Bath Board of Supervisors Chairman Bruce McWilliams questioned about possible conflict of interest on vote in February
Making appointments to boards and commissions was a big topic at Tuesday night’s Bath Board of Supervisors meeting. During public comment at the beginning of the meeting, John Fisher of the Warm Springs District spoke about what he saw as an illegal vote by Board Chairman Bruce McWilliams in February to appoint John Loeffler to the Planning Commission. Loeffler was appointed in February to serve for a short time to fill an unexpired term. Fisher said McWilliams should have excused himself from the vote, because he violated the Code of Virginia by being a local government official voting under conflict of interest. Fisher said following the sale of The Inn at Gristmill Square in 2011 to Loeffler, McWilliams has continued to maintain a significant equity partnership with Loeffler. Fisher said that to rectify the apparently illegal vote in February, McWilliams should disqualify himself from voting Tuesday night on Loeffler’s reappointment to the Planning Commission for a full term.
Board Chair Bruce McWilliams responded saying he vetted that very question to both his attorney and to the Commonwealth’s Attorney. He said he was assured by those two different attorneys that he was well within his rights to be a part of that vote. He said he would rely on their opinion and carry on with the business at hand.
There were three candidates being considered for appointment Tuesday night to represent the Warm Springs District on the Planning Commission. In addition, Supervisor Bart Perdue had also applied in case there were no other applicants. Perdue had asked that his name be removed from consideration since there were others who did apply. John Loeffler was appointed to fill the four year term on a vote of three to two, with Perdue and Supervisor Claire Collins voting no. Perdue had made a substitute motion to appoint another applicant, Ronald Pozun. That motion failed on a vote of two to two. Supervisor Cliff Gilchrest abstained from that vote and Collins and Perdue both voted in favor of the appointment of Ronald Pozun.
During the public comment period at the end of the meeting, John Fisher spoke again saying he was glad to hear that McWilliams had vetted the question about his vote in February on Loeffler concerning the conflict of interest. Fisher said he hoped those attorneys’ opinions would be placed in public record. McWilliams said that would be a conversation between him and his attorney. Fisher said this is a public matter and that the appearance of conflict of interest is just as damaging as an actual conflict of interest.
And during final board comments, Supervisor Bart Perdue stated that for the record he has absolutely no personal issue with John Loeffler. But Perdue said he was concerned with how much influence Board Chair Bruce McWilliams has over Loeffler. Perdue said if McWilliams stays out of Loeffler’s decision making, he has no problem with Loeffler.