Sunday, February 25, 2024

Loudoun County hires lobbyists to kill travel transparency bill | WJLA

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It appears the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors is spending tax dollars on lobbyists to fight transparency on how tax dollars are being used for the Loudoun County elected officials’ overseas travel, according to a list of county contracts.

7News has learned the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors is spending $156,000 tax dollars to hire lobbyists with Troutman Pepper to fight Democratic Virginia State Senator Russet Perry’s bill that would require the Loudoun County elected officials to tell taxpayers how they spend tax dollars on lavish trips around the world.

“It is shameful that county officials are trying to stop a bill that would bring much-needed transparency to the county when it comes to travel,” said David Williams, the President of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance. “This is a county that has a really bad reputation when it comes to spending taxpayer dollars. So to spend taxpayer dollars to lobby against a bill that would safeguard taxpayer dollars doesn’t make any sense at all.”

Sen. Perry’s bill would require all Virginia local elected officials to tell the public when they use tax dollars on trips that cost more than $5,000.

“This bill is addressing a problem I heard a lot during my campaign from people of all political persuasions and backgrounds in relationship to local government and transparency around how their hard-earned tax dollars were being spent,” Perry said on Friday.

Perry’s bill passed the State Senate on Friday.

7News was the first to show how Loudoun County Chair Phyllis Randall and several county supervisors used tax dollars to visit tourist destinations in Ghana and Uruguay, wineries, a seafood beachside lunch and an equestrian center for sunset cocktails.

RELATED | Some Loudoun Co. supervisors lash out against Virginia travel transparency bill

The Loudoun County elected officials spent thousands of tax dollars on five-star hotels overlooking the beach, and United Polaris business class flights costing more than $7,000 a ticket.

Randall also used tax dollars to upgrade her hotel room with her husband during her sister city trip to Ghana and she also brought her and supervisor Koran Saines political donor’s husband on the trip. The donor’s husband’s trip was also paid for with public funds.

Randall has also visited China, Germany, India, and South Korea for sister city trips.

Loudoun County Board Supervisors Saines and Sylvia Glass traveled to Ghana and supervisor Juli Briskman traveled to Uruguay with public funds.

Meanwhile, supervisor Matt Letourneau traveled to Dubai and Paris.

“It is shameful to think that county folks are spending taxpayer money to stop transparency,” said Wiliams. “Transparency is the lifeblood of making sure that money is spent wisely. And whether you’re spending $1 or a million dollars, transparency is critical, especially when it comes to travel. Something that is often abused by local officials.”

Last week, when supervisor Kristen Umstattd tried to get her colleagues to stop formally opposing Perry’s travel transparency bill in Richmond, many of the Loudoun travelers and their allies pushed back.

“I think it’s a ludicrous bill the begin with,” said supervisor Mike Turner.

“I will be strongly opposing taking this off the oppose list,” said supervisor Juli Briskman.

The board of supervisors passed a legislative agenda earlier this year that included bills the county would formally support or oppose in Richmond.

“Everybody on this dais was here, sat up and clapped when I said I was going to Ghana. So the idea there wasn’t complete transparency is absolutely ridiculous and yes offensive,” said Randall.

Sen. Perry’s bill is now heading to the House of Delegates for a vote.

On Monday, 7News requested an interview with Troutman Pepper to discuss their lobbying services contract with Loudoun County.

On Friday and Monday, 7News requested an interview with Randall to ask about her efforts and the county’s efforts to lobby against Sen. Perry’s travel transparency bill. Randall has not responded.

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