onto city council. This has caused a controversy in Waynesboro that appears to be growing.

Council is set to take up the matter at their Sept. 4 work session and hopes to have guidelines established by October. Local businesses are opposed to the proposed fee now in place because it could cost them thousands of dollars. A homeowner would pay less than $48 a year, a Pizza Hut would pay $384 a year; WalMart would pay $6,300 annually but the city's largest employer, Invista, would owe $92,700. Costs like that raise the question of possible layoffs, according to union officials. Mayor Tom Reynolds has asked for feedback from the community.

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