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Wally Covington Throws Public Money At Wife’s Charity

By Greg L | 27 November 2011 | Prince William County | 35 Comments

If Brentsville Supervisor Wally Covington lavishing $100,000 of county taxpayer money on a private charity wasn’t bad enough, we now learn that Covington’s wife sits on the board of directors of this charity.  Are you kidding me?

I’m sure this therapeutic equestrian center is a great thing, worthy of your support.  I’m certain they do great things for kids who could desperately use some great things happening to them.  That’s not the issue here.

If county government is so flush with cash that they have an extra six figures laying around they don’t need, why the hell did we have a tax raise this year?  Why the heck is local government forcing us to pony up money under force of law that it apparently doesn’t need to fund government operations?  The answer here is actually pretty simple, and depressingly so.

Each supervisor is given a political slush fund, transparently referred to as “magisterial district discretionary funds” that are used as little more than a convenient way to dole out cash to supporters, to buy political support, or to (in this case) divert chunks of public money to friends and family.  Disregard the supposed purpose of these funds, and simply look at how they’re actually used in many, if not most cases — to finance public corruption.

This budget season, if these “discretionary funds” remain, there’s going to be hell to pay.  And by the way, all of you who voted for Wally Covington in the primary this summer, I offer my congratulations to you for re-electing a crook.

UPDATE: Covington has withdrawn his request amidst the scrutiny from a number of blogs which was picked up by the News & Messenger.  Apparently the principle involved in this for him wasn’t worth fighting for.

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  1. Mom said on 27 Nov 2011 at 10:51 am:
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    For once Greg, I agree 100%. Unfortunately this isn’t the first time he’s given thousands to them much less the considerations at Silver Lake which are likely valued at even more. Surprised, you shouldn’t be after checking out the list of names on their masthead, all the usual suspects. I doubt any superviors other than May have the stones to say no although Frank may for political reasons and Stirrup may for image reasons. Wally likely has the five votes he needs unless Corey is willing to walk the fiscally responsible walk to match his talk. Four to four kills it and humiliates Wally, cutting him down to size, so to speak.

  2. Loudoun Insider said on 27 Nov 2011 at 11:20 am:
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    Disgusting. For all Loudoun’s issues with ethics, at least they don’t have these private slush funds. This sounds more like something you would expect in DC instead of a Virginia county. Looks like it’s time for a concerted effort to get rid of these private slush funds. If this goes through there should be plenty of outrage to capitalize on.

  3. Loudoun Insider said on 27 Nov 2011 at 11:24 am:
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    That Alborn blog post was great - the damn facility isn’t even in Covington’s district!!!

  4. Badger said on 27 Nov 2011 at 1:34 pm:
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    It appears (from a link in Alborn’s blog) that she is President of the Board. Those familiar with these boards are probably aware such positions are occasionally (but not always) “bought” based upon donations. I’m sure this isn’t the case here; however, appearances do matter. I would hate to think County money was used to secure a position on a non-profit’s board of directors for the wife of a Supervisor. What was he thinking?

    People have resigned for less. It’s time to do away with these discretionary funds. The potential for abuse is just too great.

  5. Badger said on 27 Nov 2011 at 1:38 pm:
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    …and the people who either contribute to drum up the most money are often elected President.

  6. a said on 27 Nov 2011 at 3:35 pm:
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    The City of Manassas is no better, although the amount is less, check out Councilman Mark Wolf and his wife Amy as the recipient of $20,000 from City taxpayers for the Manassas Ballet which his wife is the Director of!

  7. anony said on 27 Nov 2011 at 8:31 pm:
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    “I would hate to think County money was used to secure a position on a non-profit’s board of directors for the wife of a Supervisor.”

    No one needed to buy her a seat on the board of directors for her because her family controlled the organization. Her father has been involved with the organization for years in an official capacity.

    The other seats on the Board of Directors are held by Mr. Covington’s biggest donors which is a total coincidence as well.

  8. Harry said on 27 Nov 2011 at 8:55 pm:
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    Isn’t there something we can do about this clear case of corruption? Are there any steps we can take to have this criminal removed from office?

    This stinks - big time.

  9. occupy prince william said on 28 Nov 2011 at 8:00 am:
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    The rich help each other out and the 99 percent of us are left out.

  10. wrassler said on 28 Nov 2011 at 8:26 am:
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    Lets slow down here. I have no objection to the County participating in a project with a not for profit or a for profit as long as the projected return on investment to the Coummunity - in terms of sales or other assets provided warrants that investment. I could care less if a politically connected wife is on the Board. Now, you may argue that because there is a politically connected wife on the Board that one project may get preferential treatment over another worthy investment - and that may be debateable - but lets see some numbers. What is the rate of return here? I asume there is one - or why else could this have been justified as compared to some other worthwile social investment. What are the local and state transparancy rules that apply here? If this is just about horse owners and a place for their daughters to get little blue ribbons, maybe the Occupiers need to come to Manassas.

  11. Steve Thomas said on 28 Nov 2011 at 8:38 am:
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    “maybe the Occupiers need to come to Manassas.”

    A common challenge: geographical awareness. 9500 Liberty protesting an county ordinance, within the jurisdiction of Manassas City. Now “wrassler” calling for the occupiers to “come to Manassas”. Gainsville is Gainsville. Brenstville is Brentsville. Manassas is Manassas.

    This is a county issue, not a Manassas issue. We in Manassas (City of), have our own debates to conduct. This is an issue for PWC residents, Brenstville and Gainsville in particular, to hash out, but all county folk have a dog in this fight.

  12. 99% said on 28 Nov 2011 at 9:11 am:
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    I think occupy is right and this is occuring in Manassas too, check the council agenda for tonight and the whole civil war 150th OVERCELEBRATION, who gained from that? a few of the rich old town merchants and the gmu professor who staged a production on the peace jubilee and historic manassas inc who is now coming to the city and asking for more $$$$ due to lack of ticket sales, the rich get richer and the republicans in this town are leading the charge and I am looking for a democrat with some fiscal sense to vote for.

  13. Diogenes said on 28 Nov 2011 at 10:34 am:
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    “looking for a democrat with some fiscal sense to vote for”

    I’d settle for one with any sense at all.

  14. Loudoun Insider said on 28 Nov 2011 at 10:39 am:
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    Covington got an award from the recipient! From his official county bio page:


    “and was honored as the 2009 Rainbow Therapeutic Riding Center “Hero.”

  15. Badger said on 28 Nov 2011 at 10:40 am:
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    You know, I’m sure Supervisor Covington “ran this by a couple of people” to make sure it would have five votes on Tuesday. I always assume nothing really goes to a vote until the sponsor is reasonably sure it will succeed.

    If I really didn’t like Supervisor Covington and he asked for my advice, I would have said… “sure, great idea, public will love it, no one will notice…” While I might give (emphasis on “might”) the Supervisor a bit of a pass for perhaps listening to his heart, I wonder about the folks who perhaps had a more objective view of the world and advised “this is a good idea”.

    You really have to be careful who your friends are. I wonder who is whispering in Supervisor Covington’s ear these days?

    If he operated on his own council, then he’s a fool.

  16. Harry said on 28 Nov 2011 at 12:41 pm:
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    from and ethics standpoint: Did he disclose that his wife was asitting borad member? If not this is a clear ethical viloation consistent with his past.

  17. Don said on 28 Nov 2011 at 4:11 pm:
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    He just pulled it from the agenda


  18. Greg L said on 28 Nov 2011 at 4:18 pm:
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    Great commentary on this from Alborn once again:

    Extra money found anywhere shouldn’t be treated as a “tip” from a grateful public, it should be treated as an error in the budget process, returned to the public, and reflect a better budget process the following year. Collecting too much of “our money” isn’t time to throw a party, it’s time to look at the budget process to see where it failed.

    Read the rest at http://albornbiz.blogspot.com/2011/11/update-supervisor-covington-pulls.html

  19. Sick & Tired...Still said on 28 Nov 2011 at 5:25 pm:
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    People should be asking lots of questions about the things Wally gets through. Luckily this one was caught before it could come to fruition. Unfortunately the people of the county will be paying for things that continue to serve Mr. Covington’s interest. Check into the Rollins Road Folly if you will. Why are we extending it to Vint Hill when it has not even been finished out of Morris Farm and Glenkirk? Who will use it? Out of county traffic or all the new homes WC wants to build in the Rural Crescent? I wish the Brentsville District would wake up!

  20. Bill Tracey said on 28 Nov 2011 at 9:06 pm:
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    It would be nice if the County Attorney or someone on the County staff was on the ball and reviewed these actions before they even made the draft agenda. This is not the first time nor will it be the last time the Supervisors try to to misuse the discretionary funds.

  21. Harry said on 28 Nov 2011 at 9:18 pm:
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    @occupy prince william - Were you left out of voting? Your comment implies that you had no say in the matter, that only “rich” people do. Voting good people - Democrats or Republicans - into office is what we ALL should work for. You get a vote just like the guy who makes more money than you.

    In fact, through social networking, blogging, making phone calls, and other campaign activities, you could very easily affect many more votes than a single (evil?) rich person.

  22. Charles said on 28 Nov 2011 at 10:49 pm:
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    I understand the complaints about supervisors having discretionary funds. I don’t understand (other than desire to attack Wally) why Wally is being singled out. He has the lowest budget for discretionary funds, but over the years has the largest amount left over because he doesn’t spend it all like the other supervisors.

    He certainly KNOWS this charity because his wife works there. But his wife doesn’t actually “work” there — she isn’t paid. So while it could be a “conflict of interest” it’s not like he is getting financial gain out of it. And the idea of giving tax dollars away is wrongheaded, there’s nothing particularly MORE wrong-headed about giving the money to a charity you KNOW is well-run because you know people in charge.

  23. Maureen said on 29 Nov 2011 at 5:31 am:
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    If supervisors have funds left over, it should be put back in the general fund because apparently, according to Charles, Wally never uses all of his. A supervisors savings account supplied by the taxpayers? Seems wrong to me.

  24. Anonymous said on 29 Nov 2011 at 8:00 am:
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    Yes, the occupiers should come to…. fill in the blank - but, they should not be interfering with private business or people trying to get to work.

    And good grief, get rid of the evil wall street blithering.

    Concentrate on corrupt government officials from obama on down and see how much support you receive.

  25. Loudoun Insider said on 29 Nov 2011 at 12:06 pm:
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    Maybe his wife isn’t being paid, but the non-profit gave Convington an award that he uses on his official county bio page and for his re-election PR. Their newsletter have Wally and his wife all over them. It may not be illegal, but it certainly looks like tit for tat - they give him lots of free publicity and he gives them county money.

  26. Steve Thomas said on 29 Nov 2011 at 1:46 pm:
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    “I think occupy is right and this is occuring in Manassas too, check the council agenda for tonight and the whole civil war 150th OVERCELEBRATION, who gained from that?”

    The City gained. People came and spent time and money in the City, and the City collected Sales and Meals taxes as a result. The City got media exposure, and visitors who may have never come to Manassas otherwise, now know that it’s a good place to go. The Museum benefited, and the Museum is owned by the city. If you want to live in a place whose tag line is “Manassas: Might as well be Gainsville”, fine. Then move to Breymar or Gainsville into a nice development full of “McHouses” and stripmalls, with no cultural or economic center of gravity. I want to live in a place that is distinct. The only miscalculation made in the celebration planning was no one could have predicted record temperatures, for a record duration. Yes, the planners knew it’s likely be hot at least one or two of the days. But, even the weather service was surprised that the heat lasted so long. The celebration was well attended, inspite of the heat, and there was a rise in sales and meals taxes paid to the city…money that didn’t have to come from homeowners. So yes, the old town business community did benefit, but the entire City did as well. This is called “economic development”, and there is a tangible, measurable Return on Investment that comes out of such expenditures.

  27. Shane said on 29 Nov 2011 at 2:55 pm:
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    I read a pretty good book on campaign finance reform and I think it made a good point: smoking guns are hard to come by. If it could be proved that Wally doled out pork precisely because of some corrupt end, that would be a juicy scandal indeed. But evidence of that kind of corruption is really hard to come by, though the kind of corruption is probably pretty common. Supervisors, therefore, should ask themselves a simple question: does this undermine the integrity of the institution for which he serves? NOT did he give a $100,000 earmark because they gave his wife a position on the board. Because the latter relates to intent, it is difficult and sometimes impossible to prove.

  28. Greg L said on 29 Nov 2011 at 3:17 pm:
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    Haven’t had time to run this down, but a previous donation of $10k to the Hylton Center from Brentsville district funds may have resulted in Wally getting special amenities during performances. Covington is listed as a “Cornerstone Partner” on the Hylton website and it’s not clear whether this is because he personally donated money, or used district funds.

    If Covington is obtaining personal benefits of tangible value because of how he spent taxpayer dollars, this could be a problem.

  29. Badger said on 29 Nov 2011 at 3:30 pm:
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    For the record, Supervisor plans go donate another $5000 to the Hylton Center today. I’ll be interested in what you discover.


  30. MotherMayI said on 29 Nov 2011 at 4:16 pm:
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    Wally and the Rainbows, the City of Manassas and the 150th event, the other County Supervisors and the Hylton Arts Center, etc., it is all just the taking of tax payer money and giving it to your Elected Members favorite event or group or business. Let’s not try too hard to justify it, Be honest and call it the great big goverment give away it is courtesy of the Republican Party. At least the Democrats give it to the poor and needy.

  31. Mai bad said on 29 Nov 2011 at 5:33 pm:
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    hay….Loudmouth Inciter…go back to Loudon county!

  32. Badger said on 30 Nov 2011 at 6:44 am:
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    Question… Why isn’t he local Tea Party absolutely enraged over the very existence of Discretionary funds and how they are spent in Prince William County? Am I missing something?

  33. anonamouse said on 30 Nov 2011 at 6:55 am:
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    It is also a public perception problem. This summer the Bull Run Observer ran numerous pre-election stories on Supervisor Covington’s generous donations, one was $10,000 to some type of healthy people program. Nowhere did the article ever mention that it was tax payer funds that were given out of this discretionary account. To a typical citizen reading the article (accompanied by the large photo), the impression was that he was donating out of his own pocket. The words discretionary funds or taxpayer money were not found in the article at all. I saw similar articles about donations to the senior center where the words discretionary fund were never used.

    There have been also other stories on PTA or school beautification gifts given and the perception is always that he is personally donating to these things. 99% of our citizens do not take the time to watch the afternoon BOCS meetings or read the agenda to see these donations coming out of their taxpayer funds so 99% of our citizens are thinking Supervisor Covington is a most generous man, which he may be, but generous with my money is not the same as being generous with his own money.

    I speculate that it is the same in other districts across the county with the other supervisors. Taxpayers should demand the discretionary funds be shut down. The very fact that they didn’t spend it says they never needed it in the first place.

  34. Debra said on 30 Nov 2011 at 11:06 pm:
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    How right you are but just a few more details to add about Mr. Covington’s “generosity.”
    First, he obviousily cut a deal with Mrs. Reed and the Bull Run Observer-a full page ad in exchange for a preceding 6 months of campaign fluff featuring the Covington family and their busy lifestlye requiring Google Calendar.
    Second, was a requirement to all recipients of his generosity that his presentations MUST include a crowd.
    Third, for years he’s chosen to operate on a bare bones staff allowing him to stockpile his discretionary spending for pure campaign purposes dishing out money left and right when a challenger finally surfaced (Jeanine Lawson) meanwhile the citizens of Brentsville suffered from an utter lack of communication and service from this guy.

  35. Anonymous said on 2 Dec 2011 at 5:00 pm:
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    “The only miscalculation made in the celebration planning was no one could have predicted record temperatures”

    Regarding fundraising efforts, this statement in incorrect. Rule number 1 - make sure expenses are paid for in some manner BEFORE the event occurs. If you know what you’re doing, things like ticket and merchandise sales during an event are “gravy” not a necessity. Goes to lack of experience on the organization’s part.

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