The Arlington County Board has cleared County Manager W. Vernon Ford of charges that he covered up instances of theft, waste and mismanagement by county employes.
The accusations against Ford were made by E. Richard Bourdon at a County Board meeting last week. Bourdon, 35, of Alexandria, resigned Sept. 15 after four years as a county planner.
At that meeting, Bourdon also accused The Washington Post of "shabby journalism" and of "covering up" the story.
Last month at a candidates' night, Bourdon, a self-described "whistle blower," accused top county officials of waste and mismanagement in the planning division. Last March, Bourdon, who told a reporter that he "started battling with top administrators from the very beginning" over his salary, agreed to resign no later than Sept. 15 in return for a favorable employment recommendation.
When asked why he waited to speak out a month before the County Board race that will determine whether political power remains with a coalition of Democrats and the Arlingtonians for a Better County (ABC) or shifts to the Republicans, Bourdon told a reporter, "This is a good time to do this because the County Board race is crucial and they're (the candidates) looking for an issue."
At a meeting early Tuesday morning, the board received a report from Ford answering Bourdon's charges, among them that:
A county employe, with Ford's knowledge, used a car for personal out-of-state business.
An asphalt contractor double-billed the county.
Persons ineligible for CETA were hired by the county.
Public funds were stolen.
Planning division studies on which Bourdon worked were not released.
In response, Ford told the board:
He has no knowledge of a county employe using a car for personal business.
Arlington was not double-billed by a paving contractor but, in fact, got slightly asphalt it for.
Once during the past year a CETA employe was found to have falsified income data and was removed from the program.
Occassionally, small amounts of petty cash have been stolen from county offices. Those thefts have been reported to police.
One study on which Bourdon worked was not published because it required extensive revisions, and Ford decided those revisions were not worth the time.
At a County Board meeting Saturday, Bourdon, who says he has spent several hundred dollars duplicating leaflets and written material, distributed one leaflet calling Ford "a chicken thief" and accusing the ABC and a Post reporter of "a blatant coverup."
"I don't intend to give any further currency to Mr. Bourdon's slanderous material," said County Board Chairman John W. Purdy after a grim-faced Ford presented his report.
Board member Joseph S. WHoley, who last week directed Ford to respond to the charges in writing, said he favored duplicating 100 copies of Bourdon's material and Ford's responses and distributing them to the press, county libraries and information desks.
"I don't like the fact that the good name of the county and the county manager are being dragged through the mud," Wholey said. "People think anything's fair in a political campaign, but I don't. The fact of the matter is that the county manager is doing a very good job. I want this information to be fully accessible."
Several times during the hour-long discussion, Republican endorsed board members Dorothy T. Grotos and Walter L. Frankland Jr. indicated they favored and "independent investigation" of Bourdon charges.
"For anybody to stand up and do what he's doing takes a lot of nerve," Frankland said. "But I don't question the manager's response.I don't view this as a personal attack on Mr. Ford."
The board then voted unanimously to circulate both Bourdon's charges and Ford's responses. The board rejected a proposal by Grotos to investigate the charges.