Petersburg citizens question legality of hastily scheduled council meeting

Posted at 6:43 PM, Sep 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-16 18:46:39-04

PETERSBURG, Va. -- As word spread early Wednesday morning that Petersburg City Council may have selected a new City Manager, a hastily called “Special Meeting” was scheduled for  4:30 p.m. that day.

“I think it’s deplorable to try to pull something like that” says former City Councilman Ken Pritchett -- and he wasn’t alone.

The meeting just six and half hours after notice went out via email.

“I think there should be at least 48 to 72 hours’ notice of a meeting” said Linard Daniels.

Concern not just for a same day meeting being called, but being held at a time when many are still at work.

“It just raises the ire, I think, of the public when you do thinks like this,” said Prichett.

Others have raised the same concerns in the past about hastily scheduled meetings of the seven-member City Council.

So much so, the grassroots organization known as “Clean Sweep Petersburg” hired an attorney to highlight their concerns in a letter to City Council on August 31.

An excerpt read: “We contend that some of the closed sessions held by city council did not comply with the requirements of Virginia code section 2.2 – 3712”.

“It does not appear that notice pursuant to Virginia Code 2.2-3707 was given for several special meetings held by City Council.”

There are some who thought the Wednesday meeting was actually illegal because not enough notice had been given to the public.

Adding fuel to the fire was the rocky past surrounding the city manager candidate, Rochelle Small-Toney. She was forced to resign her city manager position in Savannah, Ga., amid allegations of mismanagement.

Petersburg Interim City Attorney Mark Flynn released this statement to CBS 6 about Wednesday’s special meeting:

“The basic rule is that the notice to citizens has to be at the same time as notice to council members… the three-day notice requirement does not apply to special or emergency meetings”.

Though Wednesday’s meeting has been deemed to have been legal, it left many voters with concerns.

“I think the transparency is lost, you know, when you don’t give enough notice”.

Another issue is the constant changing of City Council Meetings.

While some have to be changed to meet an estimated crowd, some complain there is never a set location,

Wednesday’s meeting concluded without a decision made concerning Small-Toney.

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