I am profoundly disappointed in the actions (or lack thereof) of the majority of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors tonight. Before I get into that, though, I would like to remind the Board members that there is one person they have to blame for the intense scrutiny that they have found themselves under these past few months. It isn’t the blogger only known as the Sheriff of Nottingham of Prince William County. It isn’t even Gainesville Supervisor Pete Candland. It is Brentsville Supervisor Wally Covington who was so brash as to attempt to donate $100K from his office discretionary funds to a charity run by his wife. He brought the light shining upon their actions which in turn has produced additional scrutiny that now threatens to undo the entire old-boy way of doing things and the many perks that they have come to enjoy.
Now, on to the shameful actions exhibited by 7 of the 8 BOCS members. As we’ve previously written, Candland introduced a resolution dealing with how BOCS members should deal with conflicts of interest. The initial resolution sought to bar supervisors from voting on matters where they or immediate family members have an interest in the matter being voted upon, such as serving on the Board of an organization and then voting to appropriate money to said organization. (If not for their ability to deliver gobs of taxpayers’ cash, would they or their spouses even be invited to sit on these boards?) Things like that just don’t pass the smell test for most people, but apparently many of these supervisors have been there so long that they can no longer distinguish such clear conflicts. The county attorney then produces an opinion, one we still do not have an inkling as to who requested it, stating that the Board should not vote for the resolution because they can’t bar members from voting for any reason. That smacked as the biggest political CYA I’ve seen in a long time.
So, what happened tonight? Candland produced a resolution focused on disclosure of conflicts of interest and dropped the provision barring BOCS members from voting that had the county attorney so wound up. That is similar to what we proposed where I suggested replacing the word “barred” with “encouraged to recuse oneself.” Apparently that was even too strong as THE RESOLUTION DIED FOR THE LACK OF A SECOND.
Seriously? That just goes to show you that no other supervisor other than Pete Candland is bothered by the pattern of conflicts of interest that this Board has been engaging in. At the very least someone should have seconded this motion, allowed for discussion on it, and then tried to improve it so as to pass legal muster if they had concerns that it did not. Not one of the other 7 spoke up for us. Not one.
And we were watching. Or at least attempting to watch. So many residents tried to watch the proceedings online that the county’s entire website crashed. However, the meeting broke for a dinner with the county Service Authority and they had yet to get to Candland’s resolution. The dinner was held outside of the Board chambers where the broadcasting equipment is located and it was determined that the rest of the meeting would take place at the secondary location following the conclusion of the dinner. THIS ENABLED THE BOCS TO SHOOT DOWN THE CANDLAND RESOLUTION OUT OF SIGHT OF THE CITIZENRY. No one could see this streamed online. No one could watch this on their local cable access channel.
With light shining upon our BOCS, we can now see it for what it has become — a dysfunctional disgrace more concerned with protecting perks and meting out political payback than with pushing solid policies that would put us on par with Loudoun and Stafford counties in terms of economic development.