by Kipp Hanley,

28 November 2011

“Gainesville, Va. — Brentsville Supervisor W.S. ‘Wally’ Covington III doesn’t believe his donation to his wife’s charity is a conflict of interest.

“However, he has decided against contributing $100,000 from his supervisor office’s district funds to the Rainbow Therapeutic Equestrian Center during Tuesday’s Prince William Board of County Supervisors meeting.

” ‘To maintain the comity of the Board and not to further politicize or demean this worthy organization, I will withdraw my notice of intent,’ Covington stated in a press release this afternoon.

“His wife Connie is the president of the Board of Directors for the Center, which according to its website, provides ‘therapeutic equestrian activities to individuals with physical and mental challenges in Prince William County and surrounding Northern Virginia areas.’

“Covington was planning to announce his intent to donate the money for the center’s capital project. When reached via phone last week, he said because his wife isn’t a paid staff member, the money isn’t a direct benefit to her.

“He also said he likes to use his discretionary funds on large capital projects, which is what the Center is aiming to accomplish at its Silver Lake site. The Center is in the process of raising money for an indoor arena for usage year-round.

“When his decision to donate such a large sum originally surfaced, it generated incredulity in some circles in the county.

“John Gray, who unsuccessfully ran for board chairman against incumbent Corey A. Stewart, stated in an email to the News & Messenger last week that it’s ‘absolutely outrageous a supervisor can direct taxpayer dollars of this magnitude to one specific charity like this, just because “they feel like it.” ‘

“While Gray said he has no problem with the charity, he stated ‘there ought to be a law, an ordinance against this kind of abusive spending.’

“Covington has given 10 donations totaling $15,500 from his discretionary funds in 2011– including $10,000 to the Greater Prince William Healthy Communities, Healthy Youth Council in September. Covington has a total of $357,700 carried over from previous years, $90,000 more than the next supervisor: Coles Supervisor Martin E. Nohe ($267,204).

“At $322,458, Covington has the smallest budget of any supervisors for the 2012 fiscal year. Potomac Supervisor Maureen S. Caddigan has the largest at $350,341.”

“Staff writer Kipp Hanley can be reached at 703-530-3904.”