Ethics, schmethics

Why do I keep thinking about this old Yiddish joke these days?

Two old guys are sitting on a park bench. Two hours go by in silence. Finally, one lets out a heartfelt, “Oy.” Other guy says, “If you’re going to talk politics, I’m leaving.”

The last board of supervisors, in the wake of four years of ethically challenged conduct by the very developer-friendly Republican majority of the 2003–2007 board, adopted an ethics standard requiring all supervisors to recuse themselves from voting on issues that directly benefited themselves or a campaign contributor. All but the reliable Eugene Delgaudio, R-Neptune R-Sterling, signed (see noticeable absence, right).

Nary a word has been heard yet from the new very developer friendly all-Republican board about such niceties as ethics standards. None have signed any ethics statement; not a peep has been heard from Chairman Scott York, Loudoun County’s very own Vicar of Bray, about introducing such an ethics standard for his new board. I guess when you have a 9–0 majority, your motives are beyond reproach, as it were.

You always know a real whopper is impending when an elected official starts laying down a smokescreen and excuses before they’ve even done something that required hiding or excuses. In her first chatty and marvelously vague newsletter to constituents, Supervisor Janet Clarke (R-Blue Ridge) earnestly explains that she wants “to expedite compromises” to “reduce the amount of costly litigation countywide and to promote positive outcomes.” (She obviously took one of those PR classes where they tell you always to use nice words like “compromise” and “positive” when you’re about to screw someone over.) It will be interesting to see if Ms. Clarke and her no-ethics-pledge colleagues will feel it necessary to recuse themselves from “expediting compromises” with aggrieved parties suing the county over land rezonings, when said aggrieved parties happen to be the developers who donated more than $460,000 to local Loudoun Republican candidates this time around.

All discussions by the board about settling lawsuits take place in closed session. And good luck trying to find anywhere on the labyrinthine Board of Supervisors web site any list of pending actions against the county.

(Much less in York’s “Action Report” e-mails, which by the strangest of coincidences omit mention of actions he’d rather the public not know about, such as the board’s killing the illegal-sign cleanup program. Though that same e-mail from York helpfully listed “volunteer opportunities,” a nice little irony given that the board had just eliminated a volunteer program that enlisted citizens to keep Loudoun beautiful.)

Of course, the price to the county of “costly litigation” to uphold the current zoning ordinance will be trivial compared to the costs down the road of increased schools, roads, fire and police, and other services demanded by new development. But those costs will simply be born by us poor saps the taxpayers, after our current faithful public servants on the board have gone on to better things.

In a word, Oy.

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