UPDATE: Citizens Petition to Judicially Recall Gainesville Supervisor Pete Candland

Citizens argue personal interest has compromised him

Posted

UPDATED: June 30, 2022, at 4:40 p.m.

Citizens of the Gainesville Magisterial District have created a judicial petition to recall Gainesville District Magisterial Supervisor Peter K. Candland-R. They read the petition to the Prince William Board of County Supervisors at its June 28 meeting. 

"Gainesville district citizens have launched an effort to recall Supervisor Pete Candland for his neglect of duty and misuse of office while personally enriching himself with the passage of the PW Digital Gateway Data Center Application," said a press release, announcing the petition. 

Candland owns property within the Pageland Lane area of Catharpin in the Gainesville District. In October, he signed on with his neighbors to sell his land to developers. The property would become part of the PW Digital Gateway Data Center corridor should the county supervisors approve rezoning the area and the application to develop the corridor or approve a Special Use Permit [SUP.]

Landowners could receive as much as $1 million per acre in the sale. Most of the residents own ten-acre lots, while some own more. 

Candland agreed to recuse himself from votes on the Digital Gateway and its rezoning; however, the petition claims Candland has already inappropriately participated in related votes and discussions: those relating to nearby data centers development and rezoning and the corridor itself. 

Candland signed on with his neighbors in October of 2021 but continued to vote on related items from November 2021 through the present time in 2022. He even continued to participate in votes and discussions after Commonwealth Attorney Amy Ashworth issued a written recommendation on May 20 that stated that Supervisor Candland ought to recuse himself.

The petition also argues that Candland inappropriately advised his neighbors regarding the deal. 

The Coalition to Protect Prince William County was instrumental in creating a petition, although there are other supporters who are not members of the group.  Elena Schlossberg, Executive Director of the Coalition shared the petition and an opinion piece with Bristow Beat, which announced the petition. 

The Coalition has advocated for the protection of Prince William County's Rural Crescent. In addition to its opposition to the incursion of data centers for environmental, beautification, and economic reasons, its leadership believes the citizens of the Gainesville District are not receiving fair representation on the board. 

Candland used to be a staunch defender of the Rural Crescent, so many residents feel he no longer represents their interests on the board in matters so great. 

They would prefer he resign of his own accord rather than be recalled from office, and call upon Candland to make that decision. 

“Candland compromised himself last fall when he included his personal residence in the Comprehensive Plan changes supporting data centers in the Rural Crescent and disqualified himself from discussing the related amendment.," said Coalition to Protect Prince William County Executive Director Elena Schlossberg. "A serious, ethical person would have realized an elected official who cannot discuss his constituents’ most important issue would have the decency to resign."

Citizens argue that a supervisor cannot be objective when he stands to gain millions of dollars from the sale of his property. And, while he may be refusing himself from the final vote, all previous votes set the stage for the final vote as it literally changes the landscape. 

“Pete Candland must resign – today – or be recalled,” Schlossberg said, Tuesday. “The citizens of his district are here to make that happen. Candland’s corrupt behavior and misuse of his office makes him unfit for public service at any level.”

Citizens have argued against the PW Digital Gateway for a number of reasons including water quality and the land's close proximity to the National Battlefield. 

Landowners argued for their land rights, but this year have pivoted to focus on the tax revenue that could be gained from data center development. Millions of tax dollars could better fund schools, they argued and would help to better fund Prince William County, and not on the backs of residential taxpayers. 

This article was updated on June 30 to include an introduction by Bristow Beat, and a revised draft of the petition as submitted by its author. 

Bristow Beat noted on June 29 that the petition has NOT yet been submitted to the circuit court. We had mistakenly reported that it had been as per the initial publication on June 28. 

PLEASE NOTE: The following Recall petition has NOT yet been sent to the Circuit Court.

The following is the petition. 

VIRGINIA: IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY

In Re: A Petition of at Least 1,796 Registered Voters Residing in the Gainesville Magisterial District for Judicial Recall of Peter K. Candland, Member of the County Board of Supervisors

                        Peter K. Candland

                        Respondent

PETITION

  1. Peter K. Candland is the Gainesville Magisterial District member of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors duly elected to office in 2019 by a majority of qualified voters. The total votes cast in that 2019 election for County Board Member for the Gainesville District in the 2019 election totaled 17,952.
  2. This petition seeks the judicial recall of Peter K. Candland pursuant to § 24.2-233 of the Code of Virginia (1950) as amended for neglect of duty and misuse of office where that neglect of duty and misuse of office has had a material adverse effect upon the conduct of the office and has been signed by at least 10%, or at least 1,796, of qualified registered voters living in the Gainesville Magisterial District of Prince William County.
  3. The undersigned qualified voters of the Gainesville Magisterial District of Prince William County seek the immediate suspension of Peter K. Candland from the Prince William County Board of Supervisors upon the filing of this petition, as allowed for by 24.2-236 of the Code of Virginia (1950) as amended, and subsequently set a trial for his removal from office.

FACTS

  1. This petition involves the conduct and actions of Supervisor Candland from October 25, 2021 to the present, occurring in Prince William County.
  2. On October 25, 2021, Supervisor Candland did execute both a Comprehensive Plan Amendment Initiation Form and Special Power of Attorney and Interest Disclosure Statement to include his property at 12888 Livia Drive, Catharpin, VA 20143, GPIN# 7499-64-5227 in Comprehensive Plan Amendment CPA 2021-00004 (PW Digital Gateway) to change the long-range land use from AE, Agricultural or Estate and ER, Environmental Resource to Technology / Flex (T/F) with a T-3 Transect. The intent is to create a digital corridor and include related impacts on supporting infrastructure and consider alternative comparable land use designation options that meet the needs of the Applicant and the priorities of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, specifically to allow for data center development outside the Data Center Opportunity Zone Overlay District on properties currently zoned agricultural (see Exhibit A).
  3. On November 2, 2021, Supervisor Candland executed a Disclosure of Personal Interest and Disqualification from Participation in a Transaction in Accordance With Virginia Code §§ 2.2-3112(A) and 2.2-3115(F), disqualifying him from participating in Comprehensive Plan Amendment #CPA2021-00004, PW Digital Gateway (see Exhibit B).
  4. At the December 7, 2021 Prince William County Board of Supervisors Meeting (hereafter BOCS Meeting), Supervisor Candland participated in a closed meeting for consultation with legal counsel regarding legal advice regarding tax assessment law, and actual or probable litigation in the matters of Board of Equalization 2018 tax assessment cases regarding several data centers in Prince William County (see Exhibit C).
  5. At the December 7, 2021 BOCS Meeting, Supervisor Candland participated in a closed meeting regarding legal advice regarding land use law, and actual or probable litigation in the matters of Rezoning and Proffer Amendment #REZ2021-0001 and Special Use Permit #SUP 2021-0002, I-66 and Route 29 Technology Park, a Rezoning case regarding an application for a data center complex in the vicinity to the PW Digital Gateway (see Exhibit C).
  6. At the December 7, 2021 BOCS Meeting, Supervisor Candland voted “nay” in the matter of Rezoning and Proffer Amendment #REZ2021-00001, 1-66 and Route 29 Technology Park (see Exhibit C).
  7. At the December 7, 2021 BOCS Meeting, Supervisor Candland voted “nay” in the matter of Special Use Permit #SUP2021-00002, 1-66 and Route 29 Technology Park (see Exhibit C).
  8. At the January 18, 2022 BOCS Meeting, Supervisor Candland voted “aye” to direct Staff to Postpone for Four to Six Weeks the Data Center Opportunity Zone Overlay District Community Meeting Scheduled for January 20, 2022 (see Exhibit D).
  9. At the March 1, 2022 BOCS Meeting, Supervisor Candland voted “aye” to Transfer, Budget, and Appropriate – $300,000 in Proffer Funds to the Pageland Lane Right Turn Lane Project that directly impacts CPA2021-00004 (See Exhibit E).
  10. At the March 1, 2022 BOCS Meeting, Supervisor Candland voiced no opposition to a staff directive to Remove the Bi-County Parkway from Staff’s Work Program in the Mobility Plan Update and to Focus on, and Bring Forward, Local Improvements and Solutions Versus a Regional Facility, despite the inclusion of such Local Improvements in CPA2021-00004 (See Exhibit F).
  11. At the March 1, 2022 BOCS Meeting, Supervisor Candland voted “nay” on the adoption of the Fiscal Year 2023 Real Estate Property Tax Levy, Fire Levy, Personal Property Tax Levies, Business, Professional and Occupational License Tax Levies, Motor Vehicle License Tax Levies, Personal Property Tax Relief, Special District Levies, and Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Fees to Support the Fiscal Year 2023 All Funds Budget which include an increase in the Computer Peripherals Tax applied to data centers (See Exhibit E).
  12. On April 3, 2022, Supervisor Candland participated in a meeting of nearby property owners and, on information and belief, counseled them on how to pursue rezoning of their properties to allow for data centers like the adjacent parcels in the PW Digital Gateway application (See Exhibit F).
  13. At the May 10, 2022 BOCS Meeting, Supervisor Candland participated in a work session regarding the Comprehensive Plan Update – Pathway to 2040, including a discussion of a land-use category designated ‘PW Digital Gateway’ for the properties encompassed by CPA2021-00004 (See Exhibit G).
  14. On May 20, 2022, Amy Ashworth, Commonwealth’s Attorney for Prince William County, in response to a request by Supervisor Candland, rendered a written opinion under the State and Local Government Conflict of Interests Act (see Exhibit H). Said opinion included the following:
  • Supervisor Candland may not participate in the discussion, consideration and/or vote on any rezoning application that involves coordination with the rezoning application involving data center(s) in the PW Digital Gateway CPA area.
  • Supervisor Candland may not participate in the discussion, consideration and/or vote on any matter involving data center(s) in the PW Digital Gateway CPA area.
  • Supervisor Candland may not participate in the discussion, consideration and/or vote on any matter involving data center(s) in the vicinity of the PW Digital Gateway CPA area.
  • Supervisor Candland may participate in the discussion, consideration and/or vote involving a data center in the Rural Area, so long as it is not in the vicinity of the PW Digital Gateway CPA area.
  • Supervisor Candland may not participate in the discussion, consideration, and/or vote on an amendment to the text of and/or map for the Data Center Opportunity Zone Overlay District, County Code Sec. 32- 509.01 et seq., while the PW Digital Gateway CPA and/or the rezoning application including his property is pending.
  1. At the May 24, 2022 BOCS Meeting, Supervisor Candland voted “aye” to initiate Comprehensive Plan Amendment #CPA2022-00015, Devlin Technology Park to allow for a data center outside the Data Center Opportunity Zone Overlay District (See Exhibit I).
  2. On May 24, 2022, H&H Capital Acquisitions filed a rezoning application for the northern portion of the PW Digital Gateway project. That application includes a Limited Power of Attorney executed February 6, 2022 and a Special Power of Attorney executed February 4, 2022 regarding a purchase agreement between Candland and H&H Capital Acquisitions LLC (see Exhibit J).  Upon information and belief, the purchase price offer is between approximately $900,000 and $1,000,000 per acre.
  3. On numerous occasions Supervisor Candland has ignored the County Attorney’s counsel and public comment with respect to recusing himself from these issues. Most notably, at the 3:03:49 mark of the January 18, 2022 BOCS Meeting, Supervisor Candland asserted that he differed with the County Attorney’s recommendation that he recuse himself from a vote on the directive to Staff to Postpone for Four to Six Weeks the Data Center Opportunity Zone Overlay District Community Meeting Scheduled for January 20, 2022. Similarly, at the 1:49:00 mark of the February 1, 2022 BOCS meeting, when voting on the execution of and amended agreement of sale of County Owned Property to Innovation Development, LLC, Supervisor Candland disclosed that he lived in the same neighborhood as the manager, but did not disclose that the manager is also Supervisor Candland’s authorized agent and attorney-in-fact for CPA 2021-00004.
  4. Upon information and belief, Supervisor Candland has not completed training on the provisions of the State and Local Government Conflict of Interests Act (§ 2.2-3100 et seq.) as required under § 2.2-3132 of the Code of Virginia.

neglect of duty and misuse of office

  1. all previous paragraphs are attached and incorporated herein.
  2. On October 25, 2021 (hereinafter “that date”), Supervisor Candland willfully executed a Comprehensive Plan Amendment Initiation Form and Special Power of Attorney and Interest Disclosure Statement to include his property at 12888 Livia Drive, Catharpin, VA 20143.
  3. Subsequent to that date, Supervisor Candland willfully participated in open and closed meeting discussions regarding tax assessment of data centers similar to those proposed in CPA 2021-00004.
  4. Subsequent to that date, Supervisor Candland willfully participated in the discussion, consideration and/or vote on matters involving data centers in the vicinity of the PW Digital Gateway CPA area, voting nay on those in closest proximity.
  5. Subsequent to that date, Supervisor Candland willfully participated in the discussion, consideration and/or vote on matters involving the Data Center Opportunity Zone Overlay District that could impact CPA 2021-00004.
  6. Subsequent to that date, Supervisor Candland willfully participated in the discussion, consideration and/or vote on matters regarding the expenditure of public funds for transportation improvements contained in or adjacent to the PW Digital Gateway CPA.
  7. Subsequent to that date, Supervisor Candland willfully participated in the discussion, consideration and/or vote on the Computer Peripherals Tax which would impact the data centers proposed in CPA 2021-00004.
  8. Subsequent to that date, Supervisor Candland willfully participated in a meeting of nearby property owners and, on information and belief, counseled them on how to pursue rezoning of their properties to allow for data centers like the adjacent parcels in the PW Digital Gateway application.
  9. Subsequent to that date, Supervisor Candland willfully participated in a work session regarding the Comprehensive Plan Update – Pathway to 2040, including a discussion of a land-use category designated ‘PW Digital Gateway’ and located on properties subject to CPA 2021-00004.
  10. Subsequent to that date, the County Attorney has disqualified Supervisor Candland from discussion and action and matters regarding CPA 2021-00004 and counseled Supervisor Candland to recuse himself from matters related to or in close proximity to CPA 2021-00004.
  11. Subsequent to that date, Supervisor Candland has selectively ignored the County Attorney’s counsel with respect to recusing himself from several of those matters.
  12. Upon information and belief, Supervisor Candland has willfully failed to complete training on the provisions of the State and Local Government Conflict of Interests Act (§ 2.2-3100 et seq.) as required under § 2.2-3132 of the Code of Virginia.
  13. Supervisor Candland waited approximately seven months from that date to seek an opinion regarding these conflicts from Commonwealth’s Attorney for Prince William County.
  14. Pursuant to counsel from the Commonwealth’s Attorney, Supervisor Candland did not attend the June 7, 2022 BOCS Work Session on Water Quality and Supply in Prince William County.
  15. Subsequent to that date, Supervisor Candland has willfully violated numerous provisions of Chapter 31 of the Code of Virginia.
  16. For the foregoing reasons, Supervisor Candland has willfully committed knowing violations of § 2.2-3122 of the Code of Virginia which constitutes malfeasance in office.
  17. Upon information and belief, Supervisor Candland’s participation in the transactions only affects his personal interest.

MATERIAL ADVERSE EFFECT

  1. As a result of his actions subsequent to October 25, 2021, Supervisor Candland has placed his own personal and financial interests above those of the residents of the Gainesville Magisterial District.
  2. As a result of his actions subsequent to October 25, 2021, Supervisor Candland has selectively left the residents of the Gainesville Magisterial District without representation at the Prince William County Board of County Supervisors on matters impacting the Gainesville Magisterial District.
  3. As a result of his actions subsequent to October 25, 2021, Supervisor Candland has selectively voted on land use matters within and/or impacting the Gainesville Magisterial District, votes which he should have been disqualified from casting.
  4. As a result of his selective actions subsequent to October 25, 2021, Supervisor Candland has cast doubt on the legitimacy of votes by the Prince William County Board of County Supervisors.
  5. Supervisor Candland has had discussions, consideration and/or voted on matters before the BOCS without disclosure of his personal and business relationships with the parties involved.
  6. Supervisor Candland has voted in the affirmative on the expenditure of public funds on public projects that would benefit his personal and financial interests.
  7. Supervisor Candland has voted on proposed tax rates that would benefit his personal and financial interests.
  8. The Commonwealth’s Attorney disqualified Supervisor Candland from discussion, consideration and/or vote on several land use matters comprising matters of Countywide application as well as several matters located within the Gainesville Magisterial District, effectively depriving residents of the Gainesville Magisterial District of representation on those matters before the BOCS.
  9. Thus the residents of the Gainesville Magisterial District have already suffered demonstrable harm that will continue until Supervisor Candland is removed from office.
  10. The undersigned qualified voters of the Gainesville Magisterial District of Prince William County find that each of the foregoing grounds could be deemed severable.

Wherefore, voters consisting of at least 10% of the votes cast in the 2019 election, or at least 1,796 qualified voters residing in the Gainesville Magisterial District, move this Court for the removal of Supervisor Peter K. Candland, Member of the County Board of Supervisors, from office immediately.

Petition Signatures to follow.

petition, Gainesville, Peter Candland, recall, circuit court, Prince William County, Virginia, recall, judicial, June 28, Board of County Supervisors, Gainesville District, Coalition to Protect Prince William County, data centers, property, sale, conflict of interest, recuse

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