Fairfax County Executive J. Hamilton Lambert, in the wake of allegations that County Board Chairman John F. Herrity may have violated public disclosure laws, is personally overseeing the creation of a centralized computer system to trace the financial connections among developers, their consultants and the Fairfax supervisors.
Lambert stressed, however, that the computerized file is being produced in response to the board's request for assistance and is not intended to shift the responsibility for disclosure from developers and the supervisors.
The burden "is not on the staff. The law is on the developers and the board members," Lambert said in an interview yesterday. "All we're trying to do is to come up with a system to minimize the potential for mistakes."
Calling the project one of the county's top priorities, Lambert said he is chairing a committee of five high-ranking Fairfax officials that will develop the system and determine its staffing and funding needs.
He said the initial phase will include compiling a list of recent campaign contributions received by the supervisors and a companion list, based on applications filed with the county, of developers and individuals associated with their projects.
By checking the system before reviewing a developer's proposal, supervisors would be able to determine whether they have a financial relationship with or have received a political donation from anyone connected with the project.
The committee includes executive assistant Theodore Austell III, who is coordinating the project; county attorney David T. Stitt; Denton U. Kent, deputy county executive for planning and development, and Timothy W. Jones, county research and statistics director.
The committee was formed in response to recent controversy surrounding Herrity, who is being investigated by Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. on two disclosure issues.
In the first, Horan is investigating whether Herrity violated the state ethics law by failing to disclose his 25 percent interest in an office condominium venture with Fairfax developer Herbert L. Aman III before taking part in the board's review of the builder's request for a zoning change.
Horan also is trying to determine whether Herrity violated state or county ethics law when he participated in decisions on four development projects in the past 13 months involving people who contributed to his 1983 reelection campaign.
In his only public statement on the matter, Herrity said at last week's board meeting that his failure to disclose in the five cases was "inadvertent," and he attributed his problems partly to the absence of a central county system to "minimize the opportunity for mistakes."
Supervisor Audrey Moore (D-Annandale), a vocal advocate of disclosure laws, said yesterday that the computerized system is an unnecessary expense prompted by the unwillingness of some members of the board to match their lists of campaign donors against the names connected with a particular application.
"The same firms are involved [in zoning applications] over and over and over again," Moore said.
"It's not a difficult thing to check."
Moore said, though, that she would support the creation of a central county list "if that's what it takes" to ensure compliance with the law.
She said those lists and whatever other related information is compiled by the county staff with county funds should be available for public inspection.