Selfless public service (not)

When we last left the touching tale of the efforts by the son of Supervisor Geary Higgins’s (R-Catoctin) appointee to the Historic District Review Committee to build a tasteful 20,000-square-foot mansion on a hill in a national historic district, the matter was scheduled soon to come up before the committee for consideration.

A reasonable question of course was whether Lewis Leigh would recuse himself from voting on his own son’s application to build a house within the protected Shelburne Glebe district — where Leigh Senior also owns property, a fact he highlighted in supposedly establishing his “qualifications” to be a member of the committee. (That was rather interesting in itself, given that by statute members are supposed to have some expertise in historic preservation. Under the reasoning championed by Higgins and the rest of the all-Republican Loudoun Board of Supervisors, apparently disliking government regulation and having a track record trying to evade said regulations makes one an expert on said regulations.)

At the meeting last week, Lewis Leigh took the offensive on the matter: brandishing a letter he obtained from county attorney John Roberts, Leigh declared that he was not legally obligated to recuse himself, since something that merely financially and personally benefits his own son was not a “conflict of interest” under the definition of that term in Virginia law.

The joke was on him, though; the chairman calmly explained that the HDRC has its own stricter standards and that under their rules he was required to recuse himself.

But it shows once again the attitude of Higgins and his fellow developer-backed crowd and their contempt for the very notion of public service. Under previous Boards, there was a genuine effort to find qualified people who generously gave up their time to serve on such bodies as the Planning Commission, the HDRC, and other advisory and regulatory boards  — not because they were out to get something for themselves, but because they wanted to give something to their community.

So much for that idea, apparently.

(The HDRC, by the way, refused to approve Leigh Junior’s plans without further modifications to make it more compatible with a historic district. At the meeting he tried to bully the committee into approving it on the spot, demanding “an up or down vote.” The chairman, again calmly, explained that they’d be happy to oblige him if that’s what he really wanted . . . and it would be “down.” He backed off in a hurry at that point.)

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