HOW THE WAVE SEES IT
April 1, 2013
Last week somebody posted the following notice on the Cape Charles Post Office telephone pole:
DID YOU KNOW??
So far our town of Cape Charles has
spent $76,386.01 of your money for
attorney’s fees to respond to the lawsuit
from Old School Cape Charles.
You and every other town resident will
pay for this foolish lawsuit!!!
Ask the Wave . . . why they didn’t
So far, no one has asked the WAVE — but if they did we would refer them to our March 4 analysis, where we wrote: Records show that since July 1 of last year, the Town has spent almost $64,000 on the [Old School lawsuits].
There were legal costs prior to July 1, so the anonymous telephone poll poster probably got it right: total attorney fees of $76,386 and, to be precise, one penny.
If the unknown informant had wanted that fact circulated to the most possible people, he or she could have written a letter to the editor at the WAVE. We would have published it. (Of course, that would have required the writer to have the courage to identify himself.)
But there was even another way: send it for publication in the ANONYMOUS section of the WAVE. We would have published that as well.
Regardless, the unknown writer raises a salient, if unintended, point: why does the Town of Cape Charles, with a population of 1,000, spend so much money on lawyers?
The $76,000 is not the total cost for Old School legal fees. As the WAVE has reported, the Town paid its own attorney $15,000 just to review the contract to convey the Old School to a developer for a price of $10.
That should make the Guinness World Records: legal costs were 1,500 times the sales price.
Worse, Town Council proceeded to ignore the Town attorney’s advice to require a performance bond and a buyback option in the contract. So if the developers fail to carry out their plan to convert the school and parkland into a 17-unit apartment building, there is no penalty, and nothing the Town can do about it.
Except, perhaps, sue. And at what cost?
The $15,000 legal fee also seems money badly spent considering that the Town attorney failed to raise a red flag over language in the contract stating that Purchaser shall not operate the Project as a low-income housing facility under any state or federal program. That got the Town in hot water with fair housing advocates and, as a result, state legislators. After the building was already sold, the Town revised the contract to drop the offending language.
So, adding the $15,000 fee to review the Old School contract to the $76,000 to answer the lawsuit brings the legal cost to the taxpayer to $91,000. [Read more...]
HOW THE WAVE SEES IT
November 13, 2012
There are laws meant to be obeyed, and there are laws meant to be broken.
A wise town authority knows when to bear down, and when to look the other way. But a foolish authority ends up looking, well — foolish.
The Cape Charles Wave takes more than simple pleasure in pointing out official foolishness — we see it as our civic duty. Question authority!
So, for example, we pointed out the, yes, stupidity of trying to enforce a ban on political yard signs until just 45 days before a Presidential election. We noted that the U.S. Supreme Court long ago struck down any such ban. And we cheered on our own vice mayor for ignoring the town ban by prominently displaying political advertising in his yard before the permitted date.
Just yesterday we drew attention to more foolishness, as our Town Council members put their heads together this Thursday to discuss enacting rules to constrain behavior at public meetings. Town staff recommends that we, the residents, be prohibited from handing out or receiving flyers within 50 feet of the door of the meeting hall.
What are they afraid of?
There’s also a suggestion to prohibit speakers from personally criticizing elected Town officials or Town staff. To do so would be an “attack” on their person.
Virginia Beach banned “personal attacks” during the public comment of school board meetings, and the courts ruled the ban unconstitutional.
We’re not suggesting that “anything goes.” The presiding town official has the right to require a certain decorum, but a wise official will differentiate between scathing criticism (allowed) and speech that violates the “habits and manners of civility” (not allowed).
And now we’ve learned of even more foolishness by a town staff that seems to have too much time on its hands. As shown above, the Town has issued an official warning to Old School Cape Charles for advertising its Oyster Roast on telephone poles. Each sign is cause for a $100 fine. [Read more...]
HOW THE WAVE SEES IT
November 1, 2012
The flier on the right was produced by Town of Cape Charles staff and distributed through the official Town Gazette.
It advertises last week’s Candidates Forum, sponsored, so it claims, by Arts Enter.
The flier is a falsehood. Arts Enter did not sponsor the forum — town staff, in their official capacity, did.
This should be of deep concern to every resident of Cape Charles, regardless of political viewpoint.
Town staff apparently realized the impropriety of conducting a political event, and so claimed that an independent organization, Arts Enter, was in charge.
But Arts Enter’s sole involvement was to allow the Palace Theatre to be the venue.
If our town staff were federal employees, under the Hatch Act they would be liable for prosecution for engaging in political activities while on duty.
The Hatch Act also extends to municipal employees who have oversight of federal grant funds.
The fact that both candidates participated in the town-sponsored forum does not lessen the seriousness of the impropriety. Town staff had the opportunity to manipulate the event however they felt might benefit their favored candidate.
Town staff required questions from the audience to be in written form, including the name and address of the questioner.
The assistant town manager then “screened the questions for appropriateness.”
This same “screener” displays in his yard a sign for candidate Steve Bennett. It was clear to a number of observers by the way he shuffled through the cards that he was not submitting questions at random.
Town staff determined that Steve Bennett would have the first opening statement and the last closing statement.
This is not the first time that town staff have attempted to manipulate an election. Our town manager and assistant town manager actively schemed to influence the previous Town Council election in May — when Steve Bennett was also a candidate. [Read more...]