Due to an apparent oversight in Virginia State Code, the Carroll County Industrial Development Authority (IDA) is currently without its chairman and secretary and has been “virtually shut down” for the moment.
During the Carroll County Board of Supervisors’ meeting Monday night, county officials said IDA Chairman Barry Hicks has resigned from his position, while Larry Chambers is seeking reappointment to the board after both of their positions on the Authority were recently nullified. Their vacancies were caused after county officials noted language in state code that notes, “No director shall be an officer or employee of the locality except in a town with a population of less than 3,500 where members of the town governing body may serve as directors provided they do not constitute a majority of the board.” There are also exceptions in the code for Buchanan County and Frederick County.
Hicks is an employee of Carroll County with the locality’s maintenance crew, while Chambers was employed by Carroll County as its information specialist.
“Their appointments weren’t valid, so what the board (of supervisors) was going to have to do was appoint IDA members,” said Carroll County Interim County Administrator Nikki Cannon. “Larry was willing to resign from his job with the county to remain an IDA member, but Barry was not, so Barry wasn’t eligible for reappointment.”
The two IDA vacancies were brought up during Monday’s meeting during a segment involving committee appointments. County Attorney Jim Cornwell asked for the issue to be tabled, however, so the board passed a motion to advertise one of the positions and table the vacancies until the February meeting.
The issue was revisited during Citizens’ Time after it was brought into question by citizen Stephen Gregson. He said it would be appropriate for the board to at least put out some sort of announcement about how the nullifications of the two positions happened. He also wondered what happens if the IDA meets and doesn’t have a quorum since it is currently down to five members.
“I feel we need to be as upfront with that information as much as possible today since it is ongoing,” Gregson said.
Pine Creek District Supervisor Bob Martin stepped in, saying the board was making it sound like Hicks and Chambers “were convicted of a crime or something.”
“And simply we found out that the state law has some regulations and both of these sadly, because it was the loss of two good folks, the state law was that if you were employed part-time, full-time or paid in some capacity, you could not serve on the IDA,” Martin said. “And it was just one of those things that slipped through the cracks and both Mr. Chambers and Barry just happened to fit that little glitch and they had done nothing wrong. Their service was appreciated and valued, but we got into the law is the law. (They) had done nothing wrong and your service, Larry and Barry, was greatly appreciated. It was just an oversight.”
Chambers asked if he would be eligible for reappointment since he has since resigned from his position with the county.
“The IDA has been very successful for years and we are virtually shut down now. We haven’t had a meeting this month,” said Chambers. “I resigned from the county. That is what I was told to do by Nikki. I was already on the IDA as an appointed member, which I have been on there for 20-some years.”
Cornwell said there is a second issue with Chambers he “would rather not address right now.” Hendrick said supervisors reviewed Chambers’ situation and were prepared to accept a motion for his reappointment Monday night. But he said he didn’t know what the second issue was Cornwell mentioned. Cornwell said since it is a personnel matter, he would be happy to advise the board in closed session.
As far as if the IDA would be able to have a quorum in the meantime, Cornwell said the IDA’s votes have been unanimous, so “there was a quorum acting appropriately.” He said he spoke with the Assistant Attorney General about the issue. He said he feels like when the vacancies are filled, the first action the IDA will be asked to do is to ratify previous votes that included the two nullified members.
“I’m not sure that is necessary, but just to be safe,” Cornwell said.
“That question had been posed to counsel from our level,” Board of Supervisors’ Chairman Joshua Hendrick said. “I hate the way it happened and we do have two vacancies because of it. It was nothing these individuals did to warrant removal, it was just a code infraction that was brought to light.”
Hicks served with the IDA for more than 10 years. He was elected as chairman of the Authority after the passing of former chairman Richard Slate Sr. in 2014. While Hicks resigned his position with the IDA, Chambers said after Monday’s meeting he still wanted to serve. He said the second issue mentioned by Cornwell was whether Chambers could still serve on the IDA while also a member of the Carroll County Planning Commission.
“The thing came up with the Planning Commission, which is why I wasn’t reappointed tonight. He is going to check ramifications if I can be on both boards,” Chambers said. “My position is vacant until this is resolved. I want to be on the IDA and if I have to give up the Planning Commission, that is fine. Barry Hicks is a hard worker and a good chairman and good member of the IDA. Losing him is a big blow to the IDA.”
The IDA was supposed to have an organizational meeting Jan. 5, but that meeting was cancelled due to the ongoing issues and uncertainties, Chambers said.
“The IDA’s next meeting is pending a resolution to all of this,” he said.
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN