When Supervisor John Stirrup raised questions with County Executive Craig Gerhart about the unprecedented level of access and support provided to the “9500 Liberty” crew, Gerhart dismissed this behavior as the normal way the county deals with the press. It’s all routine, Gerhart asserts, and anyone noting the vastly different preferential treatment some political activists get from county staff is just, somehow, not people “getting it.”
No wonder they don’t get it, because this makes no sense at all.
It is completely appropriate and responsible for County Staff to work with members of the media to review factual information that has been provided to them if asked. (emphasis added)
In another answer, Gerhart responds:
Members of the Communucations Staff are routinely asked by the media what happened at a Board of County Supervisors meeting with regard to specific issues. We identify salient discussion points for the media somewhat routinely. It is a job of all members of the Communications Staff to respond to questions from both the media and the community. (emphasis added)
So let’s look at one of those “media requests”, made to the county employee that manages all the videos of the meetings of the Board of County Supervisors, shall we? We already saw one of these last week, but this one is pretty special:
Wow, is this really the media?
Perhaps I should qualify under this rather broad definition. I recently asked county staff to explain Chief Deane’s comments about the burden of fulfilling FOIA requests, and the unattributed claim that Help Save Manassas was somehow responsible for a majority of these. After a week of not hearing anything back from the Prince William County Police Department, what do I get? My request for clarification of public comments to the same county Communications Staff that Gerhart says responds to the media and the public has transformed itself into a Freedom Of Information Act request, complete with the full monty of legal obfuscation that the county staff can bring to bear. Non-answers, in other words, that it takes every bit of time the law permits the county to delay under the Freedom of Information laws.
I’m getting the distinct impression here that Gerhart’s justifications for the unlawful behavior of county employees is utter hogwash. Maybe you do as well.
Prince William County Code
Sec. 19-18. Political activities.
(g) No officer or employee of the county shall use, or permit to be used, any thing, including vehicles, owned by the county, on behalf of or for the benefit of, any political organization or candidate for public office.
(Ord. No. 78-31-20, § 13.4-22, 9-5-79)
Sec. 19-19. Violations of section 19-17 or 19-18.
(a) Any employee in the competitive service who willfully or knowingly violates, or acts in concert with others to violate, any provision of section 19-17 or 19-18, or any personnel regulation relating thereto, shall have given prima facie cause for immediate dismissal from the county service. Any employee terminated under the provisions of this section may file a grievance where otherwise permitted to do so.
(b) Any person who willfully or knowingly violates, or acts in concert with others to violate, any provision of section 19-17 or 19-18, or any personnel regulation relating thereto, shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
(c) Any officer, employee or other person who is convicted or discharged from the competitive service under the provisions of this section shall, during a period of five years thereafter, be ineligible for appointment to, or employment in, any position in the county service.
(Ord. No. 78-31-20, § 13.4-24, 9-5-79)
(H/T to reader TedKennedysSwimInstructor for the citation)
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