Press Club

Clement: County Board Reports Should Be Posted 72 Hours in Advance

Audrey ClementIndependent Arlington County Board candidate Audrey Clement is proposing a “72 hour transparency rule” for Arlington County Board and county commission meetings.

Clement is decrying the not-uncommon practice of county staff waiting to post documents related to County Board items and commission agenda items until either right before the meeting or after. While the vast majority of board reports and other documents are posted a week or more in advance, some go down to the wire, raising questions about government transparency.

In a press release, Clement proposes a rule requiring documents to be posted 72 hours in advance of any such meeting, and asks other candidates to support the rule as well. It wouldn’t come at a monetary cost, it would just require tighter deadlines, Clement said.

The full press release:

I’m Audrey Clement, Independent Candidate for Arlington County Board. I’ve spoken to hundreds of voters, taxpayers, and residents while campaigning for County Board this year.

Many have related to me their frustration with the fact that Arlington County staff frequently withhold critical documents, data, and information, or delay posting critical information till the day before the next Board or Commission meeting.

How can residents, the Civic Federation, civic associations, homeowners associations, and other stakeholders study and understand information or hold meaningful discussions with their elected officials about important decisions when staff either withholds, or waits until the last minute to reveal pertinent information and detail? They can’t!

There is a better way: A 72-hour transparency rule. In the corporate world, boards of directors typically require at least 5 days’ advance receipt of meeting materials. If you want meeting attendees to be prepared (which includes having read relevant reports and detailed information in advance), you need to give them the materials far enough in advance to make it possible. It is common practice in the business world to require 3-to 5-day advanced delivery of all board-meeting materials.

Providing meeting materials 3 days in advance of County Board and advisory commission meetings isn’t a lot to ask. It’s just common courtesy. And a 72-hour rule isn’t any more expensive or time consuming; it simply means setting earlier internal deadlines. In fact most Arlington County meeting documents are ready several days prior to meetings, yet staff often holds them for a Friday-night document dump to the County’s website.

Please join me and others in asking all Arlington County Board candidates to pledge their support to a 72-hour (or longer) rule for the advance publication of County Board and advisory commission agenda items and reports.

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