Following the Board of Supervisors' Feb. 1 vote offer a settlement on attorney's fees requested by the Board of Equalization, the panel last week voted to accept that deal.
At is first meeting of 2012, the Board of Equalization voted to approve the settlement agreement between the board, the county and the BOE's outside counsel John Flannery.
The Board of Supervisors had directed the county's outside counsel to move forward with settlement of the Circuit Court case filed after the previous Board of Supervisors denied a request for to pay additional $35,000 for the BOE's legal fees.
The BOE was sued by Lansdowne resident, Beverly Bradford, who was escorted from the June 28 meeting after taking a picture of the proceedings and recording the meeting. BOE representatives claim the actions violated the board's requirement that all recording and pictures be cleared with the body beforehand. The BOE maintains it was a violation of its rules of order, while Bradford said not allowing the documenting of the meeting violated the Freedom of Information Act. Bradford also was a reporter for the Patch online news service. The meeting concerned a tax appeal filed by the National Conference Center in Lansdowne.
The lawsuit was filed last summer, and the matter has seen several court hearings; the most recent was only days before the board's action. Final testimony and closing arguments are scheduled for Feb. 29.
After the lawsuit was filed, the BOE submitted a request to the Board of Supervisors asking for permission to retain Leesburg attorney Flannery as its counsel for the case. Supervisors rejected that request, but in August Circuit Court Judge James H. Chamblin ordered that the county pay for the BOE's outside attorney.
In September, after receiving the court order, the Board of Supervisors moved $25,000 from its litigation contingency fund to cover the legal fees. In November, the BOE put in a request for the Board of Supervisors to allocate another $35,000 to cover Flannery's $400-per-hour legal fees. The previous board denied that request, the BOE took the matter to the Loudoun Circuit Court.
According to a copy of the settlement obtained by Leesburg Today, the Board of Supervisors will provide one final allocation of $30,000 to the BOE for its legal fees and expenses pertaining to the Bradford case.
The settlement does not have any bearing on the outcome of the Bradford case, however, but the BOE agreed to not make any further claim against the county or the Board of Supervisors for any legal fees.
Also during last week's BOE meeting, seven-year member Ed Maurer was elected as chairman for 2012. He replaces Scott Littner, who is remaining on the board. Michele Ferreira was elected vice chairman and new member James Ryan was named secretary.
"A couple years back it was decided it would be good to rotate," Maurer said this week. "At the first administrative meeting of every year, the first matter is always electing new officers."
In his seven years on the board, Maurer has served as chairman, vice chairman and secretary. This year, he said, he is looking toward the future beyond the court case.
"I am proposing to post [agendas] on a three-week basis, announcing who will have a hearing when with the pin number and name," he said. "Then people can look it up online... at the hearing both sides will present their arguments and then we will make a decision."
Maurer also said he would like to have as many night meetings as possible, to make it easier for people to attend.
He noted that BOE appeals get a lot of attention, but when the number of appeals are placed against the number of assessment, it is very small. "It is like .001 percent."
With the addition of Ryan and Peter Kehoe as the newest members of the board, Maurer said he is feeling positive about what the year will bring. Ryan, he noted, is a licensed appraiser.
"That makes it much easier for us," Maurer said. "He specialized in residential. He can pull information. He has that knowledge base."
Kehoe is retired from the mortgage division of NV Ryan, or NVR.
"There is no one on this board that makes decisions alone. We work in concert," he said. "That's how it has been for the last seven years. And that's how I think it works best."