The Fairfax County Board Chair race has been fairly quiet to date, despite the fact that there are four Democrats running (Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay, At-Large School Board member Ryan McElveen, affordable housing developer Tim Chapman, Georgetown Law professor Alicia Plerhoples) in the June 11 primary, and also that it’s a very powerful position in a huge (1.2 million people) – and hugely important, politically and economically – Virginia county.
Well, now it seems like things might have heated up, with the publication this afternoon by WAMU of this story (“Shadowy Allegations Of Corruption Crank Up The Heat In Fairfax County Election: The race for Fairfax County’s top job is unusually competitive. One candidate, Democrat Jeff McKay, has been dogged by what he calls a political smear campaign.“). Note that there has been chatter about the allegations contained within the WAMU story for a couple months now, but no media outlet had posted anything to date (not counting this memorandum that was sent around to media outlets and posted on “Fairfax Underground” back in March).
So what did WAMU find? Here are a few key points:
- “For the last two months, county board member Jeff McKay has been the target of allegations that he traded a political favor for a real-estate deal.”
- “The accusations are outlined in an extensive legal memo, which was sent anonymously to the county attorney and all of McKay’s colleagues on the board of supervisors. Two attorneys from the white-collar law firm Nelson Mullins wrote the memo.”
- McKay “vigorously denies all wrongdoing and has commissioned a lengthy memo of his own to rebut the accusations, which he says are part of a political smear campaign.”
- The initial memo, distributed in March, “suggests a complex conspiracy involving McKay and developer Warren Halle… a prominent builder in Fairfax…[who] developed the Kingstowne planned community in McKay’s district” and is “a reliable donor to political campaigns in the county, including McKay’s.”
- “After WAMU filed a Freedom of Information Act request for McKay’s emails and text messages in March, he hired an attorney with the firm Reed Smith to write a rebuttal to the original memo,” in which McKay a) “does not deny that McGhan bought the land from Halle, established the LLC and built a house for McKay’s family”; b) “maintains he wasn’t involved in the transaction before the middle of 2017, when he made an oral arrangement with McGhan to build the house”; c) “says the purchase has no relationship to the zoning change approved by the board in June 2016, even though McGhan incorporated the LLC and applied for a land disturbance permit for the property right around the time of the vote”; d) “strongly denies getting a discount on the home…says he paid $850,000, which he considers fair market value.”
So…not sure where this leaves things, exactly. As a general rule, real estate developers should definitely not have undue influence over local government officials. Sadly, given Virginia’s pathetically lax campaign finance and ethics laws, I’d be shocked if they didn’t have undue influence. Which is why these laws need to be toughed up significantly, to avoid both the appearance and reality of undue influence over government officials.
As for this specific case, at this point I’m interested in whether any more information comes out, and also what (if anything) Fairfax County elected officials and candidates have to say about it. So far, I’ve seen one statement following the WAMU story – by Chair candidate Tim Chapman – which I’ve posted below. If I see others, I’ll add them to this post. Meanwhile…what do you think of all this?
Chapman Statement on WAMU News Report on Allegations Regarding Supervisor Jeff McKay
Vienna, VA – Democratic candidate for Chair of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Tim Chapman released the following statement in response to the allegations recently reported by WAMU news regarding Fairfax County Supervisor Jeff McKay.
“The allegations reported by WMAU against Supervisor McKay are serious and troubling. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors should immediately refer this matter for investigation in the proper forum.”
“Most troubling is that Supervisor McKay’s attorneys appear to confirm elements of the transactions were structured so that, ‘The property then could be purchased at a price Supervisor McKay…could afford after selling his family home.’”