A Loudoun judge has appointed a special prosecutor to investigate two different areas of irregularities in the campaign of Sheriff Michael Chapman. Loudoun Commonwealth Attorney Jim Plowman recused himself from the investigations because he works closely with Sheriff Chapman. Circuit Court Judge Jeanette C. Irby appointed Alexandria Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan L. Porter to conduct the investigation into campaign irregularities.
Charges against Chapman were filed by former Sheriff Steve Simpson and Ron Speakman, both of whom ran against Chapman in 2011. One charge involved Chapman having illegally obtained private emails and using those emails in his campaign literature. The emails were between a retired deputy, Ricky Frye, who was employed by Fairfax county, and Chapman’s opponent, Eric Noble, also a retired deputy. The two retired deputies are close friends who frequently emailed each other on private matters. Private emails are not covered under FOIA law and cannot be requested using the FOIA law. Although Chapman had no search warrant or subpoena he asked Fairfax County to turn over Frye’s private emails and the county complied. It was not legal for Chapman to have requested those private emails or publish them in his campaign literature.
Ron Speakman claims the sheriff used his office to illegally obtain private emails of his opponent. Speakman said the allegations “likely constitute a felony crime that appears to have been committed with the intent to obtain an advantage over an opponent in an upcoming election.”
Sheriff Chapman said the emails were legally obtained by his assistant, Brian Reynolds, through a FOIA request, and then used in a campaign mass mailing to discredit his political opponent, Eric Noble. At a convention in May, Sheriff Chapman beat Eric Noble by 5 votes.
If it was Brian Reynolds who obtained the private emails, it’s likely that Reynolds was behind the “33 questions” website which was set up to slam Eric Noble and used those private emails to do it. The Chapman campaign claimed they didn’t know who published the website.
The other issue under investigation is Sheriff Chapman’s campaign donations. While reviewing Chapman’s campaign donations former Sheriff, and current opponent, Steve Simpson, noticed that Chapman had not one single donation from any company or corporation. But he did have contributions from individuals in companies and corporations who have business with the Sheriff’s office.
“He’s trying to hide the fact that these are corporate contributions rather than personal,” Simpson said. He said at least two of the companies who are not disclosed as donors are either current contractors with the sheriff, such as the jail’s medical services provider, or trying to win a contract from the sheriff, specifically a local towing company. Simpson said that a review of the actual checks would show who the true donors are and that misrepresenting the source of the donors would be illegal.
Sheriff Chapman has denied all of the charges of illegalities in his campaign. From the Washington Post:
“We have 380,000 people in Loudoun County,” he said, “and you’ve got two people making complaints that I clobbered in the last election. That would raise some serious suspicions with everybody.” He said Plowman sought a special prosecutor only because “he clearly has been against me for the last couple of years. To give this any play is more nonsense. It gives those guys a platform.”
The investigation into the campaign irregularities will not take place until after the election because the appointed Commonwealth Attorney is busy with a big murder trial next month. That’s a shame. Voters have a right to know before they cast their ballot on November 3rd.
More on the story here.