John P. Shacochis was criticized yesterday for violating the spirit of conflict-of-interest standards by pushing a controversial rezoning as a Fairfax County supervisor and later as a paid, private consultant.
While in office, Shacochis was instrumental last August in winning tentative approval from the county's Board of Supervisors for the rezoning, which would permit commercial development on land now zoned for houses.
Since leaving office in January, he has acted as a consultant for Fairfax Medical Associates, which seeks to build medical offices on the same property near Fairfax Hospital and still needs the board's final approval for the project.
His role, which he performed for an undisclosed fee, included contracting a majority of the supervisors to talk about the merits of the case and helping to mollify neighbors opposed to the commerical development, Shacochis said yesterday.
Schacochis yesterday denied any impropriety in the rezoning, which involves 9.4 acres in a residential zone at Woodburn and Gallows roads.
"I was asked by Dr. (M. Mendel) Bocknek (a partner in Fairfax Medical Associates), a friend for 20 years, if I would act as a consultant," Shacochis said he proposed the rezoning last summer after it had been submitted by the firm. "I proposed it because I believed in it. If I didn't believe in it, I wouldn't have supported it," he said.
Two supervisors who opposed last August's proposed change, however, disagreed with Shacochis' view.
"He shouldn't have done it (served as consultant)," said Supervisor James M. Scott (D-Providence), who last August led efforts to keep the property a residential zone. "It was not a conflict according to the letter, but it was a conflict in spirit," he said.
"It's not a conflict of interest," said Supervisor Audrey Moore (D-Annandale), "but it's awful. I don't think you should use your influence this way after you leave the county."
Board Vice Chairman Martha V. Pennino (D-Centreville) who voted with Shacochis last August, also said she felt Shacochis violated the spirit of conflict-of-interest legislation by taking on the consultant job.
The Shacochis connection came to light Monday night shortly after the board tentatively supported a new ethics policy that would prohibit such arrangements for a year after an employe or officer left the county government. a
Shacochis said if such a policy were in effect when he was asked to be consultant to Fairfax Medical Associates, "I wouldn't have done it." The proposed policy must be discussed at a public hearing before it can be adopted. p
The proposed policy represents a watering down of the restriction to be law -- not just policy -- and to be in effect for two years, not one.
"What Shacochis did argues the need for such an ordinance," said committee chairman Michael J. Hershman.
Violations of county policies do not carry penalties, as do violations of ordinances or other laws.
Hershman's committee also wanted the supervisors to adopt a more detailed financial disclosure statement, but they rejected that proposal.
Shacochis said his payment as consultant "isn't even worth mentioning -- it just barely covered expenses."
The former supervisor also said he favored a commerical designation for the property long before his friend Bocknek became involved in the rezoning. "I supported it back in 1974 when I worked for the county as a planner."
The board has deferred on the rezoning for a month.