by Rose Murphy, Bull Run Observer

21 August 2009, p 4

“If you want to serve on a Prince William County board or commission that advises the county on land use, you have to file a financial disclosure statement, members of the county’s board of supervisors voted unanimously Aug. 4.

“The new requirement already has resulted in the resignation of Ann Burgess from the agricultural and forestry districts advisory committee, Wally Covington, (R-Brentsville), told the meeting.  The supervisor explained the committee resignation came about because Burgess ‘was upset regarding the disclosure form she has to sign.’ Her husband represents Brentsville District on the county’s planning commission.

“This disclosure form adopted by supervisors says non-salaried citizen members of any board, commission or council that supervisors might create to advise the board or the planning commission on land use policies affecting zoning or density of specific identifiable parcels in the county will be required to file a statement of economic interests prior to assuming office and annually thereafter.

“The form is due by Jan. 15 each year or prior to assuming office or employment and would be available to the public under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.  The clerk to the board of supervisors would retain the forms for five years.  The requirement to disclose is no retroactive.  Those needing to fill out the form include school board members, board of county supervisors, planning commission, board of zoning appeals, Prince William County Service Authority (PWCSA), county attorney county executive and deputy county executives and real estate assessors.

“Also completing the disclosure forms will be the finance director, planning director, the Dale City Sanitary District administrator and assistant administrator, the director of economic development, general manager of PWCSA, director and deputy director of the park authority and the director of the department of development services.

“The amendment to county code also adds that disclosure forms need to be filled out by members of the agricultural and forestry districts advisory committee, the architectural Review Board and the historical commission.  Jan Cunard, at-large member of the county’s historical commission, said Aug. 5 the disclosure form ‘is a good thing, and it should have been done a long time ago.’  She added she believes there are loopholes in the disclosure requirements, but this is a good first for step.

“Mike May, (R-Occoquan District), and Covington in March proposed changes to the county’s conflict-of-interest ordinance.

“Angela Horan, county attorney, told the Aug. 4 supervisors’ meeting that state law doesn’t give the county much authority to customize its local ordinance, but that ‘members of certain committees can be asked to file the short form.’  She added that supervisors can decide which committees will be required to complete the form.

“Covington noted county staff would report to the board in September or October on which other committees should be asked to disclose.  Public comment will be sought on this, he added.

“May made the motion to amend the existing code, noting the changes would bring more transparency to local government.”