Supervisor W. S. “Wally” Covington III (R-Brentsville) had intended to donate $100,000 from his district’s funds to Rainbow Therapeutic Equestrian Center in Haymarket, Va., a nonprofit that offers horse riding as a form of therapy for children with special needs. But fellow Supervisor Frank J. Principi (D-Woodbridge) raised concerns about the donation given that Covington’s wife, Connie, volunteers there, Covington said. Connie Covington is the unpaid president of the organization and works there about 10 hours per week, according to the organization’s 2010 public tax return. Covington said the fact that neither he nor his wife would have benefited financially from the donation meant there was no conflict of interest.
Supervisors are allocated an average of $334,000 per office, said county spokesman Jason Grant. County supervisors must follow the county’s procurement procedures but have discretion on how to allocate funding, Grant said.
Covington said he pulled the donation over Principi’s concerns and “misconceptions” about the potential donation. He wrote to other supervisors in an e-mail that he would pull the request to allocate the money from Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors agenda in order “not to further politicize or demean this worthy organization.”
“For handicapped kids, we don’t have a lot,” Supervisor Covington said in an interview. “These kids often times are second thought. I don’t want to hurt this organization in any way, and it shouldn’t be politicized.”
The funds would have gone toward paving a parking lot in order to ensure wheelchairs could more easily cross to an indoor riding facility, Covington said. The indoor riding facility also lacks a viewing area that part of the funds could have paid for, he said, among other improvements.
The horse riding center sits on county-owned land and receives a portion of its annual budget through the Prince William budget process. Covington said he hopes that the charity receives additional donations from county government, though he won’t lead the charge for additional funds.
“It would be a very positive thing to the disabled community,” he said.