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Votes

Is There a Conflict?

In public forums, John Foust, the McLean Democrat who is running for Dranesville Supervisor, often says that his opponent, Dranesville Planning Commissioner Joan DuBois, a Republican, has a conflict of interest.

“She works for a firm that describes itself as the premier lobbyist for obtaining land use approvals during the day, and sits on the Planning Commission deciding land use applications at night,” he says. “People are very upset. It is perceived as a very serious issue.

“The issue is not running for supervisor while sitting as a planning commissioner. That is not the issue I am raising, but the conflict between her job [at Travesky and Associates] and her duties on the planning commission,” Foust said.

At a candidate debate before the McLean Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 1, Foust cited DuBois’s yes vote to approve Exxon’s application to add a carwash and mini-mart to its gas station at McLean’s central intersection at Chain Bridge Road and Old Dominion Drive.

The 16-member McLean Planning Committee had unanimously opposed the expansion, Foust said. “Citizens cannot know if they got a fair hearing” when the measure went before the Planning Commission for approval, Foust says, because Travesky and Associates, DuBois’s employer, had worked for Mobil, now Exxon’s business partner, on a similar proposal [in Sully District] in 1999-2000.

Foust says Marie Travesky, DuBois’s employer, spoke at a Sully District land use and transportation meeting. She supported a similar application for a mini mart and carwash at a Mobil station at West Ox and Piney Branch Roads, Foust said.

“THAT WAS BEFORE I even got here,” DuBois said. “That is totally hogwash.” I had a very eloquent reason and statement as to why I approved that application. I felt very strongly that it was something we ought to be approving,” she said. “It was not as clear cut and simple as [Foust] made it be.”

“I am very comfortable with the decision I made. That is the role of a planning commission and ultimately a member of the BOS. You have to make tough decisions.

“You weigh the pros and cons, and work with the community. Ultimately, it is a decision that you have to make and feel comfortable with.”

“Exxon contributed $250,000 for underground utilities, and conformed with the community’s plan for revitalizing the downtown. Some people on the Planning Committee thought that was not enough,” DuBois said.

On Rail to Dulles, DuBois, said, she personally favors plans to build the system.

As a Travesky and Associates employee, she greeted the public at a public meeting at Spring Hill Elementary School when the Environmental Impact Statement was released.

Travesky and Associates set up meetings and took notes of the discussions, including the public hearing at Spring Hill, DuBois said.

“I had no decision-making role in anything I basically do public information,” she said. “The fact that you have thorough knowledge of that project means that you have the capability and knowledge to be able to work with the citizens during the design phase. Knowledge is not a bad thing,” DuBois said.

“I would like for someone to go in and find out what kind of a construction lawyer John Foust is, too.”

David Bobzien, the Fairfax County attorney, has ruled that DuBois has no conflict between her job and her role as planning commissioner. Stu Mendelsohn agrees, according to a letter to the editor in today’s Connection.

BUT JIM HYLAND, a Republican candidate for the open seat as Providence District Supervisor who is also running against a sitting planning commissioner, Linda Smyth, disagrees. “I think Linda Smyth should step down,” he said.

“To me, there is a distinction. When you are in an appointed office, and you choose to run for office, and then seek to collect money from the people you are regulating, to me, while a legal opinion might not say that is illegal, it doesn’t pass the smell test.

“The better course of action is to leave that job. Then you are free from any perceived conflicts,” Hyland said.

Hyland said he also thinks DuBois should step down. “I would have advised her it is easier to step down while she is a candidate.”

Hyland and Mendelsohn are law partners at the firm of Piper and Rudnick; Hyland in the downtown office and Mendelsohn in the Reston office.