The Loudoun Network : A Dealmaker Votes

Official Backed Plans Of Business Connections

By David S. Fallis and Michael Laris
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, January 22, 2007

In 2004, Peter J. Knop, a wealthy Loudoun landowner, asked the county to allow his family company to build a vast entertainment complex with a theater and studios on his 1,000-acre property near Dulles Airport.

Lawrence S. Beerman II, then chairman of Loudoun's Planning Commission and a venture capitalist, had business plans of his own. He was raising money for the purchase of an Alabama-based trucking fleet known as Evergreen Transportation Inc., according to records and interviews. He brought that deal to the Knops, and they invested, Knop said.

Two weeks after the sale was completed, Beerman voted favorably on the Knops' entertainment center, helping it clear its first regulatory hurdle.

Beerman, who held sway over land decisions in Loudoun for nearly a decade, voted multiple times in favor of companies with which he had business ties, according to records and interviews.

His actions took place in a county where major land-use decisions have been dominated by a small group of public officials and their close allies in the development industry, The Washington Post found in a year-long investigation.

Beerman resigned abruptly from the Planning Commission in July after reporters conducted interviews about his ties to Knop and others doing business in Loudoun.

Beerman was part of a small group of public officials who assumed power in Loudoun in 2004 with the backing of a well-funded network of developers, a building industry group and others in the real estate industry. In the years since, some of those officials have worked closely with their backers, coordinating privately to ensure votes favorable to major projects, according to thousands of e-mails and other documents obtained under public records laws.

Beerman's relationships have drawn the interest of the FBI, according to two individuals who said they have been interviewed in recent months and asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the inquiry. An agent asked questions about Beerman's business activities and his actions on the Planning Commission, said one of those interviewed.

Debbie Weierman, spokeswoman for the FBI's Washington Field Office, would not say whether agents are conducting an investigation in Loudoun but said her office "is looking into reports of possible public corruption, unfair business practices and the like . . . in the Washington metropolitan area."

Beerman did not respond to written questions about his relationship with Knop.

Knop viewed Beerman as crucial to the family's development plans, according to e-mails.

In preparation for a meeting with Beerman to discuss possible Planning Commission concerns over the terms of the proposed entertainment complex, Knop wrote, "we need a script DETAILED as to EXACTLY what we want to say, give and get, and BEFOREHAND, reseaerch what he wants, so we have something to offer him." The 2004 e-mail was written to Kristen Kalina, a lobbyist Knop had hired to help promote his projects.

CONTINUED     1                 >

© 2007 The Washington Post Company