Town Keeps Sewer Rates Secret in Violation of State Code


September 25, 2013

The Town of Cape Charles has withheld from advance public view a financial analysis of sewer costs to be discussed at a work session 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, September 25, at Town Hall.

The Wave has learned that a Cape Charles police officer was instructed by Town Manager Heather Arcos to deliver information packets containing the sewer rate analysis on Sunday, September 22, to Town Council members. But as of Tuesday night, the financial analysis had not been posted on the Town website, nor had the information packet been emailed to members of the public who have requested Town mailings.

Town Clerk Libby Hume on September 20 emailed a one-page agenda for the September 25 meeting to members on the Town mailing list. The agenda may be read by clicking here.

The September 25 work session was originally scheduled for September 5, in advance of a Public Service Authority informational meeting held September 16 and a County public hearing on a proposed PSA special tax district held September 23. The intent was that the public would be told what sewer rate the Town was proposing to charge County customers. But the Town postponed any discussion of a sewer rate until after both public meetings had been held.

If the financial analysis provided to Town Council members on Sunday had been available to the public, it would have been discussed at length at Monday’s public hearing by the Northampton County Board of Supervisors.


It is Town practice to make information packets available to the public in advance of every Town Council meeting, in adherence to Virginia Code, which states:

At least one copy of all agenda packets and, unless exempt, all materials furnished to members of a public body for a meeting shall be made available for public inspection at the same time such documents are furnished to the members of the public body.

Town Council will also discuss at the work session an August 19 letter from the Cape Charles Business Association regarding the Town’s encouragement of commercial development on the highway by agreeing to treat sewage piped from commercial properties by the PSA. The Business Association letter asks Town Council “to put the matter of the PSA line on hold.” The letter may be read by clicking here.

The public may attend the work session but not speak.



6 Responses to “Town Keeps Sewer Rates Secret in Violation of State Code”

  1. Larry Beckett on September 25th, 2013 2:35 am

    What are the penalties for this and other violations committed by the governing body of Cape Charles? And why hasn’t any one of those violators been prosecuted and or removed from office?

  2. Deborah Bender on September 25th, 2013 5:59 am

    So if I understand this article correctly, and I think I do, the town withheld this information from the public so that citizens and the BOS would be “in the dark” when discussions about the sewer pipe were held by the board of supervisors this past Monday night. I really feel that most of the town council and both assistant town manager Bob Panek and town manager Heather Arcos need to be replaced immediately!
    THIS HAS GOT TO STOP. Every tax paying citizen in this town needs to stop and think whether or not this is acceptable!

  3. Antonio Sacco on September 25th, 2013 9:15 am


  4. Larry Beckett on September 25th, 2013 10:08 am

    Clearly, [Town officials] have sided with the money interest. “Shame” is inappropriate here. Prosecute, prosecute — are they above State Code?

  5. Wayne Creed on September 25th, 2013 10:31 am

    Given this is a work session vs. a meeting, not sure how this actually shakes out, but this appears to be an attempt to supply more kerosene to the torches and pitchforks swarming about Mr. Panek and the PSA. An agenda was posted here:, and outside of that, given the hysteria being generated over the specter of having to pay for waste water management in the most environmentally sensitive area in the state, I’m not sure I would have done much more than this either.

    Any gathering of three or more Council members to discuss Town business legally constitutes a “meeting” under Virginia law. –EDITOR

  6. Joy Pelletier on September 30th, 2013 10:59 am

    For those of you who profess the Town withheld information from the Public, please read section 2.2-3704 of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. Once the packets are delivered to Council, anyone can visit the office to request a copy of the packet. The Clerk has five days in which to respond. For those who wanted the information available on the web or have standing requests, as long as the information was made available within five days the Town Administration did its job.

    Ms. Pelletier is confusing a general request for public records under the Freedom of Information Act (click here to read) with the Virginia law requiring that information be made public at the same time it is provided to members of a public body. The law was quoted in the story above, along with a link to the full Virginia code. To emphasize, the law states that “all materials furnished to members of a public body for a meeting shall be made available for public inspection at the same time such documents are furnished to the members of the public body.” An important distinction between this law and a FOIA request is that a public body is required under law to be PROACTIVE regarding information packets by making the information available immediately — whether or not anyone asks for it. FOIA law is necessarily REACTIVE; that is, the governing body does not have to provide any information unless asked, and when it is asked, has at least five days to gather the information. –EDITOR