A Board of Supervisors meeting in Loudoun County, Virginia, was upended Tuesday after several residents from the area showed up to voice their concerns about their taxpayer dollars being used by local leaders to fund a lavish trip to Ghana.
The uproar came after Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall, Vice Chair Koran Saines, and Supervisor Sylvia Glass used more than $60,000 in funds in June to fly to Ghana and sign a sister city agreement with the mayor of Tema, according to Fox 5.
The taxpayer dollars, according to the outlet, were used for “first-class flights, five-star hotel, and nice meals, among other luxurious expenses.”
Additionally, some of the same board members, along with Supervisor Juli Briskman, “spent more than 33,000 tax dollars on a lavish trip to Uruguay,” according to ABC 7.
Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall (center), Vice Chair Koran Saines (left) and Supervisor Sylvia Glass used more than $60,000 in funds in June to fly to Ghana and sign a sister city agreement. (Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, Getty Images)
“That extravagance is so incredibly a slap in the face and just completely tone-deaf when there are so many people struggling to pay their bills right here in Loudoun County,” one resident said during the public comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting, Fox 5 noted.
“To the six of you who didn’t take these trips, every single one of you should have a pit in your stomach because you failed your constituents,” another resident said. “You failed to check and balance those who take advantage of their position.”
The outrage from residents in the area prompted Saines to propose a travel policy intended to be followed by those who serve on the board.
In a vote of 8 to 1, the proposal passed, allowing county staff to study travel policies from neighboring jurisdictions in an effort to establish reasonable spending protocols for board members to follow in the future. The study will reportedly evaluate how much the neighboring jurisdictions spend on meals and lodging, as well as air and ground transportation both domestically and internationally.
Supervisor Kristen Umstattd was the only ‘no’ vote as she intends to bring forth a proposal of strict rules for the board to follow later this month.
“I think it looks bad from the public’s viewpoint,” Umstattd, a fellow Democrat on the board, told ABC 7.
Supervisor Kristen Umstattd was the only ‘no’ vote on the proposal as she intends to bring forth a proposal of strict rules for the board to follow later this month. (Loudoun County Board of Supervisors)
“The intent behind the item is to address the feedback that we received, to update our travel policies, but to do so in a way that is reflective of our governing structure and the way that we operate,” said Saines, who insisted the outrage over the trip taken by the supervisors and their staff to Ghana was due to “misleading coverage.”
Saines also compared the expenses of the trip to those taken in recent history by Virginia GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin.
“If you’re not happy with us traveling, then hopefully you have the same feelings regarding the governor, which traveled to South Korea, Taiwan, and, while we were in Ghana, went to the Paris Air Show,” Saines said, according to Loudoun Now. “So if our travel was a boondoggle, I’m hoping you would say the same thing about that travel.”
In a statement to Fox 5, Randall denied using taxpayer dollars to fund the trips.
“I don’t travel on county taxpayer revenue and never have,” she said, according to the outlet. “It’s a policy I put in place when I came to office in 2016.”
The funds, the outlet reported, did not come out of Randall’s own pocket, however. They came from the economic development authority transient occupancy tax that is usually paid for by visitors of Loudoun County — not residents.
Chair of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors in Northern Virginia Phyllis Randall speaks during an event to break ground on the Dulles Solar and Storage project at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia, on Aug. 22, 2023. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
“There are people who are rebelling in their ignorance while ignoring the truth because they don’t want the answer, they want the issue,” Randall said during Tuesday’s meeting.
Fox News Digital did not receive an immediate response from the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors about the situation.