An effort by the McLean Community Center’s Governing Board to revisit its memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is drawing flak from the McLean Citizens Association, the center’s principal founding benefactor.
In a March 23 letter to the Governing Board, MCA president Scott Spitzer said the board is well-served by its current agreement, a 1984 revision of the original 1971 MOU that was hammered out after the Board of Supervisors tried to seize operational control of the community center.
The current agreement “enshrines the principle of pairing taxation with public accountability, through an elected Governing Board and strong protections for each resident’s right both to vote and to comment on the MCC’s policies and operations,” Spitzer’s letter read.
No Governing Board since then has considering comprehensively reopening that agreement because it is clear and not unduly restrictive, Spitzer wrote.
Speaking at MCA’s April 6 board meeting, Spitzer said MCA’s Executive Committee approved the letter after the Governing Board recently asked two of its members to begin reviewing the MOU and determine whether any updates needed to be made.
Governing Board members marked up a copy of the agreement with comments, some of which alarmed the MCA.
One of the suggestions would reduce the voting rights of McLean residents by in effect having a “preference poll” rather than an election of Governing Board members, Spitzer said. This is akin to the Reston Community Center’s procedure.
MCA also opposed the possibility of allowing local residents to speak no more than once every six months during public-comment periods at the Governing Board’s meetings, instead of at every meeting, which is the long-standing practice, Spitzer said.
The Governing Board on March 23 appointed a subcommittee to look further into the proposals, said Spitzer, who estimated it likely would be several months before the Governing Board decided how it wished to proceed.
MCA sent the letter in anticipation that the Governing Board might approve changes at its most recent meeting. The MOU “is a tangible expression and fundamental protection of the MCC’s Governing Board rights and authority,” Spitzer said.
If the Governing Board had to renegotiate with the Board of Supervisors, the former would be “dramatically overmatched” by the latter’s authority, his letter read.
“The Board of Supervisors would not be required to restrict its revisions to those discrete items suggested by the Governing Board,” Spitzer wrote.
“Instead, in reopening the MOU, the Governing Board could see its prerogatives reduced, or, worse, the entire governance of the Center could be irreparably transferred from McLean to Fairfax.”
Spitzer added, “Is the Governing Board willing to risk the potential of its own demise or the radical reduction of its responsibilities and authority simply because the MOU is ‘old’ and there are some ‘nice to have’ changes? We don’t believe that it is prudent for the Governing Board to take that risk.”
The Sun Gazette could not reach Governing Board chairman Barbara Zamora-Appel for comment about the potential changes to the board’s MOU, but officials at the community center passed along a statement she delivered at the body’s March 23 meeting.
The Governing Board as a whole has not proposed any changes to the MOU or begun deliberations about them, she said.
“We are very early in any discussion of potential changes, and we will not move forward any proposed changes unless and until we have had sufficient input, discussion, Board decisions, pros and cons, and discussions with Fairfax County officials,” Zamora-Appel said.
The Governing Board chairman said she appreciated the interest that community members had shown regarding the process.
“It underscores how important MCC is to the members of our community, and the importance of our work to diligently research and review any steps we may or may not propose,” she said.