IOW board asks for policy on legal notices

Published 8:42 pm Friday, November 21, 2014


The Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors at its Thursday meeting authorized County Attorney Mark Popovich to draft a policy about advertising public notices in area newspapers. Part of that could include what he called a “hybrid approach.”

This came at his suggestion following a Power Point presentation on the issue.

That came to public attention in October when The Tidewater News and The Smithfield Times learned that the County was advertising public notices — also known as legal notices — only in The Daily Press, which is based in Newport News. That practice began July 1, the first month of the 2014-2015 fiscal year. Previously, these regularly appeared in all three newspapers.

The notices are intended to inform the public in a timely manner when governing boards, such as the supervisors or planning, are meeting to discuss and set policies that could affect residents they serve.

The attorney outlined what he called “my thought process” about his decision to limit the advertising.

Popovich explained that his office became responsible for all departments to submit their requests for public notices and ensure these were properly advertised “in a newspaper of general circulation.”

He added that before accepting that duty, the various departments had been sending notices in without any set policy.

“Based upon clear Board directive to reduce costs where possible, and in analyzing the legal requirements and financial impacts, the County Attorney made the decision to discontinue advertising in The Tidewater News and The Smithfield Times for the following reasons:

“Reduction in overall expenditure of taxpayer dollars, and the increased flexibility afforded the County by advertising in a newspaper that, besides meeting all the legal requirements for public notices, provided a 365 day a year option, rather than just 156 days (The Tidewater News) or 52 days (The Smithfield Times).”

Popovich explained that advertising just in The Daily Press fulfills legal requirements, and that his decision wasn’t based on “some perceived personal vendetta against a particular paper…or traditional favoritism of one or more publications over another.

“The decision was based upon only two factors: 1) how to limit costs and 2) flexibility.”

He concluded by offering alternatives:

• First, to resume advertising public notices but only in The Tidewater News and The Smithfield Times. The advantage would be a cost factor, but the disadvantage would be limited flexibility and readership;

• Second, stay just with advertising in The Daily Press. The plus would be an increased readership and flexibility, but the minus would be the limited reduction in costs.

• Third is the aforementioned “hybrid approach:” Keep using The Daily Press to meet legal requirements while putting FYI (for your information) notices in The Tidewater News and The Smithfield Times. The pro part of that would be an increased readership and flexibility, but the con would again be a limited reduction in costs.

“People look for those legal notices,” Board Chairman Byron “Buzz” Bailey said.

The attorney pointed out there’s no County policy that states in which newspapers public notices must be advertised. The only reference is a board motion in August 1985 that public notices go in The Tidewater News, The Smithfield Times and The Virginian-Pilot.

Rex Alphin of the Carrsville District said he didn’t doubt Popovich’s motives, but added, “We must let the citizenry know about what the County is doing.”

Bailey said that he thinks the hybrid approach is best, which also got vocal support from Delores “Dee Dee” Darden of the Windsor District.

That’s when Popovich offered to draft a policy. Al Casteen of the Smithfield District quickly asked if notices could resume in the newspapers in the meantime. All the board members then agreed on that course of action.

On Friday morning, however, Casteen called The Tidewater News to apologize.

“I made an error in voting. I take full responsibility. I misunderstood,” he said about supporting the hybrid approach. “I was and I am adamant about printing full ads in both papers.”

The supervisor explained that when Darden had suggested that third option, he thought it was understood that his request to resume public notices in The Tidewater News and The Smithfield Times was to be included.

“It’s my opinion that we should just run the ads in both local papers and on the county website. I think that would be the best solution,” he said.

Casteen said just putting only FYI notices in the aforementioned newspaper “ignores the people in Carrsville.

“How do you do an FYI when you don’t give any details. How does that work exactly?”