Supervisors set policy on public notices

Published 11:22 am Saturday, December 20, 2014

The county’s government will return to publishing public notices — also known as legal notices — in The Tidewater News and The Smithfield Times, though at the exclusion of a third newspaper. The 4-1 decision was made during the supervisors’ meeting on Thursday.

In November, the board asked County Attorney Mark Popovich to draft an official policy on publishing such announcements. This request followed his presentation regarding some supervisors’ questions about his decision on July 1 to eliminate the aforementioned newspapers from the list of media for that purpose. Before then, such notices regularly appeared in the two newspapers plus The Daily Press, which is based in Newport News.

As reported before, Popovich explained that his office was made responsible for all county 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. Directed by the Board to reduce costs where possible, and in consideration of legal requirements and financial effects, Popovich made his decision based on limiting costs and flexibility. As an example of the latter reason, he noted that the Peninsula paper comes out 365 days a year, versus 156 days for The Tidewater News or 52 days for The Smithfield Times.

As an alternative to his decision, Popovich suggested what he called a “hybrid approach,” which would be to continue running legal notices in The Daily Press and just publish FYI (for your information) notices in the other two newspapers. The advantage would be greater readership and flexibility, but the disadvantage would be a limited reduction in expense.

At that meeting, the majority of the supervisors voted for the attorney to draft a proposal. Although the next day, Al Casteen of the Smithfield district made an apology, stating he made a mistake.

“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 Delores 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.

Following discussion the other evening, the board majority ultimately rejected the proposal and decided to return to The Tidewater News and The Smithfield Times, but eliminated The Daily Press. Rudolph Jefferson of the Hardy district was the single ‘no’ vote.

Darden said afterward that she didn’t question Popovich’s motive. Reportedly, there had been talk that the attorney had some vendetta against the Smithfield paper. She thanked him for his work on the matter.