The latest incarnation of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors couldn’t even agree on a new chair during its first meeting of the year—a sign that Chris Dumler’s election may have solidified a 3-3 split along partisan and ideological lines.
With Scottsville swing vote Lindsay Dorrier replaced by Dumler, the six-vote board could not appoint a successor to Ann Mallek, who retained her seat. That stalemate extended to the board’s appointments to the Metropolitan Planning Organization—two seats currently held by Republican supervisors Duane Snow and Rodney Thomas, whose April meeting with Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton preceded passage of the Western Bypass by two months. Ultimately, all three kept their positions by default, with a possibility of holding votes in the future to renegotiate seats.
Republican Supervisor Duane Snow said he doesn’t remember whether he shared a Western Bypass pledge with the board. (Photo by Sarah Oehl)
Supervisor Dennis Rooker had nominated Snow and Dumler as chair and vice, respectively. He also suggested that Mallek replace Snow on the Metropolitan Planning Organization. Both moves, which Rooker called “balanced,” would place a Democrat and Republican side-by-side.
“You talk about equal representation,” responded Snow. “To me, that is the height of hypocrisy.”
Supervisors also unanimously ruled that the board must receive notice two days prior to any vote, so they may inform the public and plan accordingly. That vote follows sustained public dispute over the Western Bypass, which was revived last June with an impromptu midnight vote prompted by Dorrier.
“If any board member wants to vote on something during a meeting, it ought to be provided to other board members and staff at least two days before meeting,” said Rooker. That time allows county staff to post potential votes on its website—something Rooker called a “reasonable expectation by the public,” and something that was missing from the June 8 vote that approved the Western Bypass.
Snow recapped his April meeting with Thomas and Connaughton, and told the board that he had pledged support for the Western Bypass in return for state funds to local transportation priorities. Rooker replied that Snow failed to adequately inform the board, and had the minutes from a previous meeting to prove it.
So, C-VILLE called Snow for his response.
“I don’t know if I just failed to say it,” Snow told C-VILLE. “But it was said in that initial meeting [with Connaughton].” He added that he was not concerned about the miscommunication—or misunderstanding or oversight.
“If I didn’t say that, I probably should have,” he said. However, he added, “I made about a five-sentence report. Nobody asked me any additional questions, and we went on to something else.” He referred C-VILLE to a Daily Progress editorial in which he and Thomas reviewed their meeting with Connaughton. That editorial was published in July, roughly one month after the Western Bypass was approved.
With the Western Bypass as fuel, supervisors butted heads to a standstill. Scottsville’s Dumler, the newest board member, voted alongside Mallek and Rooker in favor of split-party representation.
“The reason I joined them, and in Dennis’ follow-up, comes down to balance,” said Dumler in an interview. “What was most important to me was ensuring that leadership as well as key committee positions were allocated in a fair and balanced way.” He added that it seemed “reasonable” to see a 50-50 split reflected in leadership and committee positions.
Both Snow and Dumler claimed that the board votes unanimously on most issues. “By the time we get through our discussion, we pretty much agree on everything we’re doing,” says Snow. “There’ve been some votes that’ve been 4-2…It’s not always the same people that have dissenting votes.”
However, those issues that arguably raised the greatest ruckus—maintaining a 74.2 cent tax rate, withdrawing from a greenhouse emissions monitoring program, and the Western Bypass approval—were decided 4-2. All three involved Snow and fellow Republican supervisors Ken Boyd and Rodney Thomas. In each case, Dumler’s predecessor, Lindsay Dorrier, was the swing vote.
Now, Albemarle supervisors have two obvious options for breaking a 3-3 tie: court Dumler’s vote, or wait for the next election. Could either side obtain a majority to alter Metropolitan Planning Organization seats or board leadership?
“I don’t get a sense of that now,” said Dumler. Which means it may wait until 2013, when seats held by Thomas, Snow and Rooker go up for grabs.