Stafford County sheriff's candidate Chuck Feldbush, who poses the biggest threat to overwhelming favorite Charles E. Jett, submitted a request Friday for a criminal investigation into Jett's use of a county fax machine for campaign purposes.
Feldbush alleges that Jett, a sheriff's captain, used a fax machine and possibly other equipment in the sheriff's office to distribute a flier advertising a campaign fund-raising golf tournament.
"The problem we have here is he's misusing the office of sheriff to promote a golf tournament," said Feldbush, a Prince William County police detective. "It's almost tantamount to theft."
Feldbush is running as an independent, as is William "Bill" Hale Hoyt. Government employees are prohibited by state law from using taxpayer resources for their campaigns, and Feldbush has asked Commonwealth's Attorney Dan Chichester to investigate the matter. Chichester did not return calls seeking comment.
Jett, a Republican, was unavailable for comment but has publicly said that one of his supporters faxed the flier from the sheriff's office. Jett also issued an apology to retiring Sheriff Ralph Williams and offered to pay the cost of using the fax machine.
Local party officials downplayed the incident and accused Feldbush of trying to drum up some last-minute controversy to jump-start his campaign.
"Technically you should never mix election rules with any official office work, but it's literally one page of one fax," said John Van Hoy, head of the Stafford County Republican Club. "There's no way anyone can convince me that Chuck Feldbush has not called a political constituent while at work; it's the same thing."
Van Hoy said the controversy would not affect the outcome of the election, which Jett is expected to win handily.
"Anybody that's going to pay attention to this even happening will pay attention to the detail and be intelligent enough to know this is not electioneering out of an incumbent's office," Van Hoy said.
Feldbush said he is not convinced.
"I don't believe for a second it was just one fax," he said. "How did these documents get into the sheriff's office to be faxed out in the first place? He's running the entire campaign from the sheriff's office."
Feldbush also maintained that the damage was far more severe than the price of one fax because it generated money for Jett's campaign.
"How can you expect to be the top law enforcement officer if you have these kinds of problems?" he asked. "It's very disturbing."