Members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors are squirming.
Not over property taxes or zoning or some other red flag issue, but a dinner invitation.
What has many of the county's nine supervisors nervous is the black-tie, $50-a-person dinner the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce is staging Feb. 11 to roast developer John T. "Til" Hazel, one of the county's best known and most influential--and controversial--lawyers.
"We've been discussing it in the office," said one supervisor, who asked not to be named. "I just don't know if it's proper to go."
Another supervisor said, "On the one hand, it's a chamber thing and you want to keep an open ear to all groups. But on the other hand, I mean, my God, he's sued the board," referring to lawsuits Hazel has filed over the past decade on behalf of developers angry at several of the board's slow-growth policies.
A third supervisor, who also asked to remain anonymous, said he gets invitations for "all sorts" of dinners and receptions. "I attend very few," he said, explaining why he doesn't plan to attend the dinner at the Springfield Hilton.
The chamber originally asked Board Chairman John F. Herrity, a Republican, and Vice Chairman Martha V. Pennino, a Democrat, to make short, satirical presentations at the roast.
Both declined. When asked why, Herrity said tersely: "I really have no comment on that. I just thought it was inappropriate."
Pennino said she "just thought it could be misconstrued." She said she considers Hazel a "brilliant man" and that she "greatly respects him," mentioning his work with the Red Cross and other civic organizations.
But Pennino said that because Hazel comes before the supervisors for zoning cases, it was probably best that she not take part in the roast. She added that the board normally approves Hazel's rezoning requests, "not because of who he is, but because he's so darn smart."
She said he was instrumental in the writing of the state and county land use plans, and knows what he is and is not entitled to do.
Supervisor Joseph Alexander, a Democrat from the Lee District, said he didn't share the misgivings of some of the other supervisors about the Hazel roast. "I'll be there," Alexander said. "I think it's going to be fun."