In what could be one of the county's spiciest campaigns this year, two Republicans have filed for the right to face incumbent Sheriff Stan G. Barry (D), criticizing Barry's solicitation of money from his own employees and saying deputies should not be writing traffic tickets.
One of the Republicans, James A. Vickery of Herndon, is a former roommate and close friend of Barry's. Vickery also was Fairfax County's chief deputy sheriff for seven years until Barry unseated then-Sheriff Carl R. Peed in 1999. Barry and Vickery had parted ways several years earlier, and Barry's election pushed Vickery into an early retirement from the Sheriff's Office. Now Vickery, 47, is gunning for the spot he had hoped to inherit from Peed, saying, "It's an outrage we have a sheriff who's neither qualified nor competent."
But before the ex-roommates can square off in the Nov. 4 general election, Vickery must defeat at least one challenger from his own party and any other Republicans who file before the April 11 deadline. Barry also could have an intraparty opponent. GOP leaders are to meet Tuesday to decide whether to hold a primary June 10 or choose their own candidates to run in the Nov. 4 general election. Democrats have not decided what they will do.
Vickery's GOP opponent so far is Fairfax Police Maj. Tyrone R. Morrow. He has no history in the Sheriff's Office but has a variety of command experience running police stations and administrative bureaus. The Sheriff's Office operates the county jail, protects the county courthouse and serves summonses in civil cases.
"Voters sent a message when they didn't reelect Peed," said Morrow, 39, adding that they also were rejecting Vickery, Peed's top assistant. But under Barry, Morrow added, deputies "feel disillusioned, left behind."
Barry, 45, said he doubted that rank-and-file sheriff's deputies are disillusioned. Morale has improved since Peed was sheriff, Barry said, and the Sheriff's Office finances "are being run better than they ever have been."
He said a state study of the sheriff's staffing concluded that the office was greatly in need, leading the Board of Supervisors to fund more positions even though supervisors cut spending elsewhere. Barry also has won salary increases for deputies, making them roughly equal with police officers.
Barry already had raised some eyebrows by soliciting contributions from his deputies with a campaign event in August at which 33 deputies donated between $100 and $1,000 each.
Then the election spending report he filed last month attracted more attention when he disclosed that a captain in his department, Milton E. Watkins, had lent his campaign $15,000 in 2000. The filing says Barry has repaid $13,000 and still owes $3,127, including interest. Watkins has since been promoted to major.
"This is not pay for performance," Vickery said. "It's pay for promotion. The practice of accepting money from employees is wrong. It taints every promotion."
Morrow also condemned the idea of a sheriff taking money from his deputies. "It gives the perception that the [donating] employee gains some favor," Morrow said. "And as a leader, you have to manage the perception."
Barry responded that Watkins lent him the money to help him dig out from his 1999 campaign debt. The money was not a donation and is being repaid, Barry said. He said the Sheriff's Office command staff agreed with Watkins's promotion, citing his leadership in the Marine Corps Reserve and his job performance. Of the 33 deputies who contributed to his campaign, 16 have been promoted during his tenure and 17 have not, Barry said.
"People who were very loyal and hardworking on my campaign were not promoted because they weren't qualified," the sheriff said, "and people who worked for Carl Peed's campaign have been promoted because they were qualified. The political process has no bearing one way or the other."
Fundraising events with deputies were held during Peed's administration and those of other county sheriffs, Barry said. But he said he would stop the practice to eliminate any implied pressure on employees to donate.
Vickery and Morrow also renewed claims that Barry's deputies have departed from the mission of the Sheriff's Office by issuing traffic tickets and setting up radar speed traps. "This administration has lost sight of the role of sheriff," Vickery said. Morrow said traffic enforcement might work if it was coordinated with local police efforts.
Barry said that traffic enforcement started under Peed and Vickery and that he has gradually reduced it. He said the number of traffic tickets written in 1999 was more than 800 but dropped to about 300 last year, mainly for violations that occurred directly in front of a deputy. The sheriff said he immediately stopped a group of deputies from "night patrol" rounds upon taking office.
Vickery said that as chief deputy, he never approved any proactive patrolling, other than participating in a regionwide law enforcement effort to curb aggressive driving. He also blamed Barry for buying radar guns, then handing them over to the police. Barry acknowledged buying the radar guns in 2000 but said plans for them had begun under Peed and Vickery.
Vickery graduated from Annandale High School in 1973 and earned degrees from Radford College and George Mason University. After 22 years in the Sheriff's Office, he worked as a consultant for private security companies and the National Institute of Justice. He volunteers as president of the board of Alternative House, a refuge for homeless and abused children.
Morrow was born and raised in Chicago and lives in Lorton. He earned degrees from National-Louis University outside Chicago and Virginia Tech. He joined the Fairfax County Police Department in 1984 and rapidly rose to detective, captain of the Mount Vernon District Station and a major overseeing three patrol stations.
Morrow admitted he had no experience running a jail, but said he has had plenty of executive training. "The CEO of an organization does not have to know the nuts and bolts of how to make that process work," Morrow said. "They just need to have an understanding of the operation and make sure the crucial functions are done in the most efficient and effective manner possible."