Supervisor Voted on Issue in Which Friend Had Interest

By David S. Fallis and Michael Laris
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, January 21, 2007

County Supervisor Bruce E. Tulloch and Leesburg lawyer Douglas L. Fleming Jr. are close friends.

"I love the guy like a brother," Tulloch (R-Potomac) said, adding that Fleming had encouraged him to run for office in 2003. When Tulloch won, he asked Fleming, a substitute judge in Loudoun's General District Court, to swear him in.

Since 2003, they have co-owned a rental house in Surfside Beach, S.C., that earns tens of thousands of dollars in annual income, records show.

And on several occasions, Tulloch's public role has overlapped with Fleming's professional world.

Tulloch cast votes four times in favor of Loudoun Hospital Center, which had hired Fleming for legal advice. Tulloch voted twice for its expansion and twice to block a planned competitor.

Health-care giant HCA Inc. had proposed building a hospital five miles southwest of the long-established Loudoun Hospital, now called Inova Loudoun. State officials had determined that a second hospital was needed, but Inova Loudoun and its advocates, including Fleming, sought to thwart the competition. Some said that it might jeopardize the existing hospital.

Fleming, 49, was one of several attorneys the hospital has retained for legal advice, a hospital spokesman said. Fleming's two-member firm worked on land-use and policy matters, according to court documents filed in a related lawsuit in 2005. He was also hired to represent residents opposed to the new hospital, records show.

"This is an ill-conceived, half-baked application, and it should be denied," Fleming argued on behalf of the residents at a 2004 Planning Commission meeting.

In an interview, Tulloch said he did not know Fleming had done legal work for the hospital. "We don't talk about his clients," Tulloch said. "We don't talk about my voting. . . . It's not that type of relationship."

Had he known, Tulloch said, he would have disclosed it, but still voted.

"We've never discussed Loudoun Hospital," he said, adding that Fleming had not appeared before him on the board.

Tulloch's appointment schedule, obtained through a public records request, notes a meeting with Fleming and two senior hospital officials on Feb. 23, 2005, two weeks before Tulloch voted for a health plan that helped sink the proposal for a competing hospital. The appointment notation refers to "LHC," or Loudoun Hospital Center.

Tulloch did not respond to questions last week about the meeting.

Fleming also represented the Islamic Saudi Academy Inc. in a zoning matter in 2003 before county officials, records show. The Saudi Academy benefited when the county purchased 101 acres of its land at Tulloch's behest in 2004. Tulloch said he had no idea that Fleming had done legal work for the company.

Tulloch said he sees no conflicts between his relationship with Fleming and his public decisions. Fleming declined to answer written questions about his relationship with Tulloch.

Tulloch, 46, has said he needs to supplement his salary as a food service manager with Sodexho and the $22,400 he earns as a part-time county official, so he has explored business opportunities in the county. He said he considered opening an ice cream shop and a pizza franchise but decided against it. He is still looking into opening a Harley-Davidson dealership, he said.

"I will also look at other ventures if they present themselves where I can make money," Tulloch said. "My strength is getting things done. . . . People recognize that, they see value in that and they invest in that. That's the best way to put it. I mean, there's nothing insidious here. . . . You know, there's no linkage," he said.

"I'm the cleanest form of government you're ever going to find."

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