November 16, 2012
Supervisor Bob Martin wasn’t the only person to take the Carroll County Board of Supervisors to task Thursday for its handling of a potential conflict of interest involving County Administrator Gary Larrowe.
Citizen Mike Goldwasser, who originally voiced concerns with the Carroll County Board of Supervisors in 2010, was back to speak on the same issue before the board Thursday.
Two years ago, Goldwasser questioned why Larrowe did not divulge his co-ownership of property, along with Grayson County Administrator Jonathan Sweet (under the company name Vandalay Investments, LLC.), before a Sept. 15, 2010 meeting of the Blue Ridge Crossroads Economic Development Authority (BRCEDA).
When Martin hinted at asking for a Virginia State Police investigation on the matter last month, Board Chairman Sam Dickson told another news agency that rehashing the incident would be “just a waste of our time.” Goldwasser took issue with that comment Thursday while speaking to supervisors.
“This remark is further evidence of a continuing unwillingness to have an honest and open consideration of that case,” Goldwasser said, before comparing it to a similar conflict of interest investigation recently involving Supervisor Joshua Hendrick’s involvement with inspection services on Fancy Gap utilities projects. “It shows an inconsistent application of justice, contrasting the handling of the recent potential conflict of interest for Mr. Hendrick with that of the Larrowe case—different rules for different people.”
Goldwasser said that in both cases, the concern was that a conflict of interest could compromise decision making in projects receiving significant outside funding.
He said Hendrick and his brother’s company, Nehemiah Engineering, were always completely transparent about their work. When the potential for a conflict of interest was raised, it was openly discussed by the Carroll County Public Service Authority with the complete cooperation of Hendrick, Goldwasser said. The Franklin County Commonwealth’s Attorney ruled there was a conflict in Hendrick’s case, but that opinion was ultimately overturned by the Virginia Attorney General.
“Contrast that with Mr. Larrowe’s case. His ownership interest of property near Exit 19 was not publicly disclosed until BRCEDA assumed administrative responsibility for Wildwood, and his private land dealings with the owners of what was to become Wildwood were only made public when uncovered by a private citizen,” Goldwasser said. “The discussion of the case by the Board of Supervisors was in a closed session - in fact, when I attempted to bring additional information about the case to an open session, during Citizens’ Time, I was denied the right to speak.”
Goldwasser said there was no thorough effort to learn the facts of the Larrowe case two years ago. Instead, it was stated Goldwasser asked the state police for an investigation, who found no reason to look into the matter.
“I informed the board that this was false, but no further effort was made to learn the facts. Now Mr. Dickson has repeated that error,” Goldwasser said. “The board has continued to resist a sincere investigation of the case. Loyalty to the County Administrator can be good, but it must not be at the expense of fairness and truth.”
Goldwasser said when citizens voted the majority of incumbent board members out of office, “lame duck” board members showed their loyalty, rushing through a policy change that made it more difficult to replace Larrowe.
He added that it’s certainly possible Larrowe did nothing more than show poor judgment or bad ethics. But there is no reason not to investigate it as openly as the Hendrick matter was investigated.
“Getting an opinion from the State’s Attorney General could put this controversy to rest. At a time when we are working so hard to promote economic development and to attract new industries to the county, putting it to rest would make a great deal of sense,” Goldwasser said. “Transparency and justice, Mr. Dickson, are not ‘Just a waste of our time.’”