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Peacor Declares War On Supervisor Jeanine Lawson

By Greg L | 14 January 2015 | Prince William County | 19 Comments

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one whose eyes popped after reading an article posted yesterday on Potomac Local that detailed the costs of establishing a permanent office for newly-elected Brentsville Supervisor Jeanine Lawson.  This is going to cost taxpayers nearly a quarter of a million dollars?  For a small office?  What the hell is going on here?

And then when you start digging a little, you realize that this is nothing more than a preemptive strike by county staff to smear Lawson (and Supervisor Pete Candland) as a huge spendthrift right as she assumes office.  This might qualify as the most outrageous story of the year, but with the ridiculousness we’ve seen from the county lately I wouldn’t be surprised if this pales in comparison to the open warfare between county staff and our elected officials I expect to see.

When it became clear last year that the Scott Jacobs campaign was developing into a laughingstock of political stupidity and Lawson was certainly going to prevail in the December special election, Wally Covington quietly vacated his office near the Judicial Complex, which was massively inconvenient for Brentsville residents since it was two districts away from the magisterial district he supposedly represented, but awfully convenient for a practicing attorney with plenty of business at the courthouse.  This left Lawson with nowhere to go, and by the time Lawson was sworn in nobody was telling Lawson where she would set up shop.  Happy victory, newly-elected supervisor, you can camp out in your living room and try to govern from there.

Lawson’s office was then shoved into an industrial space leased by the Public Works Division at the failing Innovation industrial complex near George Mason University.  In 2011 the county negotiated a ten year lease for 12,000 square feet at $10.50 per sq. ft. with BeBoRi LLC, which is owned by one of the county land development big-wigs who’s a mover-and-shaker with he local Chamber of Commerce and at the time hurting pretty badly because his investment in flex-space in Innovation wasn’t paying off and largely sitting vacant.  Why the Records Center moved from Woodbridge to Innovation in the first place is another question, as it’s not as if it’s any more convenient to the McCoart Center, which was one of the arguments staff used to justify all this to the Board of Supervisors

Apparently at least 2,000 square feet at this facility wasn’t actually needed by the county’s Records Center, so that’s where they stuck Lawson.  Heck, somebody has to be paying the rents on commercial spaces at Innovation, so it might as well be the taxpayer.  At least the space is cheap.

Now for the first time in anyone’s memory, we have an article outlining the costs of moving Supervisor Lawson out of that space into something that would actually work for her and her constituents.  There’s an amazingly detailed listing of the costs of - wait for it - what county staff claims were the costs of establishing Supervisor Pete Candland’s office.  Gee, what a surprise.  The two supervisors demanding fiscal restraint from County government get to have the county spit out all sorts of exorbitant cost information that makes it looks like these two Supervisors are throwing money around for their own benefit while trying to starve the poor people of Woodbridge by defunding useless projects to “underground” existing utilities at the cost of $12 million per mile.

If the county is actually paying $1,000 per office chair, $350 for a friggin’ telephone and an astonishing $2,500 for a 12 port network switch (that should cost less than $60), we have a much bigger problem in the county than where supervisors have their offices.  We’re actually running dedicated fibre lines to supervisor offices (costing $5,500 to install them) instead of signing them up for Comcast or Verizon internet service for about $60/month, which could also provide them with phone service through a VOIP provider?  Either there’s another massive embezzlement or bid-rigging scandal just waiting to be uncovered at the Office of Information Technology, or these figures are outright lies.

Of course the only reason we’re talking about the capital expenses to establish an office is because county staff took away the Brentsville Supervisor’s office in the closing days of Wally Covington’s tenure, where the newly appointed judge along with county staff handed a great “bennie” to the Commonwealth’s Attorney office by giving them space in the most iconic building of the historic district of Manassas.  Now they’ve got Lawson schlepping around Brentsville like a nomad, utterly subject to whatever public relations nightmares they can dream up for her because they control all the negotiations for leased space, control all the contracts for equipment and services for that office, and pretty much exercise veto power over anything having to do with how a space for Lawson would be set up.  The more they waste taxpayer money, the worse they make Jeanine Lawson look.  What a great incentive to exercise (or not) fiscal restraint, isn’t it?

I’d love to see Lawson slap back this Machivellian hardball tactic by buying a house in Nokesville, converting it into office space and demanding the county lease the space from her.  As the property owner, she could outfit and furnish it however she liked (and certainly at considerably less cost than the county would incur) and have the pleasure of making Melissa Peacor approve sending her a check every month that would cover her mortgage costs and utilities expenses while she builds a nice financial nest egg for her family while having a great place to hold campaign events.  She could invite Peacor to every one of them, just for the enjoyment of watching her send harmless yet entertaining death rays through her eyeballs as she looked at the place.  Heck, you could probably sell tickets to a spectacle like that.

Just when are we going to clean house at McCoart?  How long do we have to put up with this crap?

UPDATE: The Sheriff has more on this, including some interesting intel on what happened behind closed doors in Peacor’s office.



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19 Comments

  1. Jim Riley said on 14 Jan 2015 at 1:36 pm:
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    At the next BOCS meeting, Candland and Lawson should strike back by introducing a resolution to abolish the County Executive form of government in PWC and either return to the traditional form that is employed by Loudoun and Stafford or go to the County Manager form used by Henrico.

    http://www.dhcd.virginia.gov/CommissiononLocalGovernment/PDFs/alt.co.gov.06.pdf

  2. StaffordGOPer said on 14 Jan 2015 at 2:02 pm:
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    Or they could propose no taxpayer funded office space and staff for Supervisors, like they have in Stafford. I know the argument is the size of the county they need staff and office space. Baloney I say the offices and staff just encourages professional politicians. In Stafford Supvs. have no office space and no personal staff. They have one shared employee for constituent services and can ask County Admin staff to be tasked to help them with particular projects/constituent service.

  3. Brian said on 14 Jan 2015 at 2:34 pm:
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    While you’re talking about OIT perhaps you can ask why they charge County departments @ $1000/year per computer just for licenses? Every year the County is paying more than enough to buy a new computer for every user.

    For that price why not let the departments go out and buy their own laptops/PCs?

  4. Mo said on 14 Jan 2015 at 6:01 pm:
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    Peacor has been a problem for years. Why hasn’t anything been done?

  5. Dave said on 14 Jan 2015 at 9:19 pm:
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    The Manassas Courthouse office space was not a shot at Lawson but a coup by Paul Ebert to get more office space. Though it is not convenient…I hope May boots him out of office. The CA and State should restore the ole Bennett School and move in there…be perfect location and the building has been languishing there for years

  6. Anon said on 14 Jan 2015 at 10:26 pm:
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    Well, if you don’t spend 12 million dollars ($12,000,000.00) burying utility lines in Woodbridge, then spending a more realistic (WAG of) 50 thousand dollars to rent and furnish a new supervisor office in a retail space, is just not a big deal. That 12 million dollar cost savings would allow PWC to establish about 240 new offices, by my estimate. Oh, and my estimate is VERY conservative. . . Just say’in.

  7. El Cid said on 15 Jan 2015 at 10:34 am:
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    I am absolutely laughing at the depiction of the vacated space at the old courthouse as some sort of swanky real estate, and this is huge boon to the PWC CA’s office, at the expense of Lawson.

    It’s an single-person office, designed for a time when writing utensils still smelled like the birds they were plucked from. Drafty and dusty with and odor that is best described as “historically-stinky”. Nothing in the way of acoustical properties that consider we have used telephones for some time. About the only thing going for it is it is close to the courthouse. Great for a prosecutor, or other lawyer. Not so much for meeting constituents, unless of course, these constituents are also being handled in the criminal justice system.

    The space could best be described by yesterday’s standards as an “office”. Perhaps, in terms of the 1980’s a “coat room”. Today, it’s a walk-in closet.

    This is a manufactured scandal.

  8. winston said on 15 Jan 2015 at 5:50 pm:
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    Why not just give her one of those “historic” buildings in Brentsville and some money to make it usable?

    Only someone completely ignorant of reality thinks that a “$60 switch is enterprise class or that “$1000″ buys a “computer”. Get a clue about what it actually buys before whining. The same for the $350 telephone. Go get one at Best Buy and see if it comes with dial-tone. Comcast and VOIP? HTH will you connect them back to the county network? How much will the support contract be? Will you have a 48 hours SLA. I bet Brian is one of those who bitches about not being able to get his Facebook to load fast enough.

    I’m a guy that does this for a living and I agree with the point you are trying to make but you are clueless.

  9. Greg L said on 15 Jan 2015 at 9:43 pm:
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    There’s a total of four people in that office. If you need enterprise-class switches for a workgroup this small, you’re doing it wrong. Just throw in a Sonicwall and a Netgear 16-port switch and call it a day for less than 1/5 of what OIT is saying is required.

    Networking used to be a lot harder back when I was a NetWare admin. Cheaper too now, by one heck of a lot.

  10. it curmudgeon said on 15 Jan 2015 at 11:39 pm:
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    Some thoughts on:

    SLAs: All this means is that you get a service credit calculated as (cost of service) / 30 * days service is out.

    In the case of the Verizon T1 line that went down for 48 hours, that amounted to a whopping $30.

    They won’t give you anything more than that–a pro-rated credit for the length of time that the service is out.

    “Enterprise Class Switches”

    Shouldn’t cost $2500 for 12 ports. I’m sure the County is too good to buy used equipment, however, a used 24 gigabit port + 4 SFP Cisco 3750 switch can be had for well under $500.

    If you’re not particular to Cisco (I’m not), a used Dell, Avaya, or HP switch of comparable specification (including Layer 3 routing) can be had for well under $300.

    That’s assuming that a switch of those specs is actually needed for a small office.

    “Seat Management Fees”

    Are about $2500 per PC per year from the OIT. That’s on top of the cost of the PC itself. Not sure if that includes the cost of the network drop or if they charge another $50/month for that ($100/month if you want gigabit–gotta pay for those $3000 12-port switches somehow, right?)

    “$350 telephone”

    $30 buys you a used Cisco 7940 IP phone and some paper towels and Windex to clean it up and make it look new. Add a few bucks if you need some Goo-Gone to get any stickers off the phone.

    What, you think I’m gonna buy my users brand new phones? Are you crazy? I don’t get a seat management fee. They oughta be happy they’re getting a speakerphone. (Apparently, the previous IT guy did, in fact, charge one of the departments for new speakerphones to the tune of $300 each..they wanted more speakerphones and came and asked me what it would cost since it was $300 last time…I told ‘em…I can get you used ones for $30 each or I can get you new ones for $300 each..your choice..surprise surprise, they went with the used ones which, surprise surprise, have been working fine since they were installed months ago).

    “Netware”

    I kinda liked Netware, but I only got to work on it a little bit before it went the way of the 8-track.

  11. winston said on 16 Jan 2015 at 8:27 am:
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    As I said Greg, you don’t have a clue about enterprise IT. Curmudgeon, you don’t get it either. You both talk SOHO. That isn’t scalable to enterprise. What do they have, 4-5000 employees and cover a whole county? How many people does it take to support all of the various gear you got because you saved some money by not standardizing? I guarantee they are already understaffed so instead of remotely managing it you have to find the person that A. knows whatever the hell it was you put in that office and B. Is available to take a drive. Wow, you bought a $60 switch with a year warranty. That $2500 switch will last 10 years and is guaranteed to provide the throughput advertised. The SOHO won’t. Neither of you addressed the cost of providing the network and the dial tone. You think it’s free?

    BTW - I liked Netware too but they never really got past their excellent file and print services….and the Microsoft Marketing Machines

  12. winston said on 16 Jan 2015 at 8:36 am:
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    I just read on another blog that they have remote access so that brings up the question of what that system looks like and how they secure it. It sounds like you guys would hang a modem off of a server. In reality and in order to keep your data secure you need broadband connectivity, VPN clients, servers, firewalls, etc. What does Best Buy sell?

  13. Interested Observer said on 16 Jan 2015 at 9:04 am:
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    At risk of diving into a debate brimming with techno-babble, I must agree with Winston. PWC is a government entity, subject to a plethora of security and privacy regulations that would make your head spin. Then there’s the entire support aspect. I do believe PWC contracts out some portion of their desk-side and remote office support. Per the contract, certain standards with regards to make, model, and configuration must be observed. Standards also ensure interoperability. Also, hardware must be supportable/upgradable, and bugs and holes require frequent patching via firmware update. Lastly, there’s the whole asset management thing to consider. Assets are valued and depreciated over their projected lifecycle.

    In layman’s terms: PWC is a public enterprise, subject to many laws and restrictions, must legally observe certain operational standards, as well as procurement standards. Departments and employees aren’t free to pop on down to best-buy and purchase what’s on sale, or hunt up a bargain on craigslist to find some used piece of equipment, and throw it on the official network.

    In anticipation of the comments like “That’s why government is so wasteful! They make stupid, expensive decisions like this all the time…” understand that no responsible company that deals with personal, identifiable information, has written customer service level objectives, observes IT industry best practices, is governed by public procurement law, and finally, adheres to accepted accounting principles, would even consider buying cheap, non-standard, or used equipment.

  14. it curmudgeon said on 16 Jan 2015 at 10:00 pm:
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    “Also, hardware must be supportable/upgradable, and bugs and holes require frequent patching via firmware update.”

    For a period of time I had to keep track of IAVAs (Information Assurance Vulnerability Alerts) from DoD-CERT. In a 9-month period, there were one or two vulnerabilities that required updating firmware on network equipment vs. the dozens and dozens for Windows, Java, Flash Player, etc.

    So while monthly and quarterly updates for Windows machines are the norm, they definitely aren’t for routers and switches.

    In fact, it is the norm for Cisco gear to be running the IOS version it was installed with, years later. When it comes to firmware updates, most network engineers appear to operate under the principle “If it’s working, leave it alone”.

    “In layman’s terms: PWC is a public enterprise, subject to many laws and restrictions, must legally observe certain operational standards, as well as procurement standards.”

    There is nothing in the Virginia Public Procurement Act which prevents a locality from buying used equipment. In fact the Act specifically allows the purchase of equipment at auction.

    The locality may, of course, set their own procurement policy which would prevent the purchase of used equipment, but in that case it’s their own decision–they are not forced into it.

    “adheres to accepted accounting principles”

    Which are different for commercial entities and public entities.

    Just a couple of differences are that public entities aren’t subject to taxation, and aren’t covered under Sarbanes-Oxley.

  15. it curmudgeon said on 16 Jan 2015 at 10:39 pm:
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    “I just read on another blog that they have remote access so that brings up the question of what that system looks like and how they secure it. It sounds like you guys would hang a modem off of a server. In reality and in order to keep your data secure you need broadband connectivity, VPN clients, servers, firewalls, etc. What does Best Buy sell?”

    Why hang a modem off a server? Are we back in 1992 or something?

    I have a forthcoming project that may require the use of a modem (telemetry for an industrial control application; doesn’t require much bandwidth), and if that is so I will hang it off a Cisco router, not a server.

    What’s inherently insecure about a modem, anyway? I would suggest that they, in fact, are more secure than an internet-connected system. You can’t very well packet-sniff a modem connection; you’d have to physically tap into the line and then figure out some way to actually eavesdrop on the modem. Connecting your own modem into the line? Some older 1200/2400 baud modems did allow you to passively monitor a line, but nothing newer has that capability.

    Modems are slow, though.

    I’ve found that pfSense running on server-grade hardware, like a Dell PowerEdge, makes a great VPN server. It supports ipsec, l2tp, openvpn, and pptp. It’s web interface is also a lot better than SonicWall. And with server-grade hardware, you get dual power supplies and error-correcting RAM. What SonicWall has dual power supplies and error-correcting RAM?

  16. winston said on 17 Jan 2015 at 8:06 am:
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    curmudgeon, you are still talking SOHO and not addressing anything more than periphery issues that an enterprise faces. You sound like you would be a good asset in an enterprise especially after you learn the differences.

    BTW - switches do require patches and bug fixes. That “leave it alone” thing is no longer acceptable. pfSense is NOT enterprise grade. A few thousand users and several hundred megs of bandwidth will kill one. What is the SDLC for this product? What are your guarantees? Enterprise firewalls aren’t low cost items.

    Unless you buy a secure modem I probably can hack your modem. I don’t care about the traffic on the modem. I want into your system and a router is just a good of a place as any to start from.

    How are you managing the patch schedule on all of the open source stuff you use? Upgrade/patch a few thousand devices each month without tools won’t work. Once you get the tool who is going to use it? How many man hours will that require?

    What are you doing for your virtual envoronment? How are you dealing with several hundred servers? The old practice of just racking them up is not working any more. You run out of space and power and then redundancy becomes an issue.

    PWC provides 24×7x365 broadband remote access to their Public Safety people. The State and Feds have security requirements for that access. I’m betting that isn’t cheap.

    Anyway, this has been fun but until you’ve tried to run an enterprise it’s really hard to imagine what it takes. That goes for the BOCs as well since some of them seem to have no clue and also think networks and dial tones are free.

  17. it curmudgeon said on 17 Jan 2015 at 10:32 am:
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    “Unless you buy a secure modem I probably can hack your modem. I don’t care about the traffic on the modem. I want into your system and a router is just a good of a place as any to start from. ”

    Yea, sure you can.

    After you manage to establish a PPP connection you still aren’t getting anywhere because now you’ve got to establish a VPN connection on top of that, which is going to require a secure certificate that you aren’t going to have, along with a username and password you aren’t going to have.

    And if that modem happens to be connected to a leased line instead of the dialup network (Verizon charges $20/month for a voice grade private line vs. $100/month for the two business phone lines you’d otherwise need), well you can just forget about even trying to get in unless you’re willing to tamper with Verizon equipment, which as they say “leaves plenty of physical evidence for prosecution”.

    “pfSense is NOT enterprise grade. A few thousand users and several hundred megs of bandwidth will kill one. ”

    That depends entirely on the hardware it is running on. Probably, though, if you were expecting several thousand VPN users, you’d have more than one VPN server.

    “What are you doing for your virtual envoronment? How are you dealing with several hundred servers? The old practice of just racking them up is not working any more. You run out of space and power and then redundancy becomes an issue.”

    VMWare. Storage? FC SAN.

    Interestingly, you can run pfSense under VMWare.

    “PWC provides 24×7×365 broadband remote access to their Public Safety people. The State and Feds have security requirements for that access. I’m betting that isn’t cheap.”

    The state requirements are identical to the fed requirements which are:

    CJIS requires two-factor authentication. There are a number of options for two-factor authentication with widely varying costs. CJIS does not dictate the particular option to be used; it is up to the agency to determine what option to use. CJIS also requires a minimum level of encryption; 128-bit or better.

    “Anyway, this has been fun but until you’ve tried to run an enterprise it’s really hard to imagine what it takes.”

    I’m a single person supporting all of the IT infrastructure for a 140-desktop organization, on a shoestring budget.

    If that means I use open-source software where possible and buy used equipment where possible, then that is what I do. The alternative is to do without; which is not acceptable to me, my boss, or the users I support.

    In the end, I think it’s about service levels vs. cost. If your service levels are going down and your costs are going up, you are doing something wrong. Think NMCI contract for an example of that. USMC pays lots of money to HP (nee EDS) for what is really poor service.

    If, on the other hand, your costs are going down and your service levels are going up, you’re doing something right. Maybe it’s something as simple as doing your job because the previous guy wasn’t doing his.

  18. winston said on 17 Jan 2015 at 3:27 pm:
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    Curmudgeon, everything you say works fine in the SOHO. You take that to the enterprise and your service levels will get worse. BTW - you are wrong about the danger from the modems. That’s why all of our out-of-band management that uses an analog modem has a secure modem hanging off of it. It costs a good bit more but we sleep better.

  19. Henry said on 5 Feb 2015 at 2:46 pm:
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    I am not sure how this morphed from Peacor needs to go to IT specs, but the real issue is Peacor.

    She has been on the power grab for years, and if the BOCS, she is the tail wagging them. The whole IT, or OIT issue persists even after criminal indictments were metered out . She should have been charged in that case as she was advised there was larceny afoot long before the PD got involved.

    Speaking of PD, she is more than likely behind the sudden retirement of several top county officials, including the Chief. She manipulated the acquisition if the Park Authority, and got rid of their voices of opposition soon thereafter. She has her targets set on more takeovers, and for the love of me I cannot figure why the BOCS lets her get away with her vicious attacks on them, and anyone else who dares to challenge her.

    You need to sic her Greg, she has always been bad for the county, and will run it to ruin before she jumps ship leaving as much of a mess as Obama will when he’s gone.

    By the way, I’m back…. been holding a lot of stuff in for a couple years, but since elections are coming around, people need to know it is time to rid the “leadership” (what an oxymoron) of the pocket lining, corrupt (legally and morally), liars and cheats. They know who they are, now hopefully the voters will at least learn who they are.

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