As a political stepping stone, John A. Nere's position as tiebreaker on the Stafford County Board of Supervisors has had some slippery footing.
Nere, who has held the part-time job -- one of the few of its kind in Virginia -- for eight years, votes only when the six-member board is deadlocked. His decisions regularly anger one or the other board faction -- and many of the voters they represent.
Nere even has pariah status in the board room: He sits at a separate, smaller desk, at arm's length from his colleagues.
Now Nere, a 60-year-old businessman in this commuter county 50 miles south of Washington, is learning that even a decision to quit his thankless, ,600-a-year position can't staunch the political headaches that go with the job.
For the second time this year, a special prosecutor was named last week to investigate allegations that Nere's air-conditioning firm, the John A. Nere Co., performed remodeling work on a county administration building while Nere was a board member.
An earlier investigation by a different special prosecutor cleared Nere of allegations that the remodeling work, for which Nere's company was a subcontractor, violated Virginia's conflict-of-interest statutes.
"I didn't vote on it. I wasn't even present and I didn't honestly know that our firm was bidding on the job," Nere said.
Nere contended that the latest charges are politically motivated, intended to "keep the pot boiling" and muddy his current campaign for higher office -- an independent bid, with Democratic Party backing, to unseat state Del. Thomas Moncure Jr., a Republican.
Goochland County Commonwealth's Attorney Edward K. Carpenter, the new special prosecutor, said his predecessor was unable to find evidence to show "willful" violation by Nere of the conflict-of-interest statutes.
Carpenter said that Nere's accuser, Stafford Supervisor E. Lloyd Chittum, then presented new evidence in the case. Chittum, an independent, later went before a magistrate and swore out a warrant concerning his allegations. Circuit Court Judge J.M.H. Willis last week named Carpenter to lead a new investigation.
Chittum could not be reached for comment. Virginia's conflict-of-interest law carries a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine, one year in prison and forfeiture of office.
The case against Nere could go to trial on the eve of the state's Nov. 8 elections.
Special prosecutor Carpenter said a trial in General District Court would likely occur in October because "there's no way I can get to it in September."
Would that harm Nere's chances at the polls? "As far as the conflict of interest, some people say any publicity is good, but I don't believe that," Nere said. "I like to do things in the positive." Meanwhile, he has a suggestion for handling the county's tiebreaker position: Do away with it.
The publicity "on the board is only because of the frequent ties," Nere said. "I didn't know it was going to be like this."