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The Law For Thee, But Not For Me

By Greg L | 18 June 2013 | Crime, Manassas City | 30 Comments

One of the great things about being a member of the Manassas City Council is that you don’t have to follow the law.  The Mayor doesn’t notice when councilmembers trample on the Code of Virginia, and as long as the action is for the benefit of some liberal cause the City Attorney Martin Crim, who is paid $200 per hour to attend council meetings and provide what passes for “legal counsel,” will compliantly look off into the distance and pretend he’s not listening.  There really is no better place to be if you want to funnel taxpayer money to your own pocket.

Action Item Twelve on last Monday’s agenda involved the city gifting taxpayer money to non-governmental entities that aren’t performing work for the city.  In addition to handing money over to the Hylton Center to defray their operational expenses (something we were told would never be necessary when the city took on their capital costs), the city once again decided to hand over public money to a private ballet school that competes with other dance schools in the area that don’t receive public money.  Last year Manassas turned over $18,000 to the Manassas Ballet Company, but that wasn’t good enough this time around, so this year the council voted to increase that amount to $23,000.

Mayor Parrish sits on the Board of Directors for the Manassas Ballet, but since this wasn’t a tie vote he didn’t cast a vote and didn’t violate any law if you take a literal view of Virginia Code §15.2-953.  Councilman Mark Wolfe is the Executive Director of the Manassas Ballet (in an unpaid capacity we’re told) but his wife Amy Wolfe is the salaried Artistic Director.  Wolfe voted in favor of this gift to an entity which pays a salary to his wife. The failure to disclose a personal conflict of interest in this matter and his subsequent vote in favor of this gift violates Virginia Code § 2.2-3107, § 2.2-3112, § 2.2-3115(H) and § 2.2-3112 which govern conflicts of interest within local governmental bodies.  Violations of that part of the Virginia Code are punishable as Class 1 misdemeanors, and a knowing violation could result in a person being removed from office.

§ 2.2-3122. Knowing violation of chapter constitutes malfeasance in office or employment.

Any person who knowingly violates any of the provisions of this chapter shall be guilty of malfeasance in office or employment. Upon conviction thereof, the judge or jury trying the case, in addition to any other fine or penalty provided by law, may order the forfeiture of such office or employment.

You can see the part of the meeting where this happened here, starting at the 56:52 mark and going to 1:05:36.

It boggles the mind to consider that any elected official could possibly conceive of voting on a matter in which they had a personal interest just from a personal ethics standpoint.  It shouldn’t take a provision of the legal code to make an elected official realize that they might not want to vote on a matter where they get cash from the government body on which they sit.  There is a provision of code however that specifically proscribes that kind of behavior, one that Wolfe is quite aware of given that he has recused himself from votes in the past, and one that a $200 an hour attorney licensed in Virginia and whose practice of law almost entirely involves giving legal council to the City of Manassas should damned well know about.

How the heck did everyone suddenly get a case of the stupids?

Perhaps it was just inconvenient to comply with the law that Monday night.  Maybe most of our elected officials are just utterly incompetent and cannot spot such a huge conflict of interest.  Perhaps even some space alien kidnapped the city attorney, replaced him with a simulacrum entirely unfamiliar with the Virginia Code and is now subjecting poor Martin Crum to horrific experiments.  I don’t know why the law was trampled on like this, only that it was and those in attendance should have darned well known better.

What I do know however is that if this isn’t fixed in short order criminal complaints are going to be sworn out and Mark Wolfe is going to be getting a summons to appear in court.  The taxpayers aren’t going to stand for this sort of chicanery.

UPDATE: Wolfe is playing a similar game in Prince William County, where he chairs the PWC Arts Council which is the county entity that doles out money to nonprofits.  This came in from a reader this morning:

Note this item from the Board meeting yesterday; Item 5.D. arts grants awards. Even the arts grants panel members apparently supported a cap on grants to any single group of $50,000 to keep more money available for small and new organizations. The only group affected by the cap was Wolfe’s ballet. Staff decided to waive the cap so Peacor, et. al. could give Wolfe an extra $8,234.40. Nearly $60,000 of taxpayer money to subsidize a private dance school whose performances at the Hylton Center are attended by only a tiny fraction of the PWC population. $60,000 would hire an entry-level teacher or police officer. Instead, we continue to line Wolfe’s pockets.

UPDATE 2: The Washington Post picked up the story, revealing that the day after the vote Wolfe submitted his disclosure of an interest in the vote that he was legally required to provide prior to the vote.  And that somehow makes this all better.  Wolfe’s story is that because other groups were getting funded in addition to the Manassas Ballet it was OK for him to vote on a matter in which he still had a personal financial interest.  Now the City Attorney is trying to figure out a way to justify what happened so this vote won’t have to be tossed out, which shockingly is taking quite a bit of time to figure out.

If there’s a question of what the law means, which Wolfe alleges in the article, there’s a venue established to decide exactly that kind of question.  It’s called a court of law.  Let’s have a trial.

UPDATE 3: The Manassas City Council has decided to address this by having a “do over” vote on Monday, July 8th.  If only the rest of us were so lucky to just “do over” our willfully unlawful behavior.

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  1. Annoymous said on 19 Jun 2013 at 6:48 am:
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    Here we go again. This is an individual with no shame and no regard for the law. Recall his hiring of illegal dancers for his ballet as well, will someone call the FBI on this guy please!

    Wolfe and his merry band of taxpayer-funded freeloaders at the Hylton Arts Debacle and Historic Manassas Incorporated and old town restaurants such as Carmelos are a greedy testament to how Rino Republican politics works to help the rich in this City.

    Shame on you mayor and council members who supported this, why do you let this guy use you? You all look like suckers.

  2. chat said on 19 Jun 2013 at 11:04 am:
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    It wouldn’t take much to clinch an investigation: IF WOLFE AND HIS WIFE HAVE BEEN FILING JOINT RETURNS TO THE IRS ON THEIR PERSONAL INCOME, THEN HE HAS BROKEN THE LAW - no buts, no ifs, no nothing.

  3. may ferris said on 19 Jun 2013 at 11:29 am:
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    Let us get this straight. If Wolfe and his spouse have broken the law together, does this mean that not only they can be prosecuted (as well as the Ballet), but the Mayor (for knowingly supporting them) and Mr. Stewart (for the same)? Enlighten me on the law. I’m just a housewife.

    Is this the little wrench that we need to get rid of these corrupt politicians - now (and forever)?

  4. anon said on 19 Jun 2013 at 3:14 pm:
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    Mad May: it depends. Most attorneys would not touch this with a stick. Not only is there little initial money in morality, but the sheer protection factor is daunting. Sure, Wolfe and Parrish have broken the law, and surely they will get away with it. They are despicable characters for having done it. But do you want to spend your life hunting them down? I wouldn’t. What I would do is file with the the Magistrate’s office, so that you will have done everything possible. The Magistrate may be in bed with Corey or Mark, but in the long run if you have filed with them, they may have to face the music as well.

  5. Any old mouse said on 20 Jun 2013 at 7:09 am:
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    Sheryl Bass is the president of the Manassas Ballet and a former City Council member (until Ian Lovejoy kicked her to the curb last election). She has voted to send her friends the Wolfes money, she must wear the “tutu taint” too.

  6. Benton said on 21 Jun 2013 at 2:49 am:
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    Between PWC-McCoart and Manassas we sure have a lot of criminals. Too many to meet the laws of of probability. It can’t be the perception or conspiracy thinkers among bloggers? Very unusual.

  7. anon said on 21 Jun 2013 at 8:47 am:
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    But you keep reading, right?

  8. chat said on 21 Jun 2013 at 9:09 am:
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    I seem to recall that a FOIA investigation demonstrated the Ballet’s guilt in hiring illegal aliens, even after they were told by USCIS that one particular dancer had been ordered to return to Russia. I’m sure that Corey and Hal must have aksed Wolfe, “did you do this” and I’m equally sure that Wolfe must have denied it - and that was good enough for Corey and Hal. Or… scenario 2: You don’t suppose that the BOCS and the Manassas City Council are deliberately letting him get away with this - even at the risk of becoming co-defendants after the fact? Maybe the extra 8 thousand from Peacor was not just out of particular love of the dance??

  9. may ferris said on 21 Jun 2013 at 9:14 am:
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    By the way, does anyone know WHO put in the request to the BOCS for the extra funds beyond the cap? Do we have a right to know who is the go-between, or did Wolfe himself just call up and say - hey, that’s not enough dough?

  10. anon said on 21 Jun 2013 at 9:19 am:
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    I thought Stewart made some big pronouncement not long ago - no more funding to the county arts groups?! When is that supposed to start, or is that all forgotten in wake of …

  11. chat said on 21 Jun 2013 at 10:00 am:
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    UPDATE 2 (above): Why didn’t anyone else in the voting process look straight at Mr. Wolfe and say, we all know that you are voting on funding that you yourself are going to receive. Perhaps you’d better abstain. …? Everyone on that council knows that Wolfe receives funding from them. ARE WE SAYING THAT NO ONE KNEW WHAT WOLFE WAS DOING, AS HE DID IT? Amazing.

  12. anon said on 21 Jun 2013 at 11:14 am:
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    Watch the video link - Aveni did just that, he called Wolfe out on it - no one else said a thing or supported Aveni!

    The Mayor then called for a voice vote to allow the vote to pass without singling out Wolfe it would seem?

    Randolf corrected the Mayor and asked for a voice vote.

  13. chat said on 21 Jun 2013 at 11:24 am:
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    anon @ 11:14 — Just watched it, thanks for the tip. Bravo, Mr. Aveni. It seems there is indeed someone with ethical sense on that council. Pity about the rest of them.

  14. anon said on 21 Jun 2013 at 11:55 am:
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    Wolfe as an elected official certainly has influence over staff, as does the mayor being on the ballet board, this influence rxtends to the county as well. Does anyone think the ballet would get almost $80K combined if not for this? Also, as has been pointed out, former council woman Bass is the president of the ballet. This one stinks, badly.

  15. Greg L said on 21 Jun 2013 at 2:11 pm:
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    “Wolfe said he writes the ballet’s grants, but his wife presents them on the organization’s behalf to the City Council. Wolfe abstains from voting on those allocations, but he does vote on the full budget.” from The Washington Post, “Manassas, accused of favoritism, rethinking arts funding process,” January 22, 2012

    So if Wolfe determined that it was improper or illegal to vote on city disbursements for the Manassas Ballet last year, why is it proper or legal for him to do so now? Is it because someone else is ghost-writing the application grants for Wolfe now?

  16. anon said on 21 Jun 2013 at 3:17 pm:
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    Wolfe needs to vote this year because Sheryl Bass is gone and it needs 4 yes votes to pass, he doesn’t have th e votes and he knows it.

  17. Scout said on 22 Jun 2013 at 9:50 am:
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    When did ballet become a “liberal cause” ? I’ve always thought it rather neutral, politically. I followed the link and it just put up some really bizarre, schoolboy constitutional analysis that dated back to February, but no mention of ballet at all.

    I suppose one might find some ballet works coming out of Communist China or Stalinist Russia that carry a lot of political freight (although I would hardly classify those as “liberal”), but, with that exception proving the rule, the ballet I have enjoyed over the decades is fairly frou-frou stuff with fairies, sorcerers, swans, etc.

  18. anon said on 22 Jun 2013 at 2:43 pm:
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    Scout: In the context of passage in which the phrase “liberal cause” is found, above, it refers not to the “ballet”, but to a city attorney who conveniently looks the other way while a fraudulent vote is taken to line the pockets of a man who has made suckers of the Manassas City Council and the BOCS. While you or I might have chosen a term such as “duplicitous” or perhaps “bamboozling” instead of “liberal”, let us not loose sight of the point. Happy to hear the lecture on ballet, but you’ve gotta admit that $23,000 is indeed a “liberal” amount of money to give away to a man who violates state and federal law just whenever it suits him… (OK, now I have used the word out of context … but the cause cannot be said to have been a “conservative”, or?

  19. effdemocrats said on 23 Jun 2013 at 1:17 pm:
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    I see the slick fart concern trolls are sinking their teeth into yet another conservative blog.

    Wonder when the rest of the pretend Republican sock puppets will show up?

  20. Cynic said on 24 Jun 2013 at 9:31 pm:
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    What about Amnesty and the Gang of Eight Traitors?

  21. chat said on 27 Jun 2013 at 9:34 pm:
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    eff and cynic: who are the gang of eight, and what is a slick fart concern troll? Just curious - you don’t hear that sort of thing everyday. Somehow this blog turned into weird stuff, when all anybody wanted to do was to get rid of a corrupt politician that was slurping up our money.

  22. Cynic said on 27 Jun 2013 at 11:14 pm:
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    Gang of 8 Traitors - http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2013/01/28/immigrations-gang-of-8-who-are-they/

    Not familiar with the slick stuff. However, if you are concerned about “slurping up our money” then have to conclude that you are against this just passed by the Senate Immigration Bill which is nothing more than a collection of packaged payoffs to various interest groups that favor Amnesty. Too many in Congress represent the interest and concerns of the illegals quiet well while the interest and concerns of the Citizens are ignored or never even considered.

    Just passed Senate Bill if passed by the House and then signed into law - well it is just a replay of the 1986 Amnesty debacle.

  23. chat said on 28 Jun 2013 at 8:48 am:
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    Our complaint here is only about Councilman Mark Wolfe and the Manassas Council, who knowingly allowed him to vote on a matter than would reward him personally. — (despite a valiant attempt by Mr. Aveni to stop him) — We are concerned that Mr. Wolfe still is allowed to hold public office, after clear violations of the law (yes, including defiance of a USCIS ruling several years back - a matter which both the City and the Council have allowed to “blow over”). Personal beliefs and opinions about this or that formal decision are irrelevant, however. The law is the law, no matter how anyone may think or vote - and no matter what office they now hold. Mr. Wolfe needs to go - now - before he finds some other way of offending the public.

  24. anon said on 28 Jun 2013 at 8:56 am:
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    By the way, does anyone know the outcome of the “decision” to allow or reject the vote? Shouldn’t there also be a decision pending about whether or not Wolfe has broken the law at the State level?

  25. BSinVA said on 28 Jun 2013 at 6:22 pm:
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    Quick, everyone look at our Governor. and his wife There is an example of what not to accept in public officials. Then let us use that same evaluation against Councilman Wolfe and Attorney Crim and Mayor Parrish. Let me know how that works for ya.

  26. may ferris said on 28 Jun 2013 at 9:33 pm:
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    How strange this is to read. One person speaks of Mark Wolfe, the City Attorney and the Mayor, who have committed specific offenses against the community, and another person brings up the gang of 8, and another person brings up the governor and his wife. It is hard to stay focused, I know. Maybe we are all just angry that people who abuse the privilege of office are not often punished. (I’m not sure what the governor and his wife have done, but I do think I know what the Manassas City Council and the BOCS have done, and it makes me ill to realize that they will just go on and on.)

  27. Annoymous said on 29 Jun 2013 at 8:01 am:
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    As a County resident, I would like to know why my County elected officials allow a city resident, Mark Wolfe, to head up the county taxpayer funded County arts panel which then awarded his wife’s city located ballet, The Manassas Ballet, the largest grant, seemingly with no questions asked and no strings attached?

  28. PaytoPlay said on 29 Jun 2013 at 8:09 am:
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    Hal Parrish the current mayor said there will be revote on this funding pending attorney review and all six council members being present. What a joke.

  29. may ferris said on 29 Jun 2013 at 6:01 pm:
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    Anonymous 8:01 - that is really a good question - no one ever has brought up his residency. Seems to me that county residents don’t have anything to say about Manassas City spending, so … what’s good for the goose, etc
    thanks for asking this question (wish I had an answer, but I’m afraid it would be that the BOCS plays in their own ball game, with their own rubber rules)

  30. anon1 said on 29 Jun 2013 at 6:08 pm:
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    He doesn’t actually head up the panel that awards the grants - those are just friends of his. The panel is assisted in its labors by an “arts liaison”. What Wolfe heads up is the arts council - that’s a loose pack of arts folks who are all looking for county money. They seem happy to have him as their guiding light, because he’s been doing that since before the dawn of time. Oddly enough, they don’t seems to care that he grabs money that is rightly theirs. They’ve been told, but they keep on electing him. Must be something in the water.

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