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Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.

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More incentives and a thought to consider

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday passed two resolutions after a closed meeting. The resolutions offer incentives to two companies. I am working on a story about the two proposals. For 2009, the supervisors offered four different incentive packages to four different companies, in an effort to bring higher-paying jobs to the county. But today this thought popped into my head: These offers were only discussed in closed session. The resolutions are vague, only saying what the company must do to get the incentives and what the county offers. No type of business. No possible location. Nothing.


If any of these companies accept the incentives, the Economic Development Department leaves it to the business to announce its plans to the public. Some do. Some don’t. So, it could be difficult to figure out what company actually got these incentives if the company does not announce its plans to come here. A Freedom of Information Act is a sure way to get public records, but you wouldn’t know when to file the request because you don’t know when the companies will accept the offers, if ever.


Let’s hope that if any of these four businesses accept the incentives, that either members of the Board of Supervisors or staff in Economic Development make a public announcement that "so and so" company accepted the incentive package and "so and so" company plans to start building immediately. When public funds, such as tax incentives, are used to lure business, the county might want to get into the practice of making a public announcement when a company does decide to take the county’s offer. 

One of the companies is a Fortune 50 health care products distributor, so that might be an easy one to figure out. The rest seem much smaller. 


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  • tpkeller

    Sounds almost like an oxymoron…

  • gramps

    The law controlling these cases is written very broadly and therefore public officials can justify almost everything they do as “closed session” material. However, it seems to me that the BOS is using this much more frequently than they did in the past. What has changed that makes this necessary?

  • caroldarby

    I certainly understand a company not wanting to jeopardize it’s position BEFORE accepting County incentives. However, I think it should be mandatory that it is announced AFTER a company decides to locate here and accepts incentives our Board is using (via tax dollars) to entice them here!

  • dantelvock

    Supervisors are allowed to have these closed sessions on prospective business and they are not doing anything wrong.

    But announcing it in public if the business accepts the offer would be nice. I will talk to the BOS on Monday and see if that works.

  • lgross

    here’s the law (got it from a previous Emily Battle
    article on the same subject):

    heres her article:

    I’m no lawyer but the law looks pretty broad…..

  • MAVRICKinc

    Dan; have you been elected to the Spotsylvania Countyt Board of Supervisors. How would you know what goes on behind closed doors and whether it meets lawful standards of the publics right to know, one way or the other?

    You’re going to “talk to the BOS on Monday?” What are the chances of US tagging along to listen in on the conversation, or is that also a matter that’s none of our business.

    Quite frankly, I was very surprise you jumped on this bandwagon, without conferring with your constituents first. Are you reporting the news or making it up as you go along? Which is it? Freedom of Information or what you and the BOS say it is? When you talk to the BOS, are you having a conversation with the entire Board or just dancing around with a script in hand, from a single source who assures you all’s right with the world? Or, is this SOP for the FLS?

    Since you are only as good as what you’re told, how can you report on what’s lawful and what’s not, while conducting business behind closed doors. That would be tantamount to saying the Spotsylvania County FOCUS GROUP is a lawful meeting of minds when the public doesn’t even know it exist, who its member are, and what business agendas are being conducted by this group with our elected officials, planning, compliance, and zoning departments and commissions, with the publics knowledge or input.

    Even you and the FLS are not invited to these meetings. I like to think of it as the blind leading the blind (US) without the remotest transparency or accountability.

    I, for one, will be waiting to hear back from you with one of your one sentence zingers and spin on what Spotsylvania County is doing behind closed doors, without ever being present at any one of these closed door meeting.

    When you ever get a chance to read the law on this subject, you too may come to the conclusion that its wording and constraints are so vague, you could drive a MAC truck through the opening remarks to the end of the entire document, without a single scratch on your bumper.

    Whether something is lawful or not will continue to be a rebuttable presumption, not news.