BOYCE — Mayor Richard Kibler told Boyce Town Council on Monday he had no grounds for his recent accusation that three council members met privately to discuss town business.
That would have been a violation of Virginia’s open meetings laws because three members constitute a majority of the five-member council. Any gathering of an entire local governing board, or a majority of its members, in which government business is discussed must be publicly advertised before it occurs.
Kibler commented while being questioned by Councilman Floyd Hudson during a special meeting scheduled to talk with David Griffin, the part-time attorney for the town of roughly 600 residents, about municipal matters and governing procedures.
Griffin said it is legal for a majority of council members to be at a private function, such as a holiday party, as long as they do not discuss town business.
Tempers flared during the council’s March 30 work session. Hudson and his daughter, Councilwoman Whitney Maddox, were upset to learn that Kibler and Town Manager David Winsatt had met privately with Griffin. They accused Kibler of trying to withhold information relevant to other council members. However, they did not accuse the mayor of breaking any laws, and they said they were not upset with Winsatt, a paid part-time employee of the council.
Later in that meeting, Kibler indicated concerns about Hudson, Maddox and Councilman Zack Hudson — their cousin — being related and perhaps meeting together. All three vowed they had not met privately to discuss town business. Kibler later apologized.
Floyd Hudson brought up the matter again during Monday’s meeting, when Griffin was present. He recalled that Kibler’s “accusation was we had gotten together for town business.”
“I still apologize,” Kibler responded.
Floyd Hudson accepted the apology. He then asked Kibler, “You don’t have any facts to substantiate what you said?”
“True,” Kibler replied.
Turning to Griffin, Floyd Hudson said that in an August 2020 email, “You told us it’s perfectly legal for multiple family members” to serve on the same public panel together.
Correct, Griffin said.
Kibler then asserted he continued to hear concerns from people about the situation. He told them it was determined to be legal, he said.
Floyd Hudson said the heated discussion on March 30 “created some uncomfortable feelings” among some council members.
Griffin said he understands.
Voters elected Kibler as mayor and both Hudsons as council members in November 2019. Maddox was appointed by the council in September 2020 to serve the rest of the unexpired term of a councilwoman who resigned. Her seat will be up for election in November.
Longtime Councilman Dennis Hall mentioned that council members previously have been irked by Kibler. One instance, he recalled, occurred last summer regarding purchases Kibler had made with a debit card. Council members asserted the mayor did not have authority to make the purchases and insisted he return one item, a credit card processing machine.
Hall said Kibler originally did not understand his role and had “a lack of knowledge about what a mayor does.” He said that Kibler basically “thought he was king.”
As time has passed, though, Kibler has learned more about his role with the town and improved on his leadership, Hall indicated.
Hall added he believes its current members are the best the council has had during his eight years on the panel.
“We just have to stop all the nit-picking,” he said.
“Be patient with each other and yourselves,” Griffin said.
“Feelings are hurt right now,” Floyd Hudson said. “I hope time and maturity will heal those.”
Griffin said he has privately met with the mayor, or the town manager and the mayor together, in other localities for which he’s worked.
But “I don’t work for any elected officials” specifically, he stressed. “I work for the corporation of the town of Boyce.”
If and when he ever meets with Kibler and/or Winsatt again, “you’re always welcome to attend,” he told the council.