Buona’s “why should we be less corrupt than everyone else” argument

As noted the other day, Loudoun Supervisors Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) and Suzanne Volpe (R-Algonkian) think it is very, very unfair that officials in our county should have to turn down campaign contributions from developers who have pending applications for land use actions before the Board (what a normal person would call a “bribe”), when supervisors in other Virginia counties get to take such graft.

Buona, displaying his trademark hilarious wit and knack for felicitous turns of phrase, said of  the Loudoun law (which was sponsored by Democratic state senator Mark Herring): “Throughout the county, this is jokingly known as ‘the Mark Herring thinks Loudoun County is more corrupt than the rest of the commonwealth law.’”

Actually, throughout Loudoun County it is really known as the “‘We all remember what happened the last time we had a Republican Board of Supervisors’ law.”

But more to the point, it is an astonishing bit of logic on Buona’s part to be complaining that Loudoun supervisors should not have to follow the most minimal standards of ethics in government, transparency, and avoidance of conflict of interest — on the grounds that other jurisdictions have even laxer rules. As we have seen from the behavior of His Excellency Governor Bob and his very avaricious spouse, it’s setting the bar pretty low to hold up what is the norm in Virginia (which recently ranked 47th in a state by state ranking of ethics, transparency, and avoidance of corruption) as the standard of comparison.

For the record, here is what the Herring law (Virginia code § 15.2-2287.1 Disclosures in land use proceedings) actually says, and it would be fascinating to hear Buona’s and Volpe’s explanation of exactly why they find it so “abhorrent” to have to disclose any financial relationships they might have with an applicant, and to avoid blatantly obvious conflicts of interest by voting on land use decisions worth millions upon millions of dollars to a developer applicant:

Each individual member of the board of supervisors, the planning commission, and the board of zoning appeals in any proceeding before each such body involving an application for a special exception or variance or involving an application for amendment of a zoning ordinance map . . . shall, prior to any hearing on the matter or at such hearing, make a full public disclosure of any business or financial relationship that such member has, or has had within the 12-month period prior to such hearing. . . .

For the purpose of this subsection “business or financial relationship” also means the receipt by the member, or by any person, firm, corporation, or committee in his behalf, from the applicant . . . during the 12-month period prior to the hearing in such case, of any gift or donation having a value of more than $100, singularly or in the aggregate.

If at the time of the hearing in any such case such member has a business or financial interest with the applicant, . . . that member shall, prior to any hearing on the matter or at such hearing, make a full public disclosure of such relationship and shall be ineligible to vote or participate in any way in such case or in any hearing thereon.


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