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Town manager's contract includes confidentiality provision

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  1. Protecting Sources and Materials

    NMU         VIRGINIA         Confidentiality/Privilege    

Town manager’s contract includes confidentiality provision

  • The town council of Colonial Beach, Va., voted to keep the performance and qualifications of the new town manager confidential.

Oct. 23, 2003 — A town council in Virginia last week passed a controversial provision to the new town manager’s contract that keeps his background, qualifications and performance confidential.

On a 4-2 vote Oct. 16, the Colonial Beach Town Council approved the provision, which also gives the council the authority to fine each other $1,000 for leaking information about the town manager, Brian Hooten.

“The performance of the Town Manager as well as issues related to his background and qualifications shall be kept confidential and shall only be discussed among and between the members of the Town Council and the Town Manager,” reads Section 17, Subsection E of the contract.

Linda Crandell, one of the Colonial Beach Town Council members who voted against the provision, says she can’t see any justification for forbidding council members from discussing the “performance” of Hooten with the public. She says the $1,000 fine is even more disturbing.

“I don’t even know what [the provision] bans me from doing,” said Crandell, “but it obviously is very punitive to fine me $1,000.”

Andrea G. Erard, attorney for Colonial Beach, said she revised the contract on behalf of the city council, but declined to say who sought to add the confidentiality provision. Hooten did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Crandell says she is worried the provision could stop her from disclosing any wrongdoing by Hooten, who was hired Oct. 15. In addition, Crandell says, the lack of a clear procedure for due process means council members could fine each other without having clear evidence about where the “leak” came from.

“The real problem I have is the $1,000 penalty,” said Crandell, “because if the majority [of] council members is mad at you, they could manufacture the evidence and fine you.”

Moreover, since the town manager is “a servant of the public,” said Crandell, “I find it offensive that we can’t have open government.”


© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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