Sept. 19, Brentsville Supervisor Jeanine Lawson-R has accused former Gainesville Supervisor Pete Candland of possible misconduct in advising companies doing business with Prince William County, including those he voted upon when he was on the board. However, this is not the only allegation lodged against the supervisor.
Gainesville citizen Bill Wright previously contacted the Commonwealth Attorney Amy Ashworth, informing her that Candland had been consulting for LSI Comm, a PR firm for businesses trying to seek government approval within a year after leaving office.
This is possibly prohibited by county policy, ARTICLE III.A. - RESTRICTIONS ON ACTIVITIES OF FORMER OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES. The policy limits what elected officials and county employees are allowed to partake in the first year after leaving office. However, much of the law is open to interpretation.
LSI’s website states that "with over 20 years of combined government experience, our team knows how to navigate the halls of government," and companies who work with them will have their, "message heard by the right elected officials."
LSI is currently working with residents of Pageland Lane to help manage their rezoning application. However, as Candland is a member of the assembly he is not involved in that project.
Michael Young, communicating on behalf of LSI, responded that LSI hired Pete Candland (for pay) in March of 2023, due to his “illustrious track record” in communications and his commitment to the community.
However, they first had an attorney counsel them that they were not infringing upon any law.
“I would also like to emphasize that Pete's engagement with LSI was reviewed by our outside legal counsel in advance to ensure there were not any potential conflicts of interest, in strict adherence to the county and state code,” Young said in an email.
On LinkEd In, Candland describes himself marketing professional who aids communications among parties. "An interactive communicator and collaborator – skills that enable me to establish authentic relationships with local businesses, government officials, community members, and industry leaders."
Candland is the president of Red Letter Consulting, a PR agency that specializes in serving nonprofits. The company describes itself as existing "to help organizations address their strategic planning, fundraising, and operational needs."
Red Letter Consulting has an almost identical website to LIS, but Young said that is only because Candland had a hand in both of them. He said the companies are, otherwise, not related.
Candland's other consulting work was not addressed during the media conference.
Lawson’s aide provided the media with said documents literally moments before the start of the conference. This meant reporters were unable to read over the documents before she began speaking This left everyone proverbally scratching their heads and prevented most reporters from asking pertinent questions.
While the email Lawson shared included redactions, Bristow Beat found that Candland offered his services to Yondr, the data center developer building one of its centers behind Amberleigh Station on land owned by Chuck Kuhn. This is one of the most highly contested data centers and one that Candland voted for in the fall of 2021. There was little opposition to it at the time.
County Policy III. A regarding these kinds of consultations is vague, leaving room for interpretation.
ARTICLE III.A. - RESTRICTIONS ON ACTIVITIES OF FORMER OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES
(a) Officers and employees are prohibited, for one year after the date their terms of office have ended or their employment has ceased, from providing personal and substantial assistance for remuneration of any kind, other than that arising out of and in the course of duties as an elected official or judge of any court, to any party other than Prince William County or a state or federal governmental agency in connection with any proceeding, application, case, contract, or other particular matter involving the county or an agency thereof, if that matter is one in which the officer or employee participated personally and substantially as a county officer or employee through decision, approval, or recommendation.
(b) The board of county supervisors by resolution may modify all or a portion of this prohibition with respect to a particular officer or employee when it concludes that the future employment of that officer or employee will not negatively impact Prince William County.
(Ord. No. 91-69, 6-4-91; Ord. No. 99-16, 3-9-99)
More information, including background, can be found here.
Wright, who lives in Heritage Hunt in Gainesville, believes the Prince William Digital Gateway rezoning should be postponed until the matter of conflict of interest is legally settled.
"The Prince William Board of County Supervisors is intent on rushing through controversial data center projects like the gargantuan Prince William Digital Gateway during the 'lame duck' period between Election Day and the end of their terms in a deliberate maneuver to circumvent public opposition," said Wright.
"Citizens of Prince William County demand a prompt and thorough investigation and request that any land use applications which may have been tainted by improper lobbying be held in abeyance until the investigation is complete and citizens have an assurance of honest and impartial government processes."
Lawson, who is running for county supervisor, announced she asked for Candland to be investigated shortly before early voting occurred.
On social media residents debated whether that equates to an "October surprise."
Lawson has been working to delay the vote on the Prince William Digital Gateway until the new board takes office.