An April 18 Metro article may have implied that Haymarket mayoral candidate Timothy Benjamin was directly involved in a police department shake-up. He lost his volunteer job as an auxiliary police officer but was not directly involved in the actions that led to the suspension of the auxiliary police program.
Married Pairs Not Exactly Running Mates
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
In this year's election in Haymarket, some candidates know each other pretty well. Too well, some think.
But Haymarket's pair of husband-and-wife candidates -- Timothy and Vicki Benjamin and Susan Shuryn and Ozzie Vazquez -- in the nonpartisan May 2 race say that if elected, they know each other well enough to disagree on how to best run the Prince William County town where the speed limit is 25 mph, the annual budget is $1.5 million and the population is about 1,000.
Timothy Benjamin, who recently lost his volunteer job when the town suspended its auxiliary police officer program, is challenging Mayor Pam E. Stutz. Vicki Benjamin, Shuryn and Vazquez are vying for spots on Haymarket's six-member council. There are five council incumbents -- Robert Weir, Natasha Sikorsky, Sheila Jarboe, James Tobias and John Cole -- running for reelection along with two other newcomers, Robert A. Hoffman Jr. and Nicole M. Tessitore.
Stutz, 63, who was appointed mayor last year after the incumbent moved, said she could not believe that two married couples were running. Voters should question their objectivity, she said. "I'm not married, but if I disagreed with my husband, I don't know if I would want to do that in public."
She added, "I probably would vote for one or the other, but not both."
Weir, 43, said he does not think that having couples on the council is a good idea: "Putting my wife and I on the board? Oh, man, you want to see fireworks?"
Shuryn, 53, and Vazquez, 44, work as technology managers for different firms but occasionally are involved in the same projects. "We sometimes work together," Vazquez said. "We've also worked across the table from each other."
The couple said they are interested in helping Haymarket maintain its small-town flavor and controlling growth and traffic but that they are also trying to cast themselves as independent of each other.
Although Vicki Benjamin, 35, is campaigning for her husband as much as for herself, she said they do not see eye to eye on every issue. "He is for lowering taxes and I'm, like, no, I'm not for that," said Benjamin, a stay-at-home mother of four. She said she believes that the current tax rate is fair, while her husband wants to give property owners more relief.
Benjamin said she is surprised there are not more married couples running because of the pressing issues facing the town.
Both Timothy Benjamin, 35, and Hoffman were involved in one of the biggest shake-ups in the town's history.
Hoffman, 40, was fired as a town police officer after he was charged in December with standing guard at an illegal poker game in Fairfax County. He also initiated an investigation last year into accusations of sexual harassment by Chief James E. Roop and Sgt. Gregory Breeden. The Town Council suspended the chief and sergeant for 15 days without pay despite a recommendation of termination by a lawyer the council hired for $7,728 to investigate. The lawyer found that the men created a "hostile work environment" through sexually offensive comments.
In March, Roop, who is seeking payment for his 15-day suspension and his attorney's fees, went door-to-door in the town, passing out letters saying that his name had been tarnished.
Roop, Breeden and another police officer have been Haymarket's only law enforcement since the council voted this year to suspend the auxiliary police program. The auxiliary officers' shifts were found to overlap those of full-time officers.
"The auxiliary officers stated when they would work," Stutz said. "All of a sudden, I could have no police officers on, and then all of a sudden you would see three."
Timothy Benjamin, who owns a security company, said he had already decided to run for mayor before the suspension of the auxiliary police.
But Stutz said the problems with the police department and the rumors surrounding it have helped fuel interest in an election that has former police officers and two married couples.
"Unfortunately, that is part of a small town," she said.