An ongoing lack of transparency regarding Charlottesville City Council’s August 2 closed-session meeting has generated a new controversy.
In receiving four hours of secret “legal advice” on options for derailing the politically unpopular “Unite the Right” rally—scheduled for August 12 in Lee Park—Council has been broadly criticized for potentially abusing Virginia open meeting laws. Details of the session were sparse, as Mayor Michael Signer and his council counterparts were tight-lipped and smug-faced upon their departure.
Following the meeting, City spokeswoman, Miriam Dickler, released a brief statement, on behalf of City Council:
“This evening, Charlottesville City Council met in closed session to consult with legal counsel and staff regarding the best options to keep the community safe during the August 12 Unite the Right Rally while preserving the 1st amendment rights of participants.
City staff and Council will share information with the public as soon as possible.
There is no further comment at this time.”
Now, multiple requests of the city for a list of August 2 closed-session participants have been rebuffed.
On August 3, The Schilling Show asked Dickler for a complete list (name and affiliation/title) of meeting attendees. Dickler responded immediately by punting the question to Clerk of Council, Paige Rice, who answered: “I do not have a list of who was there.”
Several followup inquiries to Ms. Dickler finally yielded an indirect response from City Attorney Craig Brown, in which Mr. Brown concurrently claimed an exemption and personal forgetfulness in his refusal to provide a list of names:
In talking to Mr. Brown, I found out that there is no legal requirement to have a list of attendees for a closed session and he does not recall all of the people who were there. I do know that, in addition to council and city management, there was legal counsel and law enforcement to provide supportive information for the discussion with legal counsel.
Regardless of legal loopholes and administrative amnesia, Charlottesville citizens have a right to know who is attending taxpayer funded meetings. Clever denials and disingenuous protocol manipulations fortify the cloying stench of corruption that continues to envelop Charlottesville City Hall—where secrecy, lawlessness, and chaos prevail.
Council has been criticized, not “broadly,” but by the narrow slice of the community, most of which actually lives outside the city limits, in sympathy with Kessler.
If secrecy, lawlessness and chaos actually bothered you – if you critiqued Charlottesville Democrats out of principle rather than spite – you’d criticize the Trump administration no end.
I’m sure that had the venerable City Council made a decision under similar circumstances with which you vehemently disagreed, you’d also be criticizing said council. They’re conducting business on our behalf, and given the absolute insanity that came about Saturday, in part due to alleged actions and in-actions of the city police, it becomes tantamount to know who and what were discussed in this meeting. And I do not belong to the narrow slice of community that are white nationalists, nor the much broader slice of community illegitimately labelled as such for simple disagreement with the social justice progressive slice of community.
Ginning up controversy over something and then calling it controversial is a common tactic across the political spectrum. But I don’t presume that all or even most people who disagree with social justice progressives are white nationalists or other sorts of moral failures. Many good people who care about the communities “social justice warriors” care about simply see the root problems and the solutions differently.
I disagree with the City Council on a number of things, including secrecy in general, and for voting to remove the statue against the recommendations of the commission it set up to study the issue. But according to the Progress, this meeting included Police Chief Al Thomas and Virginia State Police representatives. Clearly one of the concerns discussed was how the police could ensure public safety – in other words, police tactics – and that’s a matter that understandably needed to be kept secret. Given, as you put it, the “absolute insanity” that did come about Saturday, I agree that it’s now time for the community to be given the details of the meeting.