Less than two weeks before he is sworn into office as chairman of the Board of County Supervisors, Sean Connaughton is embroiled in a behind-the-scenes battle with lame-duck Chairman Kathleen K. Seefeldt over an appointment to the Prince William Park Authority Board.
Seefeldt (D), the 23-year board veteran who lost to Connaughton (R) in last month's election by fewer than 700 votes, indicated this week that she intends to reappoint Manassas developer and political supporter Pete Ebert to the at-large seat on the eight-member Park Authority Board.
The move has rankled Connaughton, who has chosen his own candidate for the job, Steve Danzinger, an executive with Dominion Semiconductor and president of the Virginia United Way.
Connaughton, who takes office Jan. 1 but will be sworn in Dec. 21, said he wants new blood on the Park Authority Board because he is concerned about the operations of the semiautonomous agency, which develops and runs Prince William's parks, golf courses, fitness centers, ballparks and other recreation programs.
The board is scheduled to vote Tuesday on the at-large appointment and three others whose four-year terms have expired.
The Park Authority, incorporated 22 years ago, is supposed to be self-sustaining, bringing in at least as much revenue through fees as it spends on promotion, salaries and other programs. But in recent years, the county has increasingly subsidized the agency's $14 million budget and now contributes $8 million, Connaughton said.
"Obviously, this is a key appointment, because I have some serious concerns about the management and direction of the Park Authority," he said. "It seems to be becoming much more dependent on cash infusions from the county, and I'd like to understand why."
To help bring in more revenue, Connaughton said he wants a board member "I know and trust and feel comfortable with."
Park Authority Board members--one appointed by each supervisor--serve four-year, staggered terms and receive monthly stipends of $500. Four seats expired in October but have not been filled. Connaughton said he "fully expected" that Seefeldt would yield to him in her waning weeks in office.
Seefeldt could not be reached for comment. But Ebert, the son of Prince William Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert (D), complained that his reappointment is "being politicized" and said that Connaughton's concerns about the Park Authority's operations "are no different than mine."
"Mr. Connaughton would find that if he ever sat down and spoke with me about the state of the Park Authority, I could educate him on a number of items," Ebert said.
He said that he, too, is concerned that some recreation facilities don't generate large revenues and noted that the agency "walks a fine line," between charging fees and "nickel-and-diming the public."