Onley Town Council responds to Mayor Hart’s comments

July 20, 2020
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Last week WESR aired a statement by Mayor Matt Hart of Onley on a recent court case involving a censure of the Mayor. The Onley Town Council released this statement in response:

“The Onley Town Council deeply regrets that they must continue to address the current situation with Mayor Matt Hart, but we feel very strongly that we acted appropriately and therefore, we feel we must address Mayor Hart’s  recent comments.   Mayor Hart’s statement that the Motion to censor him passed by a bare majority vote is untrue.  The adoption of the Resolution to Censure Mayor Hart passed by a vote of 4-0. This is two thirds of the available votes ,otherwise known as a super majority.  Mayor Hart’s  implication that two of the Council Members did not vote to censure him is also untrue.  They simply did not vote.  It is not a vote at all- for or against the proposed motion.

“Mayor Hart stated that he was convicted of seven offenses.   He was not convicted of anything as this was not a criminal matter.

“Hart claims that the public has no idea of what went into the creation  of this resolution, since it was created at a secret meeting.  That statement is also untrue. The meeting was properly advertised five days before the meeting was held.  At the same time, the Mayor was also notified of the meeting and why it was being held.  He chose not to attend.

“The court agreed with the Town of Onley  in its opinion that the closed meeting and its purpose was not an FOIA violation.   Therefore, Mayor Hart’s statement that he was accused, tried and convicted in a Star Chamber are untrue and he should refrain from referring to the meeting as a “secret meeting”.

“Mayor Hart claims that the resolution makes false allegations against him.  The Resolution to Censure Mayor Matthew Hart states the reasons for the censure as well as offers examples of his unacceptable behavior. The town has written and verbal complaints as well as video and audio recordings documenting all statements made in the resolution. No false allegations were made against Mayor Hart.

“We would like to address Mayor Hart’s  statement that the powers and duties of the Mayor were stripped in a charter change that was signed into law by Governor Ralph Northam.  This is true and was done at the request of the Onley Town Council following a meeting about this matter held on September 19, 2018. That motion passed unanimously with a 6-0 vote in favor of making the charter change. Mayor Hart was serving as a member of the Town Council at the time, and voted in favor of the change.

“Mayor Hart’s claims that there are no checks and balances are untrue. Prior to making the charter change,  the Mayor was the sole decision maker for the town on most matters.  Since the charter change, the Town Council, consisting of 6 voting members duly elected by the voters, are the primary decision makers for the Town. The Town Council acts as a governing body, with  decisions made by a majority vote, and the Mayor acting as a tiebreaker. The Town Manager works at the pleasure of the Town Council.  The Town Council makes decisions, and the Town Manager implements them.   This is a much better way to govern, rather than having one person responsible for the entire decision-making process.”

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