The debate some community bloggers dubbed “logo-gate” in recent weeks flared anew Tuesday when Supervisor Frank Principi, D-Woodbridge, criticized fellow Supervisor Pete Candland, R-Gainesville, for continuing to push the issue with a three-page list of questions Candland fired off to county staff last week.
Candland said it was an attempt to “clear up inconsistencies” in staff members’ public statements about the logo selection process.
The Prince William County Board of Supervisors recently spent parts of two recent meetings discussing a new logo county communications and economic development staff had begun using in hopes of “unifying the county’s visual image” with a graphic they considered more forward-looking than the traditional county seal.
They unanimously approved a resolution by Supervisor John Jenkins, D-Neabsco, to “cease and desist” use of the simple, two-box design and called for a July 16 public hearing to discuss whether the county even needs a logo to use in concert with the long-standing county seal.
Issue resolved, right? Apparently not.
Candland wants to know whether the county spent more than the $750 Communications Director Jason Grant said they did to develop the logo, and whether staff manipulated purchasing rules to favor a Michigan design firm with previous professional connections to another county staffer.
Calling the logo issue a “brouhaha” he thought was behind them, Principi used his supervisor’s time Tuesday to criticize Candland’s letter as “over the top,” and to express his surprise that the logo issue had also surfaced in a fundraising letter signed by Candland’s wife, Robyn Candland.
“What really frustrate[s] me is that Mr. Candland is now using my name in a political fundraising letter,” Principi added before proceeding to read a portion of the note aloud: “Supervisor Frank Principi, a Democrat from the Woodbridge District, objected to the request for this information.”
The letter, Principi added, is “just not appropriate behavior by anyone on this dais.”
The fundraising letter, emailed to Candland supporters Tuesday, asked for donations to cover Freedom of Information Act fees Candland was told he’d have to pay for staff time needed to answer his questions and compile the various documents, emails and other correspondence he asked of Grant and county Economic Development Director Jeff Kaczmarek.
In response to Principi’s remarks, Candland used his supervisor’s time to insist his intentions were not political but rather an effort to clear up lingering questions and ensure “there is honesty and integrity in everything we do.”
Recent discussions about the logo “led to a lot more questions than answers,” Candland said, adding the board should not go forward “holding hands or burying our heads in the sand about concerns we might have.”
“I thought that was a stunning development that a sitting supervisor had to file a FOIA request and even more stunning that I would have to pay for it,” Candland said. “I think that has a chilling effect on the process we have here in Prince William County.”
“I take the spending of taxpayer money very seriously,” he said, noting that as part-time supervisors they rely on county staff to provide information “and not have to go fishing” for it.
During the discussion that followed, County Attorney Angela Horan explained she offered Candland the option of filing a FOIA request after Principi formally objected to Candland’s questions. County staff does not proceed with one request at the objection of another’s, Candland said in an interview after the meeting.
Board Vice Chairman Wally Covington, R-Brentsville, who led the meeting in board Chairman Corey Stewart’s absence, said he found Candland’s letter “exuberant” but sought to resolve the issue by conducting a straw poll to gain the board’s consent to drop the fees associated with answering Candland’s questions.
Board members approved on the condition that Candland agree to drop a portion of the inquiry that County Executive Melissa Peacor said would result in her having to try to reconstruct staff conversations from memory, something she said made her feel uncomfortable.
With that, the issue seemed resolved until later in the meeting when Candland called his fellow board members into a second, unplanned closed session to discuss “personnel matters.”
About 30 minutes later, the board reconvened the open meeting and adjourned without comment. In an interview after the meeting, Candland said the closed session was prompted by something he heard in the hallway on the way back from the first closed session.
Candland said he could not elaborate but said the offending comment “was related to the whole, broad topic of conversation” about the logo.”
“Let’s just say I had concerns with personnel and I wanted to bring those concerns in front of the board,” he added.
Apparently, logo-gate is not over yet.