EDITORIAL: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell


January 16, 2014

At 5:15 p.m. today (Thursday), members of Cape Charles Town Council will go behind closed doors at Town Hall for an “executive session.” (The Wave has been criticized in the past for referring to such meetings as “secret.”)

Virginia state law requires almost every action, or even discussion, by publicly elected or appointed bodies to be open to the public, with records available. There are only a few exceptions — personnel matters being the most important. If Town Council wishes to interview candidates for, say, chief of police, the candidates understandably deserve privacy.

But today, Town Council is meeting to consider buying or selling property. That much we know, because state law requires the Town to state the reason for its “executive” session.

Here is the reason provided by the Town Clerk:

Discussion or consideration of the acquisition of real property for a public purpose, or of the disposition of publicly held real property, where discussion in an open meeting would adversely affect the bargaining position or negotiating strategy of the public body. Specifically: Discussion of property leased by the Town and Town-owned property.

So, we know that today Town Council will discuss property leased by the Town, with the idea of buying it, and property owned by the Town, with the idea of selling it. What we don’t know is — just what property?

The only allowance under state law to privately discuss the sale or purchase of property is if “discussion in an open meeting would adversely affect the bargaining position or negotiating strategy” of the Town. Note that any “adverse effect” must be on the Town – not the other party.


Town Council held a similar closed session on September 22, 2011, to discuss an “unsolicited confidential proposal” which taxpayers did not learn until the following year was about giving public park land and meeting space to a private developer.

Would revealing the “unsolicited proposal” to taxpayers have adversely affected the Town’s strategy? Only to the extent of possibly generating opposition among the voters.

Now Town Council is keeping secrets again. Is there any reason not to at least inform the voters and the taxpayers about just what property they are considering buying or selling – other than the desire to avoid any possible opposition by the taxpayers and the voters?

Perhaps a motto should be erected over the entrance of Town Hall: DON’T ASK – DON’T TELL.



3 Responses to “

EDITORIAL: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

  1. Deborah Bender on January 17th, 2014 7:48 am

    Here we go again. :-(

  2. Don Glowinski on January 17th, 2014 9:31 am

    Common sense is like deodorant — the people that need it the most never use it!

  3. Antonio Sacco on January 17th, 2014 10:41 am

    The Wave is absolutely correct to claim that all “behind closed doors” meetings are secrets. I believe only their families and hair dresser should know but not the public. No wonder the poll taken recently was that 85% of Americans do not trust their Governments.