Republicans on the Prince William Board of County Supervisors say Democratic supervisors broke the law by attending a May 31 community meeting called by Prince William County police. But Prince William’s top prosecutor Amy Ashworth (D) says the supervisors' attendance was not illegal.
The meeting in question was called by the Prince William County Police Department and its Citizen’s Advisory Board on May 31 to discuss the police response to a May 30 protest against police brutality in Manassas that was declared an unlawful assembly after some protesters threw rocks and bottles at officers.
All five Democratic supervisors attended the meeting, but Republicans supervisors said they weren’t invited.
Republicans on the board say they believe the Democratic supervisors violated Virginia’s open meeting laws by attending the meeting. Virginia law bars any gathering of two or more members of the same public body from transacting or discussing public business in private.
Ashworth said in a Thursday, June 11, letter that her office looked into the matter “to determine if the allegations were, in fact, credible,” and determined that “no public business was transacted,” and that there was no intent to transact public business.
Ashworth said the office learned that the meeting was called by Prince William County Acting Chief of Police Jarad Phelps, and that “after speaking with Chief Phelps, it was quite clear that no public business was transacted.”
“I have therefore concluded that this event does not fit the definition of ‘Meeting’ or ‘Meetings’ pursuant to VA code 2.2-3.701 and therefore was not illegal or in violation of the law,” Ashworth said.
Ashworth said the office has not received “any formal or informal inquiry or complaint about this alleged ‘illegal meeting’ from any supervisor, their staff, or any other Prince William County employee or official.”
It appears Ashworth’s office looked into the matter after receiving emails from concerned constituents.
“Please know that my office takes seriously any allegation of criminal behavior by our Board of County Supervisors or other elected officials,” Ashworth said. “Violations of public trust are not something I take lightly, nor do I entertain the politicizing of allegations of such.”
Meanwhile, Manassas resident Brett Gloss filed a civil lawsuit against the Prince William Board of County Supervisors regarding their attendance at the May 31 meeting. A hearing has been scheduled in the Prince William General District Court on Monday, June 15.