UPDATED, 5 p.m., with comments added from Corey Stewart and Peter Candland.
The move by the newest Prince William County Supervisor, Peter Candland (R-Gainesville), to end the use of “discretionary funds” by supervisors was unanimously approved Tuesday, but not before some seemingly unrelated amendments were tacked on and passed in almost the blink of an eye.
Now, in a blistering 13-page letter that Candland sent to the county attorney and his fellow supervisors Thursday, Candland says the amendments were “vindictive and transparent retaliation” by Supervisor John Jenkins (D-Neabsco), and will force Jenkins to fire his own wife and other supervisors to fire many of their own staff members. Candland said Friday he had terminated a part-time employee whom he felt an amendment was aimed at, in order to abide by the new rule.
Jenkins, who has been on the board for 30 years, said Friday that Candland’s accusation was “certainly not true,” and that “all we were trying to do was to tighten up the practices so all these things would be transparent.” Jenkins’s amendments banned nepotism and the use of county funds to pay employees who work on the supervisors’ political campaigns. Candland says the amendments were targeted at his own employees, but actually would apply to many others. Here is his full letter:
Candland’s letter was supplied to me Friday morning. I spoke to him and Board Chairman Corey Stewart Friday afternoon.
Jenkins had spoken publicly about the positive benefits of using leftover money from the annual office operating expenses (about $335,000 per supervisor) to fix streetlights or provide money to local schools and libraries. Candland and many others saw the money as an unregulated way to dole out money and accrue political support, buying ads in local programs or seats at local dinners.
Candland’s resolution, introduced last month and placed on the Tuesday agenda, would put an end to all that. The resolution, prior to amendment, is here. But when it came up Tuesday, Jenkins proposed four new amendments. He said Friday he had discussed them with some other board members, but not with Candland. He said Candland had never come to him to talk about the discretionary funds resolution.
The most critical of Jenkins’s amendments, which are not yet online, stated that “no Board member will employ or retain any full-time or part-time employee on the County payroll who owns, is employed by, or is a contractor to any company which offers services for hire to any political campaign of that Board member.”
Candland’s letter said this was “The Collins Amendment,” aimed specifically at his part-time employee and political consultant, Reece Collins. Later Tuesday night, when fewer people (and reporters) were in attendance, the amendment was further changed to make it any person who “has provided or provides services,” Candland’s letter states.
Under that language, Candland wrote, “Mr. Jenkins would have to terminate his own wife, Ernestine, who is listed on his official website as the Volunteer Coordinator for his official office.” He said Supervisors May, Covington and Caddigan also have former campaign workers on staff, as does Chairman Stewart.
On Friday afternoon, Candland said he had terminated Collins. “If I’m going to try to rework the way we do business,” he said, “I need to make sure I’m doing things properly,” even with rules he doesn’t like.
Collins declined to comment.
Jenkins said Friday his wife was an unpaid volunteer, but Candland’s letter cites federal employment law to the effect that volunteers can be considered employees. Caddigan’s husband also volunteers for her.
Another Jenkins amendment — all four of which passed 7-1, with only Candland opposing — prohibited supervisors from hiring any vendor with county funds “where the vendor has been or is retained by the political campaign of that Board member.” Candland said this would seem to prohibit a supervisor from using FedEx or the Postal Service if their campaign had done so.
“In the haste to single out Mr. Collins as a part-time employee in my office,” Candland wrote, “this language has put a literal economic tourniquet on the ability of a Supervisor’s office to conduct daily business.”
Jenkins said his amendments were perfectly within Robert’s Rules of Order and that “I don’t believe Mr. Candland has the experience in handling these procedures.” He said there was plenty of time to review and digest them, though Candland had never seen them. “It was a public forum,” Jenkins said, “there were open discussions, people were given the opportunity to speak on this at ‘Citizens Time.’ I don’t know what more we can do.”
Asked if the amendments raised separate issues fromCandland’s resolution on discretionary funds, Jenkins said, “It’s not a separate issue. We were amending the rules of procedure. Many of the supervisors’ offices were exempt from the policies of the other departments in the county. We were trying to align all of these...All we’re trying to do as a board is clean up our own act.”
Candland said Friday that “this was the first time I’ve ever heard Supervisor Jenkins raise any of these concerns. Any time over the last 30 years he could have proposed this.” Candland also said he twice sent versions of his resolution on discretionary funds, seeking comments or concerns, but got no response. “I guess he’s upset I didn’t give him a call,” Candland said. “Maybe I should have.”
Stewart said the board can revise the new rules if they prove problematic. But he said he agreed with Jenkins’ rule prohibiting payments to political consultants, and that “there’s a big difference between somebody who volunteers on your campaign and a consultant you hire on to county staff.”
Stewart said he agreed with Candland’s resolution to eliminate the discretionary funds, and he said as much to me last December. But he said the discussion of that “opened up a broader discussion” about payment of political consultants and nepotism, leading to Jenkins’s amendments.
I asked why the amendments needed to be considered on the same day they were proposed, and when at least one supervisor, Candland, hadn’t seen them. “One thing I’m known for is a sort of rocket docket,” Stewart said. “I don’t like stuff to go on and on and on. I saw real potential for the board to chew on this for weeks and weeks and weeks. The amendments are very simple. I felt the implementation of it was pretty simple.”
Stewart added, “Peter is a newcomer to the board. He’s very successful in his business, but he’s a political newcomer, and like every other member of the board he goes through the learning process. I went through it, we’ve all gone through it.”
County Attorney Angela Lemmon Horan received the letter, but Stewart said she is not bound to act on it, since she does not answer to individual board members. Candland said the haste with which the board considered and adopted significant new policies — total time about 15 minutes from introduction to vote — could result in much more complicated legal wrangling down the line.