Walking the Line: Conduct in Public Service

Drawing attention to the correct placement of county funds, usage of county property, and overall professional conduct of public service employees working in Goochland County is an important part of advocating for the required topics that are relevant to residents, businesses, and local offices across the board. Knowing where, and how, money is being applied throughout Goochland County encapsulates a wide arena. Professionalism from those who publicly serve as employees of the County is an absolute expectation. Conduct and mindful regard that are in the best, and highest, interests of residents are essential to a cohesive community that is based on integrity and trust.

As previously discussed, campaign signage placement for candidate Creasey has been a stringent topic of conversation within the community and online.

Campaign finance affiliations, electoral rezoning for some residents, and appropriate usage of resources are additionally ongoing daily discussions that are taking place in-depth both online and within all Goochland districts. As an example, the Sheriff of Goochland County, Jim Agnew, has contributed at least $14,535.00 to the ‘Creasey for Sheriff’ campaign despite not making the donation as a private citizen but rather from the ‘Agnew for Goochland Sherrif’ fund. That donation is documented publicly here and can be further viewed by visiting the VPAP website located below the article. This draws questions of conflicting interests and to the legitimacy of those financial considerations via campaign affiliation of a subordinate deputy as Sheriff Agnew is still candidate Creasey’s commanding officer.

Regarding appropriate usage of county property by employees, in ways that demonstrably reflect the best appearance of Goochland County, as well as professionalism and behavioral concerns, the feature here will be on how legality, as it has been defined, plays a role in the limits set forth by the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the required expectations of County personnel found in the Goochland County Employee Handbook.

Readers can further research, and confirm, all references by visiting the sites located at the bottom of this article.

In relevance to the number of campaign signs placed in right of ways, VDOT crews are spending additional time as of late either removing, or working around, signage that is located where it shouldn’t be despite their written regulations below:

A respect for regulations demonstrates a respect for the law. Disregarding regulations, especially those pertaining to overall public safety, does not convey a respect for what has been deemed lawful. Multiple residents have asked that signs they did not request be removed from their property or from areas in right of ways where they feel impedes motorist visibility only to have their concerns discarded wholesale, which lacks a degree of dignity and respect for a legitimate concern from a tax paying resident. Resident concerns, questions regarding transparency or of any matter relevant to public safety, and complaints relevant to misuse of county property should be taken seriously, especially by someone who is seeking a position that would put them in direct oversight of such issues.

Failure to respond to concerns within a community, from residents, is a failure to represent the community itself which rather denotes a lack of qualification.

In the matter regarding motorist safety, The Virginia Department of Transportation has drawn out measures that aim to remain fiscally conservative while also providing suitable road conditions and performing routine repairs. Ongoing road projects are being continuously audited and designed throughout Goochland County in light of increasing business and residential development. Disregard for the outlined expectations put into place by VDOT require fines to be put into place so as to avoid, or dissuade, obstruction to county maintenance zones and property, and serve as an act of assurance that roadways remain safe in a debris-free environment in such a way that does not impact visibility or road safety to motorists where, and when, possible or as directed.

While VDOT receives federal assistance, sales and gas taxes constitute part of the revenue funding leaving local residents questioning the details that are in line ethically, professionally, which includes topics like that of the legality of sign placements in right of ways. They’re also wondering whether or not tax-generated revenues are being appropriately applied or if there is a disregard for transportation and safety regulations.

Further, where professional conduct is concerned, the Goochland County Employee Handbook takes behavioral appropriateness of taxpayer funded employees into account as well, clearly defining what is permitted by County personnel. Employees in the position of public service who fall under guidelines set forth by Goochland County include law enforcement officers, public officials, and other County administrative staff.

Simply put, taxpayers have the right and civic responsibility to view where their tax dollars go, and are allowed to question or express concerns as to the vested interests of where their money is being applied. They are allowed to inquire and ask questions. Residents are permitted to ask questions and express concerns while maintaining the right to be heard. They also have a right to expect a certain level of professionalism. For example, a deputy working for the Sheriff’s Department should not be posing for personal selfie-type photographs while on duty, or in uniform, for the purpose of social media pleasure. Not only could this convey a certain degree of unprofessional demeanor, but since a sheriff’s department receives money from taxpayers, it also denotes a rather lack of concern for the position the uniform coveys and may demean the value of training that is funded by taxpayers as well. Deputies don’t get paid to take self-interest photos in uniform, or posing at their residence in front of patrol cars, for the purpose of posting them to social media. To do so could be a misuse of funds and county issued property.

How is misuse specifically defined when related to funds within a County? The Code of Virginia states the following:

§ 18.2-112.1. Misuse of public assets; penalty.

A. For purposes of this section, “public assets” means personal property belonging to or paid for by the Commonwealth, or any city, town, county, or any other political subdivision, or the labor of any person other than the accused that is paid for by the Commonwealth, or any city, town, county, or any other political subdivision.

B. Any full-time officer, agent, or employee of the Commonwealth, or of any city, town, county, or any other political subdivision who, without lawful authorization, uses or permits the use of public assets for private or personal purposes unrelated to the duties and office of the accused or any other legitimate government interest when the value of such use exceeds $1,000 in any 12-month period, is guilty of a Class 4 felony.

C. Any county, city, or town shall be permitted to adopt a local ordinance that provides that any non-full-time officer, agent, employee, or elected official of the county, city, or town who, without lawful authorization, uses or permits the use of public assets for private or personal purposes unrelated to the duties and office of the accused or any other legitimate government interest when the value of such use exceeds $1,000 in any 12-month period is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. [1]

Appropriateness of a currently employed county service employee during a political campaign becomes a threefold issue, as the Commonwealth of Virginia, VDOT, and the Goochland County Employee Handbook all address, very clearly, noted expectations and behaviors by county personnel as well as officials as they relate to their respective departments and administrators. [2]

In addition to whether behavior constitutes conduct unbecoming, this is a topic quite a few concerned residents have expressed over the past few months as they see more and more of a presence in the number of campaign signs displayed throughout the county, signs extending beyond private property boundaries, and requests denied that they be removed or relocated to a more appropriate location.

Residents are additionally noting an increase in discussions regarding personal behavior by County employees, the appropriate usage, or misuse, of Goochland County tax-funded property, local office campaigners, selfies of deputies posted online while still in uniform or while serving in an unofficial capacity, leaving them to question wether a top level degree of expected professionalism is being maintained by some endorsements, deputies, employees, and departments.

The level of above board, professional, and transparent integrity within Goochland County are elements that carry the community forward. These details comprise the foundational pieces upon which future leadership is based. Asking questions, and examining the finer details, is a resident-led system of checks and balances that benefits the community as a whole.

References:

1. https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title18.2/chapter5/section18.2-112.1/

2. http://www.goochlandva.us/DocumentCenter/View/157/Employee-Handbook-PDF?bidId=

VPAP Donation Information (Updated frequently as donations are reported):

https://www.vpap.org/committees/327871/donor/328012/?start_year=all&end_year=all&contrib_type=all

https://www.vpap.org/committees/327871/creasey-for-goochland-county-sheriff-ned/

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