Seemingly in response to a public uprising over the unregulated doling out of taxpayer money to select nonprofit groups in Prince William County, the county’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday afternoon to virtually eliminate each supervisor’s “discretionary fund.” But in the process, the board enacted four previously unseen, unstudied and unrelated amendments and approved those in mystifyingly short order, which is what makes local politics so weirdly entertaining. Except to the people who might lose their jobs as a result of the rapidly passed amendments.
The funds came from annual allocations of about $335,000 to each supervisor for office expenses. Money not spent on salaries or staplers could be spent, well, pretty much wherever a supervisor wanted. And whatever wasn’t spent was rolled over into the next year and beyond. The details of all this are in the blog post below.
New Supervisor Peter Candland (R-Gainesville) introduced a resolution that said such funds could not be paid to any entity already receiving funds from the county and that the office funds could not be used to sponsor events, advertise in event publications or buy more than one ticket to such events. The resolution also said unspent office money will no longer be rolled over, except for 10 percent for unforeseen staff costs, and will be transferred back to specific county funds.
Then Supervisor John Jenkins (D-Neabsco) announced he had four amendments to make and that Candland “hasn’t talked to me one time about his basic resolution.” Jenkins then handed out a single sheet of paper to the other supervisors, all of whom appeared to be seeing it for the first time.
The first amendment called for banning overtime or comp time for the supervisors’ employees. Candland wondered what this had to do with the discretionary funds issue and asked for some time to review it, as well as hear from the public. But Chairman Corey Stewart allowed a vote, and everyone but Candland voted yes.
Next, two amendments blocked supervisors from employing anyone who works on their political campaign. This could apply to a man on Candland’s staff, Reece Collins, who worked on Candland’s campaign. It might also apply to other staff members of other supervisors; no one was really sure. Again, little discussion, two more 7-1 votes.
Finally, an amendment prohibiting the hiring of family members, which again might apply to someone on Candland’s staff. Seven yes, Candland no. Jenkins also withdrew his attempt to donate $500 to a local theater company, which would have been the final use of the funds.
Then the actual resolution amending the use of “office operating funds” came up and passed with no further discussion, 8-0. [Here is the original resolution. The final, amended resolution hasn’t been published yet, but it did not change the wording on the use of the discretionary funds.]
Candland said afterward he was “extremely excited this was addressed. It was a long time coming. We came together to do the right thing.” But he said he didn’t know where Jenkins’s amendments came from, or what impact they would have. He said he first saw them when Jenkins handed them out. The rest of the board continued with their meeting, and our Prince William correspondent Jeremy Borden will have a full report in Wednesday’s paper. But the upshot is that discretionary funds in Prince William are over, with some tangential weirdness still to be figured out.