Much has been said in recent days about what was and was not done prior to adopting the Immigration Resolution. Both Linda Chavez and the Brookings Institute Report have noted that there was no official public hearing on the Resolution. So how come that marathon citizens’ time meeting wasn’t a public hearing?
According to the PWC government website regarding county rules for procedures, here is the definition of a public hearing:
Public Hearings – Public hearings shall be held after notice has been given in accordance with the Code of Virginia.
Except as provided herein, once a public hearing has been advertised on any matter including a rezoning or special use permit application the public hearing shall then be held to avoid inconvenience to the public. The Chairman may then (a) close the public hearing at its conclusion, and the Board may take or defer action on the matter including referral back to the Planning Commission of any land use issue within its jurisdiction; or (b) hold the hearing open for further public comment and Board action at a later date. At the request of the applicant, the Board may, in its discretion, cancel a public hearing that has been advertised provided the applicant shall be responsible for all costs of advertising the canceled public hearing and any rescheduled public hearing. Any applicant for a rezoning or special use permit may withdraw his application at any time prior to Board action thereon, subject to the provisions of Section 32-700.70 of the Code of Prince William County. No public hearing shall be held on any rezoning or special use permit application which has been withdrawn in writing by the applicant under the provisions of that section.
Well, now that’s a little vague and obscure, if you ask me. Let’s take a peek at the Code of Virginia to see what it has to say about Public Hearing, since the county code references it:
15.2-5431.5. Advertisement of resolution and notice of hearing.
The governing body of the locality shall cause to be advertised at least one time in a newspaper of general circulation in such locality a copy of the resolution creating the authority, or a descriptive summary of the resolution and a reference to the place within the locality where a copy of the resolution can be obtained, and notice of the day, not less than 30 days after publication of the advertisement, on which a public hearing will be held on the resolution.
Now that part of the code looks more direct. (However locating it was not more direct)
I am neither an attorney or a beaurocrat. Perhaps someone can tell me something here that I have missed or not included. However, if a public hearing was required before passing that resolution, there was none. Citizens’ time is not a public hearing simply because it can be about any topic. A public hearing is about a specific topic. A public hearing is advertised thirty days in advance.
If folks are going to be absolutists about ‘rule of law,’ then at least let’s be consistent. No, the Brookings Institute authors are not ‘liars.’ No public hearing was held, not according to code. Was a mock hearing held? Perhaps. I don’t even know that a public hearing is legally required for that specific resolution to have finally passed. Someone else can do that research. That does not alter the fact that no public hearing, according to county and state definition, was held in accordance with the Code of Virginia.
Criticize the Brookings Institute Report if you want. That is fair game. But they were not inaccurate about the public hearing.
[Note: The link to the county website has a security notice about the website’s security certificate. I ignored it and forged ahead. If you can’t trust your county, who can you trust?]
[UPDATE: See comment #14 (Mom) for more information about the state regulations for Public Hearings. One size does not fit all]