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The Top 10 Stories in Fairfax County

Compiled by Eric Lipton and Tod Robberson
Wednesday, December 25, 1996; Page V01

1. COUNTY EXECUTIVE William J. Leidinger, 56, lost his job in October, after a year of increasing tension with the Board of Supervisors. Chairman Katherine K. Hanley (D) and other board members began to lose confidence in Leidinger early in the year when he proposed a budget that reduced services for the poor more than funding for the bureaucracy. The board grew more concerned when it learned about a computer contract that had cost Fairfax about $450,000 more than it needed to because the county hired high-priced consultants to fill vacant county jobs.

2. TWO MOTORISTS WERE engaged in a high-speed duel April 17 on the George Washington Memorial Parkway when their cars swerved into oncoming traffic. The crash killed three people, including one of the racing motorists, Billy M. Canipe Jr., 26, of Sterling. The second, Narkey M. Terry, 26, of Fairfax County, was sentenced by a federal judge to 10 years in prison on two counts of involuntary manslaughter. The unusually stiff sentence was hailed by traffic-safety advocates, who called aggressive driving a growing threat.

3. FAIRFAX WENT THROUGH one of the toughest budget battles in its history this year, as the supervisors struggled to close a gap of about $150 million. Ultimately, the supervisors increased the real estate tax rate by 7 cents and cut about 340 county jobs, most of them vacancies.

4. AN EFFORT BY AN Alexandria-based investor group to buy the Houston Astros and move the team to Northern Virginia was unsuccessful. Now, baseball may not arrive in the Washington area until at least 2002, when the owners plan to add new teams.

5. FAIRFAX EMPLOYEES inspired an unusually large number of criminal investigations this year, including an allegation of bid-rigging in the print shop and an alleged scheme by two public utility inspectors to solicit loans from contractors. In addition, accountant Hernan G. Welch resigned his appointment as an internal auditor -- before he even reported to work -- after he was charged with slashing the tires of a high school girl's car.

6. AFTER RENEWING THE $147,000-a-year contract of School Superintendent Robert R. Spillane for another year, the School Board said in July that it would no longer require his services beyond mid-1998. Spillane, 61, is credited with making Fairfax's education system famous for academic excellence and innovation, but he has been criticized for repeatedly seeking annual budget increases of 15 percent or more.

7. IN ITS FIRST YEAR AS AN elected body, the 12-member School Board split sharply along party lines on several key votes and found itself embroiled in controversy over its handling of sensitive topics such as racism and sex education. The board's four Republicans voted as a bloc 80 percent of the time.

8. SEVERAL LARGE sections of the Fairfax County Parkway were completed in the central part of the county, making it much easier to travel between places such as Burke and Chantilly.

9. QUESTIONS AROSE concerning student disciplinary procedures. At Oakton High School, a teacher demanded a tightening of disciplinary rules because a student who allegedly had made a death threat against him was allowed to return to school after a short suspension. At Mount Vernon High School, gang fights and threats forced the cancellation of a spring fair. At Herndon High School, six cheerleaders were disciplined for participating in a shoplifting ring. In the Oakton case, Spillane agreed to tighten certain disciplinary procedures to make it harder for students who threaten teachers to be readmitted to school.

10. THE FAIRFAX government canceled $580,000 in human services contracts with the county's largest minority-run nonprofit organization, Gum Springs Community Development Corp., after county auditors alleged that the corporation had mismanaged funds.

© Copyright 1996 The Washington Post Company

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