An ethics pledge where none had existed before had great urgency as the first order of business for Loudoun Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall after she took office this year. Now its first test is transpiring with no attention from the press.
Catoctin District Supervisor Geary Higgins, whose nice-guy image and eyes-on-the-horizon stance normally lift him high above reproach, last month sought a grant of about $150,000 from Loudoun County, to be funded with local proceeds from the Virginia Transient Occupancy Tax (a/k/a “hotel tax”) to offset recent losses to the non-profit Waterford Foundation after weather caused the cancellation of a fundraising event, the Waterford Fair. According to sources, the nonprofit had already spent about $200,000 on the fair before it was cancelled, and wants to recoup that money.
Let us count the facets of this ethical faux pas:
- The Virginia General Assembly declined an identical request presented by Sen. Dick Black, reportedly because it violates state law directing how state funds can be directed to charities.
- The application missed the deadline for funding from Loudoun County by almost four months, perhaps because it was busy rebounding from the state legislature.
- Until recently, a member of Supervisor Higgins’ family served on the board of directors of the Waterford Foundation.
- The Ethics Pledge championed by Chair Randall forbids exactly this in Section 8.
- The Waterford Foundation is a well-endowed non-profit that owns millions of dollars worth of property.
Supervisor Higgins is the only Republican on the Board of Supervisors who resisted snark and giggles when Chair Randall first arrived on the dais. For the first few meetings, he protected her blind side like Michael Oher protects Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers.
But uh-oh. As Cookie Monster once said about delayed gratification, ethics are very hard.