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The State of NoVa
Posted at 06:49 PM ET, 06/12/2012

Peter Candland rehires the employee he fired as Prince William reworks supervisors’ staff rules

The weirdness rolls on in Prince William County.

Last week, Supervisor Peter K. Candland (R-Gainesville) fired one of his employees after new rules banning county funds for political consultants were added to a resolution he’d written on the use of “discretionary funds” by Prince William supervisors. He said he wanted to ensure that he was abiding by the new rules, even though he disagreed with them.

But Candland then followed that with a letter to the county attorney [below] asking her to review the policy. And on Tuesday, he reinstated his fired employee, Reece Collins, and said he would fight the new policy, even though he ultimately voted for it after it was tacked onto his resolution.

Candland’s original resolution focused on the supervisors’ use of “discretionary funds,” or the ability to donate their extra office expense funds to area nonprofits and charities — a practice critics say has led to charitable donations being used for political purposes. Last month, Candland proposed eliminating such spending. But during last week’s meeting, Supervisor John Jenkins (D-Neabsco) proposed even more adjustments to the way the Prince William board does business.

Here is Candland’s latest letter, first reported on the Sheriff of Nottingham in Prince William blog, and after the jump are the latest developments:

Jenkins’s amendments restricted overtime by supervisors’ staff and the hiring of those who work on political campaigns. Reece Collins is Candland’s part-time communications director, and he is a political consultant for others.

Candland said that Collins was targeted with the proposal. Jenkins denied it. The four amendments each passed 7 to 1, with only Candland voting no. Then the amended resolution passed unanimously.

In the letter Friday to county attorney Angela Lemmon Horan, Candland called the amendments “political retribution.” He also said they were “more about settling political scores than good public policy.”

He asked Horan for a new opinion regarding Collins.

Candland said in an interview that he changed his mind about firing Collins given a situation in Alexandria that he said should apply to Prince William. The Virginia code section states that “no locality shall prohibit an employee of the locality … from participating in political activities while these employees are off duty, out of uniform and not on the premises of their employment with the locality,” according to Candland’s letter.

Candland cited a January 2011 meeting in Alexandria where a City Council member asked the city attorney whether a staff member could assist in a campaign. The attorney replied, according to the letter, that they could as long as they were off duty.

“I thought the county would be opening themselves to possible litigation and a wrongful termination suit if we did go ahead and fire Mr. Collins,” Candland said of changing his mind to fire him. Collins does political consulting for others as an independent contractor, and Jenkins’s amendment would appear to bar him from working for Candland.

“I’m not about the old guard that we have here that seems to be bent on political retribution,” Candland said.

Jenkins has said those allegations are “certainly not true” and that “all we were trying to do was to tighten up the practices so all these things would be transparent.” Others in the county noted that Jenkins’s amendments dealt with how supervisors spent county funds, and so were logically related to Candland’s resolution on discretionary funds. Jenkins’s amendments also didn’t prohibit volunteering for either a campaign or an office job, so that may differentiate it from the Alexandria situation.

Candland said that he is waiting for a formal response from Horan, who could not be reached Tuesday. Candland said he’s not sure what the next step would be in regards to Collins if Horan ratifies the board decision.

“We’ll have to look at the situation as it comes,” he said.

By and  |  06:49 PM ET, 06/12/2012

Categories:  Prince William County | Tags:  Peter Candland, Prince William County, discretionary funds

 
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