Wayne Hazzard appears to have dodged a bullet.
The South Anna Supervisor is part-owner of the Diamond Group, which in 2008 rezoned a 160-acre tract of land in Hanover to allow for 25 homesites. The land has not yet been developed. Had it been, under the county’s cash proffer policy Diamond Group would have been required to pay Hanover up to $413,375.
Last December, Hazzard was among the Supervisors who voted to repeal the county’s cash proffer policy, which helps pay for services associated with residential development. He was also among the supervisors that supported a committee’s recommendation to waive proffer requirements for developers of undeveloped subdivisions, as long as they amend their zoning and go through the public hearing process.
Last week, Hanover Democrats challenged Hazzard’s action in a letter to Sterling Rives III, county attorney, asking whether his votes constitute a conflict of interest.
In Rives’ opinion, they didn’t.
In a response to the Democrats, Rives pointed out that Hazzard (his client) would be prevented from voting “if and when” Diamond Group seeks to amend its proffers.
That being said, we believe Hazzard was still walking a fairly thin line by not disclosing ties to the Diamond Group during his recent votes. Doing so would have ensured transparency during the cash proffer debate, which has proven controversial on its own merit.
Instead, we now have to wonder whether the lack of disclosure was intentional. Hazzard has admitted no wrongdoing and his stake in the Diamond Group was properly disclosed in his statement of economic interests. But something’s still not sitting right with us.
Government needs integrity. It needs to be honest and open. While technically not illegal (Hanover’s prosecutor has yet to weigh in), we believe Hazzard toed an ethical boundary in this instance; he can at least be perceived as voting to pave the way for personal gain without disclosure. We can also assume that the cash proffer repeal affects any future developments the Diamond Group, or any other developer, might pursue.
When sitting members of the Board of Supervisors have ties to the development community, conflicts are inevitable; most of the decisions made by Board members revolve around land use.
All we ask for next time is disclosure.