Just who runs the Prince William County government these days? Who makes the decisions, and who minds the store?
If you thought that our elected officials, the members of the Board of County Supervisors were in charge, you would be wrong. They certainly have a role, but when elected officials butt heads with county staff about what our government is doing it is the staff that has the last word. Perhaps you thought democracy was a foundational principle in local government. Perhaps you thought that because the Board of Supervisors had the technical authority to hire and fire staff that they’d be able to direct what staff does and how they do it. Perhaps you swallowed all that inspirational gibberish that government peddles to the masses that talk about how wonderful a system of government we have and how it’s supposed to reflect the will of the people.
Clearly you have been mislead.
Supervisor Pete Candland is trying to get to the bottom of “logo-gate.” He wants to know how much money and effort was secretly spent by county staff developing logos for the county and who made the decisions. Candland sent a request to County Executive Melissa Peacor — someone who is nominally an employee of the Board of Supervisors of which Candland is a member — asking for this information.
That should be pretty unremarkable. A superior asks someone who works for them for information about how they are performing their duties. You’d expect they provide that information immediately, right?
That’s not what happened. County Executive Melissa Peacor got Woodbridge District Supervisor Frank Principi to object. Now Candland’s request for information from the county employees he is charged with supervising is being treated as a Freedom of Information Act request as if he’s some random citizen instead of an elected official. Candland will be personally liable for whatever costs the county can claim are related to looking for documents related to his questions and producing copies. The best part is that if the information he is asking for isn’t in a document, the county won’t provide him with an answer.
I can just see how this is going to turn out. ”The county was unable to find any documents responsive to your request. By the way you personally owe us $435 for telling you this.”
If this behavior reminds you of the kind of complaints leveled against King George in the Declaration of Independence, you’re not alone. This is tyranny, plain and simple. This is the behavior of utter tyrants who think they have some authority to hand the taxpayer’s money over to friends and acquaintances so they can pursue inconsequential and stupid diversions that serve the public in no way whatsoever, all without having to answer to anyone — even the people who nominally employ them. At their disposal are all the awesome and fearsome powers of government which they can similarly employ to their own ends equally without oversight and to what ends we can only imagine.
This has only happened because our elected officials have collectively acted as meek lapdogs hoping to get whatever favors and approval our county executive and the rest of the staff are willing to dispense. Governance is nearly dead in Prince William County, and if the Board of County Supervisors does not quickly correct this problem with a mass firing of the miscreants who are responsible for this coup, those supervisors unable or unwilling to restore democracy in our government need to be vigorously drummed out of office.
Our Board of Supervisors will have the chance to choose which heads will roll, but roll they will. It will either be the heads of the tyrants, or it will be the heads of the weak-kneed, unprincipled, collection of milquetoasts that currently misrepresent several magisterial districts in this county who permitted this to happen.
UPDATE: The Washington Post reports that the request for information has now become a Board Directive, so Candland isn’t going to have to pay for a FOIA request to get information from the government employees he is supposed to be overseeing. While that seems to have resolved the immediate issue, nothing has been done to resolve the issue of how Melissa Peacor and county staff are trying to run county government as their own personal enterprise and how the Board has collectively failed to stop that from happening.
The opinions expressed here are solely the views of the author, and not representative of the position of any organization, political party, doughnut shop, knitting guild, or waste recycling facility, but may be correctly attributed to the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. If anything in the above article has offended you, please click here to receive an immediate apology.
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