The attorney for one of the companies vying for Fairfax County's lucrative cable television franchise yesterday announced he is quitting his position with the firm after it became known that he is also a $15,000-a-year consultant to the county's Board of Supervisors.
Robert C. Fitzgerald, a former commonwealth's attorney and two-term Democratic state senator from Fairfax, denied any conflict of interest in seeking the multimillion-dollar cable franchise while serving as a county-paid adviser.
News of Fitzgerald's dual interest immediately fueled demands for a stringent disclosure law that would require cable companies and couty officials to reveal any cross ties under threat of criminal penalties.
"That certainly shows you why we need this ordinance," said Supervisor Audrey Moore (D-Annadale), the sponsor of the proposed measure.
"When you give somebody that kind of position, you're giving them an access to the county, both to supervisors and staff, that an ordinary citizen wouldn't have. And athat could give them a leg up on cable. I think it's highly unlikely tht (Fitzgerald) would do that, but it's a problem."
The county's existing cable disclosure rules do not have the force of law, but the board this week agreed to look into the possibility of strengthening them.
Fitzgerald said he decided to surrender his 2 percent share of Community Cablevision of Fairfax -- one of 20 companies seeking the franchise -- yesterday morning after receiving an inquiry about his dual interest from County Attorney David T. Stitt. He said Stitt told him he planned to present a report on the matter to the supervisors.
"I determined that rather than impair the company's chances for winning the franchise, unwarranted though that might have been, it was best for the company's sake that there be no implication of a conflict," said Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerld was among the founders of the cable company and represents the count on annexation matters and intergovernmental questions.
Board Vice Chairman Martha V. Pennino (D-Centreville) praised Fitzgerald's decision even though, she said, she had no evidence that his ties to both the county and the company amounted to anything "illegal, immoral or unethical."