Entry 40 of 971
By Think! Christiansburg On April 26, 2008 at 8:46 AM
The T's expected that, at the April 15 Council meeting, Mayor Ballengee would name Town Manager Lance Terpenny as the person responsible for notifying the public about meetings (this, due in part to council candidate comments). The fox would be guarding the chickens. That announcement was not made, pending the upcoming Freedom Of Information Act training. (Another case of Christiansburg doing nothing while they wait.)
"Residents Seek Info on Town Business," published today in the Roanoke Times, shows doing nothing at all is even worse than the fox guarding the chickens. The Town of Christiansburg has scheduled a budget meeting for 3pm, April 29, at Lance Terpenny's (Town Manager) office - and didn't tell you.
The only "notice" given was one email to the Roanoke Times. This "notice" does not comply with FOIA. Even without the official training, the Town ought to have conscience enough to learn the basics. Especially the senior staff person on the Town's payroll.
Mr. Terpenny has worked for the Town of Christiansburg for 19 years. With nearly 12 years on the job as Town Manager, ignorance of the Freedom of Information Act is inexcusable. The fact that Terpenny’s predecessor kept meetings private is no defense for breaking the law. "We've always done it that way" is the excuse of someone who prefers to operate in the shadows.
Mr. Ballengee's experience in the public school system may or may not have required a working knowledge of the FOIA. However, accepting the position of Mayor requires understanding the fundamental laws of government, including the FOIA. While the Mayor is not a professional town administrator, he has paid staff and consultants to advise on administrative and legal matters.
Mr. Terpenny’s pay was raised last to $125,000 per year (a 17.5 percent increase.) That’s a lot of money to pay someone who clearly doesn’t know how -- or refuses -- to address one of the most important job requirements.
The Town pays their attorneys, Guynn, Memmer & Dillon, many (MANY) thousands of dollars each year for legal counsel. The exact amount is unknown because the Town budget doesn't specify line item expenditures. On April 1, 2008 Mayor Ballengee instructed the Town's attorneys to "research the FOIA." Counsel retained by a Town should already know about the FOIA. Ignorance of (or simply ignoring) the law is no excuse. Their job is to advise town administration and council on steps necessary for adhering to all legal requirements. Guynn, Memmer & Dillon's gross negligence must be recognized and their contract terminated immediately. If they advised, and were ignored by town administrators, they should have terminated the contract to comply with basic ethics.
Whoever selects the Town's attorneys and whoever did Mr. Terpenny's pay-increasing performance review are also culpable in this fiasco. The May 6 election is our chance to let incumbents know citizens are tired of being kept in the dark and treated as if we don’t know any better or don't matter.
Meanwhile, please try to come to the budget meeting on April 29.