Pete Candland’s Partisanship and Conflict of Interest Cost Taxpayer $3 Million

Candland FieldsWe recently discovered that Gainesville Supervisor Pete Candland’s political games with School Board Chair Ryan Sawyers pre-date Sawyers’s election and appear to have cost Prince William County taxpayers somewhere in the neighborhood of $3 million. The striking disclosure seems to reveal another example of Candland’s hypocrisy, selling out the taxpayer to satisfy partisan political goals and/or his personal agenda.

This story begins last September when candidate Ryan Sawyers, in his capacity as President of the Bull Run Little League, secured a commitment of $3 million from a third party to install artificial turf for the spring 2016 season on three existing fields at Catharpin Park and one existing field at James Long Park. The funding was a component of the type of public-private partnership arrangement so often mentioned by Haddow-Candland cabal members as a panacea to fiscal challenges (though it often appears cabal members are just using the term without really knowing what it means). In this particular instance the arrangement involved $3 million to install the artificial fields, a partnership agreement with the Bull Run Little League for use of the fields similar to arrangements that exist with the Virginia Soccer Association and the Gainesville Grizzlies, and the coordination of field design with Little League Softball so that softball leagues could also use the field (Sawyers has a long history as an advocate for women’s softball).

As many people know, field space for sports leagues is already at a premium in Prince William County. Even with existing fields, league officials have to contend with a variety of challenges, including varying field quality, weather issues, lighting issues, and scheduling conflicts, not to mention the political weight of rival or older leagues. Not long ago the county went through a comprehensive review of field use policies in an attempt to improve the fairness of field allocation and remove grandfathered benefits to particular groups. These grandfathered benefits sometimes resulted in fields sitting unused while other parties couldn’t find space to hold their matches or games. This makes public-private partnership arrangements for fields something that requires careful planning and consultation.

Naturally, given the location of the fields at issue, Ryan Sawyers asked for a meeting with Supervisor Candland to discuss the $3 million improvements and try to move the project forward. For inexplicable reasons Candland repeatedly demurred, with his chief of staff, Mark Allen, eventually writing:

“As previously stated, with regards to private-public park partnerships, our office is currently focused on new or unfunded parks. However, our office is well aware of the shortage of field space in the area and is always interested in at least exploring ideas to expand existing capacity (e.g. addition of lighting facilities to extend hours.)”

Sawyers responded to this latest brush-off by offering to review in the meeting how artificial turf, given its weather capabilities, could offer dramatic improvements in the availability of fields, including relative to the expense of adding lights. It would also free up maintenance funds that could be used to secure or build new parks.

That’s when it became readily apparent that Pete Candland was playing games. In an email dated October 21, his Chief of Staff, Mark Allen, again responded to Sawyers, this time by saying:

“As originally stated, in regards to fields and parks, our office is focused on finding funding for new and underfunded projects, rather than pushing for modifications to existing fields not in immediate need of repair. Therefore at the moment, Supervisor Candland will not be able to meet regarding the proposal. If you would like to send over information regarding the advantages of turf baseball fields to grass fields, I’ll make certain we closely review it.”

By the time of this last rejection the election was a mere two weeks away. Of course, Sawyers had only been asking for a meeting, not something that would result in Candland needing to make any sort of commitment. Additionally, a deal like this requires a good deal of time to put together and there was no way a deal could have been put in place in time to benefit Sawyers electorally.

But at the time Candland was a public supporter of Tim Singstock for School Board Chair. Did Candland throw away $3 million and improved fields because he was worried about how even meeting with Sawyers, an official of the Bull Run Little League, would look to Singstock or Singstock supporters?

What of the excuse of being “focused on finding funding for new and underfunded projects”? This prioritization of county funds didn’t seem to apply to the fields owned by QBE, where Candland is Executive Vice President, and from whom Prince William County leases field space.

Or is it possible it had something to do with Candland’s affiliation with the Gainesville Haymarket Baseball League, a rival of Sawyers’s Bull Run Little League, and the group that currently had use of the four fields at issue through 2015.

The one thing that is clear about all this is that Gainesville Supervisor Pete Candland, despite all his platitudes about concern for the taxpayer, squandered $3 million and improvement of four fields for reasons that at best point to political partisanship and at worst to personal conflicts of interest.

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18 comments on “Pete Candland’s Partisanship and Conflict of Interest Cost Taxpayer $3 Million

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    I’m sure Candland did this because of his ties to the Gainesville Little League. Candland always thinks others have conflicts of interest but not him.

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    My lacrosse league was in on these discussions with Candland’s office and we wanted to do a deal to adopt a field (we build it and schedule it), but the hangup for us was not with Candland – who was all for the partnership – but it was the Parks Department who refused to be reasonable.

    We pressed hard but the Parks Director slammed the door on the project and our leadership team was told no private groups would be able to do these deals at Catharpin. I thinks that’s when Candland’s office pulled back working on getting Catharpin built with sports leagues. Not for lack of trying, but the bureaucracy was wound too tight.

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    Candland right away saw Sawyers as a potential political threat to his Gainesville seat. It’s as simple as that. It’s the same reason he and Haddow are attacking Sawyers now. He didn’t want Sawyers to be able to take credit for improving fields at no cost to the taxpayer. Haddow and Candland do this sort of thing all the time to anyone they see as a possible rival and they don’t care if taxpayers get screwed in the process.

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    I’d be skeptical of Joe. I bet he’s a Candland plant. Candland makes sure every county employee that crosses him gets torched either at the BOCS or by Haddow on their blog. There’s no way he would sit back and let the Parks director of all people stop $3 million of field improvements. It’s probably either Candland himself or one of his hacks trying to blame this on staff so that Candland’s role in the fiasco isn’t exposed.

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    Joe,

    Um no.

    Lease agreements are done at the supervisor level of government. Supervisors don’t need to get the parks director’s permission to enter into a lease agreement. On top of that are you really saying that Candland backed down because a bureaucrat told him “no”? If that’s the case then he essentially is a total fraud.

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    Ryan Sawyers lives inn Gainesville? Now it all makes sense. None of the Republicans on the BOCS will ever help a threat to Pete Candland’s seat on the Board. Our schools, teachers, and kids may pay for this obvious partainship.

    We all need to watch this very carefully.

    Thanks for finally giving us the rest of the story. PWC was desperate for another point of view. The fact you put your name on your work makes it much more credible.

  7. -

    It’s no secret that Haddow, Candland & Co are engaged in a full-court smear campaign against Ryan Sawyers because they’re afraid of him challenging them in the Gainesville district. They know he’ll stand up to them no matter what. Unanimous school board budget, few questions from the BOCS except on small dollar items, and all of a sudden Candland and his blog attack? Do the math.

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      Are the taxpayers paying for the Haddow Candland blog?

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        Maybe

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    I don’t get that guy, he’s always complaining about it while he’s spending it. He wants $35,000 to do a study about costs of undergrounding powerlines while simultaneously complaining about $12,000,000 for undergrounding powerlines on the other side of the county. Maybe he should make some calls for free before he goes and spends another $35,000 on a study, isn’t that his job?
    Shouldn’t the county staff have some way to get that information, shouldn’t the BOS have the information that was already provided when they voted on spending the $12,000,000? The county pays a lot of professionals in house and should have access to all of the information that it needs to make educated decisions about projects in the county. Also, I would be suspect of the company that does the work if Candland recommends them, they’re probably related to Mac.

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    You have the Haddow-Candland-Collins group blog in a mini-panic over this post. People were apparently unaware of Candland discarding the $3 million and obviously hoped no one would find out about it. As usual they’re trying to distract everyone from the issue by criticizing Sawyers on something else. At least they’re giving Marty Nohe a break.

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    I’m glad you reported on this before the county budget is finalized. This shows just how much of a hypocrite Pete Candland and his cronies are. $3 million of private money is nothing to be snickered at, particularly when it would have generated annual maintenance cost savings that could have been plowed back into any number of county programs or given back to the taxpayer.

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    I work in the dept of parks and recreation. Supervisor Candland killed the $3 million donation I know that, he knows it. Our Drpartment head did not kill it.

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      That’s really sad. That money would have helped the county generate revenue and would have benefited our community. Way to look out for your constituents.

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    Candland has a bunch of things he’s done like this. What I don’t know is whether or not he’s knowingly dishonest or if he is one of those hyper religious hyper conservatives who rationalize that they’re not doing anything wrong because they’re doing “God’s work”.

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    Candland is a fraud. Haddow directs him he does exactly what Haddow tells him to do, same with Lawson and Anderson. I m worried about Stewart who seems to be coming under Haddow’s influence. Why don’t you expose Haddow [edited out].

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    A little birdie told me that Haddow [edited out] sits 2 tables over from Candland whenever he meets with people regarding county business so he can then tell Candland what to do, is this true?

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      Yes, Haddow does not let Candland off his leash. Candland on his own would be like Trump you would never know what would come out of his mouth.

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