UPDATED: Jan. 11 at 12:40 p.m. This newest update includes Bill Wright, author of the original letter to the editor, response to Supervisor Pete Candland's rebuttal of his published letter. Wright's response can be found at the end of the article.
UPDATED : Jan. 10 at 1:10 p.m. to include Supervisor Candland's response via email newsletter. It can be found below the Opinion Letter to the Editor, published by Bristow Beat on Jan. 8, 2022.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Candland Has Not Been Candid About Land Use
Bill Wright, resident of Gainesville
To the Editorial Staff:
I came across some damning documents (see attached) while combing through individual property owner applications for the Prince William Digital Gateway Comprehensive Plan Amendment on the County’s CPA website.
These letters indicate that Supervisor Pete Candland was advising his constituents to sign onto the Prince William Digital Gateway CPA as early as September 20th, 2021, but did not publicly announce his “reluctant” acquiescence to the proposal until November 4th. In the interim, he was presenting himself as the leading opponent of the proposal and was actively fundraising off this opposition as late as his Annual Chili Cook-Off on October 21st.
Supervisor Candland's claimed reluctance is clearly suspect. How he could he provide the advice he did to residents in nearby neighborhoods along Pageland Lane in mid-September and not give the same advice to his own neighborhood?
It would be bad enough if Pete Candland was just another two-faced politician. We are no longer surprised by such revelations. But his betrayal was worse. He not only sold us all out, but he left us high and dry in the process. His necessary recusal from voting on a matter in which he stands to profit means that his constituents who are most affected by the Prince William Digital Gateway proposal are left without representation in an exceedingly consequential land use decision. How can the County even allow this?
In the Navy, we used to say lead, follow or get out of the way. In the case of Pete Candland, his leadership was a lie, he’s following his own selfish interests and he doesn’t have the decency to get out of the way so someone who cares can represent us. He should resign or be removed from office on ethics violations.
And no vote on the Prince William Digital Gateway until Gainesville District residents have proper representation.
NOTE: Attached documents show that Supervisor Candland "advised" constituents living along Pageland Lane. It does not say whether the advice went beyond informing them on how to voice their opinions to the Prince William Planning Department.
This is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the views of Bristow Beat.
UPDATE: Jan. 10 at 1:10 p.m. The following is Gainesville Supervisor Pete Candland's (Republican) response as distributed via his email newsletter to his constituents. Received Jan. 8 at 1:37 p.m.
NEWSLETTER SUBJECT LINE: The Truth Must Be Upheld
Gainesville Supervisor Peter Candland (R)
It has become clear that my political opponents, and some who see an opportunity to run for the Gainesville Supervisor seat in 2023, are attempting to seize upon my conflicts of interest from voting on the land use issues along Pageland Lane as an opportunity to score political points. These opportunists haven’t been able to attack me on my extensive voting record, so they think that because I have a conflict of interest on an issue, they can sprinkle in some misinformation and hurt me politically.
To be clear, I fully expected to see this from the Democratic establishment and those Republicans who don’t like that I haven’t always towed the party line. Make no mistake, they want me out of the way.
They have seen over the years how I have stood firm on taxes, fought for transparency and accountability in government, voted against out-of-control development, pushed to increase the taxes on data centers, stopped a bad baseball stadium deal that would have only benefitted a wealthy few, opposed an asphalt plant in Manassas, increased funding for schools in a responsible way, and fought against continued school shutdowns. All of these policy initiatives have been done while improving our infrastructure and bringing more jobs to Prince William County.
While I fully expected these attacks, I will not stand by and let people spread lies and misinformation.
A recent op-ed was written in a local publication with the outrageous claim that I was “advising” my constituents to “sign onto the Prince William Digital Gateway CPA” while I was publicly fighting against it. The author of this op-ed implied that I was saying one thing and doing another. This is absolutely false and frankly I’m surprised that a local paper would allow something so egregious to be published without seeking my comments.
Enough is enough. I will not continue to remain silent while my political opponents make accusations that are patently false.
To address the claim made in the op-ed - after the Democrat majority on the Board voted 5-3 to start the process to allow data center in the rural areas, residents and HOA's along Pageland Lane reached out to me to ask how they could be included in the Comprehensive Plan changes. As their elected official, I let them know that if they wanted to be included, the process was to reach out to the County Planning Department. That is it – no more, no less. Anyone who says different either doesn’t know the facts or is trying to bolster their arguments for political purposes.
Regarding my conflict and my disqualification from votes on Pageland Lane – this is why there are conflict of interest rules on all levels of government. There is no ethical violation in my disqualification. If I were to vote on the upcoming land-use case along Pageland Lane, either for or against, that would be not only an ethical violation, but illegal.
We cannot allow our elected officials to vote on issues where they have a direct financial stake in its outcome...even if it threatens the outcome we'd like. Once we let the ends justify the means, we have lost the soul of our country.
To say that an elected official needs to resign anytime they have a personal conflict on a specific vote or handful of votes is unworkable and would require mass resignations across the country.
I live, work, and operate a business with my wife in Prince William County – there are going to be times I must recuse myself because of conflicts. While votes vary in impact to the community, the principle is still the same…we must maintain the integrity of each vote.
In fact, recusals on votes is not uncommon on the Board of County Supervisors. When a recusal by a Supervisor is necessary, each citizen still has representation through the at-large Chair who represents the entire county. We might not always like that, but it's the way we've setup our local government to ensure that people always have representation.
Over the last ten years, I have done everything in my power to be upfront and transparent with all of you. We might not always agree on every issue, but I work hard to be truthful and live up to the commitment I made when I took office. That commitment will always be there.
And let me be clear to all those who seek to spread misinformation in hopes to politically benefit themselves – I will no longer be silent and look forward to sharing the truth to the people of the Gainesville District.
Both points of view are opinions expressed by their authors and do not necessarily represent the views of Bristow Beat.
Bristow Beat has since highlighted its comment on the above first Letter to the Editor.
UPDATED: Jan. 11 at 12:42 p.m.
My comments on Supervisor Candland’s response to my Letter to the Editor
Bill Wright, Gainesville
My comments on Supervisor Candland’s response to my Letter to the Editor are below:
- Supervisor Candland’s suggestion that those dissatisfied with his performance of duty are motivated solely by political ambition reflects a very narrow and cynical view of the people he serves. I’m sure that’s what he’s consumed with, but the vast majority of his constituents are busy tending to their homes, jobs and families.
- I am retired and have no interest in running for public office. I only want the current office holder, who has compromised his effectiveness by putting his personal interests above those of his constituents, to step aside so that someone actually interested in representing the Gainesville District can do so. In that regard, many of our citizens want him out of the way.
- As for my “outrageous claim,” look at the attached letters. The first letter says “Supervisor Candland is advising his constituents who live along Pageland Lane to submit Applications for Long-Rang Land Use Map Changes During the Comprehensive Plan Update”. So if Supervisor Candland disputes that statement, he should take it up with the landowner who wrote that letter. My Letter to the Editor merely cites what appears in a public record. *
- What is truly outrageous is that Supervisor Candland continues to justify his suitability to serve even though his inability to do so effectively is due to his own personal choice that directly contradicted his public position. If he chooses to prioritize his personal interests over his public responsibility, then he has the option to resign from public office and return to private life.
- The ethical violation is not in his recusal per se, but in his selfish choice to make that recusal necessary. His 180-degree turnabout pulled the rug out from under thousands of his constituents whom he had led to believe he was fighting for. Despite abandoning them for his own personal benefit, he is completely unmoved by the fact that he will leave the constituents he duped without representation in a most consequential issue affecting their homes and quality of life. He has chosen to make his own political survival and aspirations more important than his commitment to public service.
- All recusals are not created equal. We are not talking about some innocuous conflict of interest regarding his ice cream shop. We are talking about the most sweeping changes in land use policy in Prince William County in decades.
- It is completely disingenuous for him to say that Gainesville District residents have representation by Chair-at-large Ann Wheeler. He knows full well of Chair Wheeler’s public support for the Prince William Digital Gateway proposal, so Supervisor Candland has no problem throwing his hapless constituents to the wolves.
- Supervisor Candland’s choice to desert, and then attack, his own constituents rather than acknowledge his own duplicity and selfish motivations make him an unfit representative for the Gainesville District.
Pete Candland led a Town Hall discussion on the Prince William Digital Gateway proposal in the Heritage Hunt clubhouse ballroom on August 12th. Although he stated his opposition to the proposal, he also said “I think there’s probably a 70 – 80% chance that this gets approved” and suggested that our residents should not expect to prevail and should focus on mitigation strategies. There is a video of this event (HH Townhall Aug 12 2021 - YouTube) and his deflating remarks start at 1:33:20.
A true leader would have used this opportunity to rally our neighborhood of 3,500 residents to join him in opposition. Instead, his defeatist attitude served to suppress any potential opposition. Residents came to his meeting hoping to learn what could be done to oppose this awful proposal and left it believing it was a lost cause. A platoon leader does not inspire his troops to charge by telling them they are certain to get killed.
It was not until November 4th that another community meeting was led by the Coalition to Protect Prince William County, the Prince William Conservation Alliance and the National Parks Conservation Association. These were the true leaders who energized citizens to oppose the proposal. Ironically, that was the same day Supervisor Candland released his “white flag” letter of capitulation, belatedly announcing action he had actually taken on October 25th (see attachment).** I personally waded into the fight on November 5th, motivated not by an uninspiring elected official who had prematurely folded his tent, but by principled and committed volunteers.
Pete Candland had an opportunity on August 12th to be extremely influential in motivating his constituents to actively get behind him in opposing the Prince William Digital Gateway. Instead, he kicked that opportunity away and threw a big bucket of cold water on any nascent effort. He has only himself to blame for his current impotent status.
*This attachment has been added. Jan. 12 at 8:15 p.m.
The opinions expressed in these three segments do not reflect the opinions of Bristow Beat, only of their authors. Bristow Beat determined that the content is worthy of discussion due to the significance of the rezoning.