Gov. John N. Dalton's press secretary, denouncing press coverage of his boss as "filled with error," said today he is quitting to take a higher-paying job with Virginia Electric and Power Co.
Paul G. Edwards, who faced a series of public relations headaches during his 16 months as Dalton's chief media man, is leaving to become Vepco's manager of Communications, a part of the utility's drive to boost its own sagging image.
To replace Edwards, who is leaving Aug. 30, Dalton announced the appointment of Charles J. Davis, a former Richmond radio news reporter who worked for Dalton's gubernatorial campaign in 1977 and has been communications director for the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission since Dalton's inauguration.
Edwards said the timing of his resignation from the 37,250-a-year post had nothing to do with recent flaps between Dalton and the press. He said his new job -- the second major post Vepco has filled this year with someone from outside the company -- will pay a higher salary, although he would not reveal the figure.
But Edwards added that "In this job, I've been more acutely aware of the infinite range of competence and ethics among members of the press . . . I have found more bad motives and improper exercise of bias than I had expected."
Dalton's relations with the press have been chilly almost since the start of his term in 1978, when articles critical of his use of a state airplane and limosine first appeared. Those accounts angered the Republican governor, as did recent stories on his plans to spend $2,500 in state funds for a large tent used at a wedding reception for his daughter last weekend.
The governor eventually bought the tent with his own funds, but not before he announced the stories as "distorted." He also reacted angrily to recent stories critical of the state's minority record, labeling a Washington Post article on hiring a "bum rap."
A 14-year Washington Post reporter and former Alexandria resident, Edwards had hoped to play a major policy role in Dalton administration, but found himself largely relegated to the more subordinate job of communuicating polices already established.
Still, some observers believed Edwards played a part in convincing Dalton to change the states' long-standing policy against using state gasoline tax revenues to pay for Metro. Dalton waged -- and lost -- a fight to earmark part of this year's statewide gasoline tax increase for Metro, but then supported a successful effort to establish a separate Northern Virginia tax to pay for the system's completion.
Most observers believe Davis, Edwards' successor, will play even less of a policy-making role until Dalton's term ends in January, 1982.
Edwards has served four years as the Post's Richmond bureau chief when he resigned in April 1979 to take the press secretary's job. His appointment upset some democrats and other Dalton critics who had previously seen Edwards as politically neutral.
As press secretary, his relations with reporters were occasionally turbulent.