At the end of the business day on Monday, March 6, Purcellville Mayor Kwasi Fraser called for an emergency meeting for 7:00 p.m. the same evening. The subject given for the meeting was to discuss an alleged threat a Town government employee made against a Town Council Member.
A majority vote is needed to proceed in a closed session meeting. However, in this case, the Town Council voted 4-3 against going into executive session. Council Members Doug McCollum, Ryan Cool, Nedim Ogelman and Chris Bledsoe voted against going into the closed session, and Mayor Fraser, Vice-Mayor Karen Jimmerson and Council Member Kelli Grim voted for the motion. The Council then voted unanimously to reschedule the meeting for Friday March 10, 7:00 p.m.
For meetings in general, Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act requires the public body to give three days notice. But, emergency meetings are exempt from this rule and can be called and held on the same day.
Town Attorney Sally Hankins quoted the FOIA “emergency” definition from the Virginia code: “Emergency means an unforeseen circumstance rendering the notice required by this chapter impossible or impracticable and which circumstance requires immediate action.”
McCollum argued that the situation did not rise to be defined as an emergency. He asked Grim to recuse herself and not attend the meeting as she was either a complainant or a witness.
After the meeting, Grim told the Blue Ridge Leader that McCollum was wrong on all accounts. She declined to say anything further.
Mayor Fraser said, “The definition of emergency is subjective. If you ask any one of us on this council, we might each have a different definition of what constitutes an emergency.” He continued, “I believe an alleged threat of bodily harm to a council member is an emergency.”
Grim said that the situation required immediate action and previous councils have called emergency meetings for the purchase of properties and legal matters. She said, “They were far less urgent or critical matters, and the same town manager and a different town attorney did not object to them.”
Fraser asked Town Attorney Sally Hankins if something is defined as an emergency, does the three-day rule to call a meeting apply. Her answer was no.