Fairfax County Board Chairman John F. Herrity, who is under investigation on allegations that he violated state and county ethics laws, yesterday blamed the developers who gave money to his campaigns for failing to list those contributions on land use applications.
Herrity told the board yesterday that he "may have inadvertently overlooked a particular contribution or may have relied upon the accuracy of a particular zoning affidavit" before voting on land use applications connected with his campaign donors.
Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. is investigating allegations that Herrity failed to disclose campaign donations before voting on government bonds and land use questions connected with those contributors three times in the last eight months.
Herrity charged yesterday that none of the applicants on whose projects he voted listed the person's contributions to Herrity on the affidavit the county includes in land use applications.
Supervisor Audrey Moore (D-Annandale) disagreed that the burden is on developers to make public their donations to county board members.
"It's up to the board members to disclose the financial relationship," she said. "There's a section of the affidavit that encourages the developer to list his relationships, and if he does, that's helpful. But you can't rely on it because state law doesn't require him to do it."
Moore declined to comment specifically on the charges against Herrity.
Reading from a four-page statement in a choppy voice, Herrity said the disclosure laws have "been used selectively primarily as a sword against a member of this board." Herrity later said it was the press that was wielding the sword.
Herrity asked the county board yesterday to revise its disclosure system.
"It is time to remove some vestiges of human guesswork from the system," he said. "There does not exist any standardized system which provides for a more complete method of determining when disclosure requirements are being met . . . . "
Board Vice Chairman Martha V. Pennino (D-Centreville), who has defended Herrity, recommended that the county hire a staff member to check campaign gifts to board members against land use applications, alerting board members when they must disclose a gift before voting.
Other board members, reacting to Herrity's statement, agreed with his assessment that developers have been remiss in reporting their gifts on affidavits accompanying their applications.
Fairfax County law allows members of the county board to vote on a land use issue or a request for tax-exempt government bonds after they disclose gifts or donations they have received in excess of $50 in the preceding five years from anyone with a financial interest in the project.
In addition to the allegations involving Herrity's campaign contributions, Horan is investigating Herrity's vote in February on a town house project proposed by Hersand Builders Inc. Herrity did not disclose that he is a partner of Hersand President Herbert L. Aman III and his wife Sandra in a Fairfax City office condominium. Horan said yesterday he will probably decide this week whether to prosecute Herrity.
Asked about the impact of the allegations on his career, Herrity said: "It could increase the fire in my belly. I have been through a lot of adversities and met them head-on. As a matter of fact, my life has been a series of adversities and I've turned them into . . . some triumphs."