Prince William County supervisors who are on the board of a prominent local children’s charity are dipping into their district’s so-called “discretionary” funds to help pay for an upcoming steak dinner fundraiser.
Supervisors on the board of the Prince William Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington received approval last week to use $3,000 toward the organization’s “steak-n-steak” dinner.
Supervisors John D. Jenkins (D-Neabsco), Maureen Caddigan (R-Dumfries) and Martin E. “Marty” Nohe (R-Coles) are on the board of the organization, according to its Web site, and obtained $1,000 from each of their magisterial district’s discretionary funds to support the dinner.
Caddigan said she expects other supervisors to also spend the $1,000, which buys a table at the fundraiser. Children and parents who benefit from the club sit with officials from around the community, she said.
“It’s a positive thing; we have been doing this for years,” Caddigan said. “I’m a fighter for kids. We have kids that are latchkey kids. . . . [Boys and Girls Club programs] keep them out of trouble.”
The dinner raises about $55,000 annually for the club, about 5 percent of the nonprofit group’s annual operating budget, said Glenn Vickers, a regional director for the club’s three Prince William sites, in Dale City, Dumfries and Manassas.
The Board of County Supervisors does not have a specific conflict-of-interest policy regarding use of magisterial district funds, but supervisors are bound by state law not to vote on issues in which they have a financial interest, county spokesman Jason Grant said.
In fact, Virginia law specifically allows for local elected officials to serve on the boards of nonprofit groups and steer money toward those organizations, as long as the officials or family members aren’t receiving financial benefit, according to a Virginia code section provided by Grant.
Supervisor Michael C. May (R-Occoquan), among other county and Manassas officials, is also on the group’s board.
Although such donations are legal and commonplace, the Boys and Girls Club contribution represents the potential for the sort of conflicts of interest that were questioned at a recent Prince William Committee of 100 panel discussion. During that discussion, members of the committee didn’t doubt the good work done by community charities but questioned the process by which supervisors can dip into taxpayer funds to allocate money to favored causes, rather than having those causes vetted through a full budget process.
Caddigan said she is frequently approached by area nonprofit groups in need, such as the American Red Cross, and has used funds to buy books for schools in her district, she said. “It is expected of us, and we’ve done it for years,” Caddigan said. “It’s just in recent months it’s been questioned.”
Jenkins said that sitting on the board of the charity and donating county funds he has discretion over is not a conflict, given the good the Boys and Girls Club does for the community.
“This is a small token of support for an organization that is dedicated to providing services for the kids,” Jenkins said. “I see no conflict there at all. If we had to try and pay for the programs . . . it would be millions of dollars” for the county.
Vickers said the club provides memberships at a fraction of what it costs to provide services to area children. “Everybody’s help has been much appreciated, and that’s board of supervisors . . . to mom-and-pop store.”
This post has been updated since it was first published.