On August 8, the Muckraker reported that the FBI was investigating transactions between Prince William County and Quality Business Engineering (QBE), where Gainesville Supervisor Pete Candland was employed as Executive Vice President. Now we have learned that Supervisor Candland and QBE have parted ways.
This information was provided to us some time ago, but efforts to corroborate it left us doubting. Whatever you may think of our opinions, policy positions, or the subjects we chose to cover, we here at the Muckraker take our commitment to the truth very seriously and always strive to ensure that any factual information we present is accurate. It is, after all, one of the things that most distinguishes us from the fake news, forgery, fraud and fabrication blog run by the Pete Candland—Mac Haddow—Reece Collins cabal. Additionally, true to the fake news heritage of the latter’s blog, we are aware that cabal members sometimes distribute false information in the hopes of tricking people into using it.
So, we greeted with substantial skepticism initial reports that the FBI investigation we earlier reported on had resulted in Gainesville Supervisor Pete Candland’s dismissal by QBE. Now that skepticism has been assuaged, as we were not long ago able to appropriately corroborate the event.
That’s correct. Gainesville Supervisor Pete Candland and his employer, QBE, have “parted ways.” Some would say Candland was fired, forced to resign, asked to leave, encouraged to reevaluate his employment, etc., etc. We’ve chosen to use the polite term that he and QBE have “parted ways” following the FBI investigation into Candland’s alleged inappropriate use of his position as a county supervisor to benefit QBE.
We first pointed out the troubling nexus between Pete Candland’s position as a county supervisor and his relationship with Quality Business Engineering (QBE) on April 18. That initial post built on a brief earlier review of pertinent transactions by the blog moonhowlings.net. To refamiliarize our readers with the situation, we have excerpted large sections of that April post in the middle of this post.
County records show that on October 11, 2013, QBE purchased the vacant building and 9 acres that used to constitute Prince William County’s Pace West Alternative School. QBE bought the property for just under $1.4 million, substantially below the assessed value of more than $5 million in 2012 when QBE made the offer, as well as below the $2.76 million assessed value in 2013, the year the sale closed. The ostensible reason for the substantially reduced sale price was that QBE was required to make the site’s fields available for public use.
Such a restriction on use that runs with the land often reduces a property’s resale value and is a legitimate reason for negotiating a reduced sales price. What eventually became clear, however, is that QBE (sometimes substantively reflected in these transactions as Haymarket Properties Group, LLC) had a different understanding of that commitment than others appear to have had.
Prior to the purchase of the Pace West site, QBE leased office space on a floor above the Haymarket Town Hall, which was, according to a July 13, 2012, story in the Washington Business Journal, “a spot conducive to frequent chats between CEO Shawn Landry and local politicians.” What makes this particularly interesting is that the old school site QBE purchased was partly in the County and partly in the Town of Haymarket. QBE decided they wanted the entire property within the boundaries of the Town of Haymarket for ease of land-use decision-making, and so while a contract-purchaser they sought a boundary adjustment between the County and the Town of Haymarket. The resulting discussions among QBE, the Town of Haymarket, and the County, appear to have resulted in agreements that did not require that the fields be available for public use indefinitely, contrary to what appears at an earlier stage to have been the understanding of a variety of parties, including Town of Haymarket officials who proposed modifications to a proffer statement submitted by QBE. Instead, it appears that QBE secured the ability to sell the property at a later date without requiring that public use of the fields be preserved.
In other words, it appears QBE purchased the property at a reduced price because of restrictions people understood it was willing to accept that were then not included in the final disposition of the property, and that thus do not reduce the resale value of the property for QBE.
The Field Leases
As part of the boundary adjustment and sale, QBE negotiated (in August of 2013 and prior to the consummation of the sale) a 10-year lease agreement with the Prince William County Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) for use of the fields. DPR is responsible for all maintenance, liability and improvements, and at the end of 10 years (absent extension) has to return the property to QBE, including removing any improvements should QBE so desire. Furthermore, if for a period of one year no partner is willing to enter into a “commercially reasonable form of lease agreement,” QBE is entitled to develop a plan for use that is consistent with the by-right zoning. The annual lease the county pays QBE for use of the fields is equivalent to the county property tax on that part of the property.
At the time of the sale there was some grumbling about how favorable the deal was to QBE. That’s not unusual in a public-private partnership arrangement, since there has to be some strong incentive to entice private participation. What agitated people in this particular case was that it appeared QBE had started the transaction with a sale price substantially below market value by agreeing in principle to long-term restrictions on the use of the property, restrictions which they then allegedly maneuvered to have removed during the complicated tripartite discussions about boundary adjustments.
This successful maneuver made the property far more valuable than what QBE had paid for it. In effect, despite having received a substantially reduced sale price based on presumed restrictions, QBE could now not renew the lease after 10 years, require the county to remove field improvements, etc. at taxpayer expense, and then sell the property for a by-right use at a substantial profit.
The Rise Up Prince William Connection
As some might recall, in July of 2013 (before the boundary adjustment, lease agreement, or consummation of the sale to QBE), Pete Candland publicized a cross-county walk he was doing to raise money for an organization called Rise Up Prince William. Despite publicity in the newspapers and social media there was confusion among potential participants because there was no mechanism for signing up for the walk. Calls to local charities marketed as beneficiaries of the walk revealed that they didn’t know anything about it. They had simply been told they were going to get some donations from the event. Web searches turned up sites with Rise Up Prince William logos accompanied by Candland for Supervisor signs and language explaining that contributions for Supervisor Candland’s campaign fund would be accepted outside event locations. To many people it became clear that the walk, if not Rise Up Prince William itself, was a primarily a campaign/publicity vehicle for Candland.
On the day of the event, InsideNova reported that Candland was accompanied by a support vehicle, consisting of a “black platinum F-450 pick-up truck,” which it turned out was driven by none other than QBE founder and CEO, Shawn Landry. According to the press report, Landry was the president of Rise Up Prince William, described as a newly created nonprofit Landry “and some of Candland’s other constituents formed to support Candland’s ongoing community service efforts.”
Candland claimed to have raised more than $10,000 as a result of the walk, with most of it coming from an anonymous donor. A former Republican supervisor promptly revealed that the bulk of the money raised came from QBE’s Shawn Landry. Indeed, when the Muckraker received and reviewed the 2013 records for Rise Up Prince William we found that an anonymous donation of $10,000 had been received with an office address that matched that of QBE.
And who were the Candland “constituents” that formed Rise Up Prince William to support Candland’s ongoing community service efforts? Well, according to state records the organization had only three voting members. They were:
(1) A secretary/treasurer named Dennis Peterson, who is not a Prince William County “constituent” at all, but instead is a man who lives in Pennsylvania and turns out to be Pete Candland’s father-in-law.
(2) Candland mentor and sometime Candland staffer and appointee, Mac Haddow (who was sent to jail for violating federal conflict of interest laws to enrich his family, who lobbied Pam Am 103 victims in an attempt to ultimately get sanctions removed on Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafy, who wreaked havoc at the Chantilly Youth Association, who used his spiritual influence to establish the Candland hit-blog the Gainesville Truth Squad, who has attempted to pollute the county’s strategic planning process, who is a key member of the cabal that runs the forgery, fraud and fabrication Sheriff of Nottingham blog, and who received carte blanche authority in Gainesville Supervisor Pete Candland’s office).
(3) a chairman who is none other than QBE CEO, Shawn Landry.
The “constituents” of whom Shawn Landry thus spoke were none other than Mr. Landry himself and Mac Haddow.
QBE Hires Pete Candland as Executive Vice President
As mentioned earlier with regard to the two agreements highly favorable to QBE, the field lease agreement was negotiated in August 2013 and the sale was consummated on October 11, 2013. In other words, both transactions occurred while QBE CEO Shawn Landry was serving as chair of an organization set up, by his own admission, to support Pete Candland’s efforts. As troubling as this is, things became even more troubling not long after.
Less than 5 months later, on March 10, 2014, QBE CEO Shawn Landry announced that Gainesville Supervisor Pete Candland had been hired as QBE’s new Executive Vice President.
Candland Opens Business on QBE Property
As if all of this did not raise enough ethical flags, earlier this year Candland opened an ice cream shop business called “Cookies & Cream” on the QBE property.
So now we have a situation where the sitting Gainesville Supervisor participates in sweetheart deals involving the county and a private business that is owned by a person who is running a nonprofit that “supports” that Supervisor’s “efforts.” Then, after those sweetheart deals for the business close with the county, the business hires the Gainesville Supervisor as its Executive Vice President. Then, the Gainesville Supervisor also starts a new business of his own on that company’s property.
There is, of course, tremendous hypocrisy in Candland world, but the QBE controversy is particularly egregious. As some will recall, after coming on the Board of County Supervisors in 2011, the Candland-Haddow-Collins cabal went on a rampage about conflicts of interest on the Board of Supervisors. They savaged fellow board members, even going so far as to claim that those board members were dishonoring our war dead.
Why? Because those supervisors were using discretionary office funds to provide support to nonprofit organizations who were providing services that the county could not or would not provide. In some cases the supervisors or their family members sat on the unpaid boards of those organizations, or were volunteers for those organizations. As one supervisor at the time noted, the reason Candland had no such “conflicts” was because prior to being elected he had not been nearly as involved in the community as other supervisors had been.
As has repeatedly been demonstrated since he came on the Board in 2011, however, Candland does not even attempt to hold himself to the same ethical standards he demands of others. Despite his savaging of others for their support of nonprofits, Candland, without even disclosing the relationships, had no problem in voting on taxpayer-funded sweetheart deals that would directly financially benefit the owner of a company who was running a nonprofit devoted to supporting Candland. The owner of a company that a short time after the last deal was consummated would hire Candland in the lucrative position of Executive Vice President. A company that would then lease to Candland for the Cookies & Cream business some of the same land obtained in the sweetheart deal from the taxpayers. Mind-boggling self-righteous hypocrisy.
The FBI took notice. Since that time we’ve heard a variety of reports about who has been contacted, who has been interviewed, and who some of those parties have suggested be contacted. We’ve said almost from the beginning that we think a successful prosecution for public corruption is unlikely. Such things are extremely difficult to prove, after all. Quality Business Engineering’s (QBE) main business, however, is government contracts, and in that field, involvement in public corruption schemes can be a problem. So, QBE and Candland have “parted ways.”
The QBE website no longer lists Candland as part of the company’s leadership team, and Candland is reportedly trying to set up his own consulting business, perhaps following in the footsteps of his mentor, Mac Haddow, of Upstream Consulting.
We probably should say that there are other possible explanations for Candland’s departure from QBE. Perhaps he was fired for poor performance. Perhaps QBE had to downsize and eliminated the position of Executive Vice President. Perhaps Candland decided it wasn’t the right fit for him and wanted to do something else. Seriously? Come on!
One thing is certain, regardless of whether or not Candland is ever formally prosecuted for public corruption as a result of the QBE transactions, he did an excellent job of ripping off the Prince William County taxpayer to benefit himself.