Favola Vote on Towing Coincided With $2,500 Donation

by ARLnow.com July 21, 2011 at 8:40 am 5,100 86 Comments

The political blog Blue Virginia points out that a $2,500 donation to County Board member Barbara Favola’s state Senate campaign from Advanced Towing owner John O’Neill, reported here last week, came just five days before a Board vote on increasing the county’s towing fee.

On April 26, the Board voted 3-2 to increase the trespass towing fee — collected by companies like Advanced Towing — from $115 to $125. Favola was one of the three to vote in favor of the fee increase.

“I do believe towing services are a necessary part of urban living,” she said at the time. “I feel that I also have to be fair to the towing operators.”

While the vote’s timing raises questions, it is consistent with the last vote Favola cast on towing. On May 16, 2009, she voted to increase the towing fee by $15.

Update at 1:10 p.m. — Favola’s Democratic primary opponent, Jaime Areizaga-Soto, has released a statement that renews his call for Favola to resign from the Board.

Barbara Favola has violated the Arlington County Code of Ethics. It is time for Barbara Favola to resign from the County Board and quit using her public position for political gain, this is the worst of politics and shows disrespect for the values that Democrats believe in and fight for.

  • Lou

    It was unclear in all the reporting I read after the rate increase vote as to whether they also approved the requirements for towing companies and businesses to improve their signage which would have made it easier to avoid being towed in the first place.

  • Jackflops

    Wow. Hard not to draw a conclusion of corruption given this fact. Now I’m going to vote for Jaime what’s-his-hyphenated-name.

    • doodly

      Correlation isn’t causation. Not that I’m sticking up for her, just for logic.

      • Henry

        People seem to have an issue with that piece of logic. At the same time, though, this does seem sketchy–maybe it would have been good for her to have disclosed such a donation at the time…

        • John Fontain

          Disclosed? How about not taking it at all and then also disclosing to the rest of the Board that they tried to pay you off?

          • PIkeMan

            Exactly. I don’t believe there is a law or policy dictating that you have to accept every contribution that you receive. In fact, I think it’s expected that you refuse it when you have a clear conflict of interest.

          • doodly

            There you go again, assuming.

            Yes, Henry, it is very sketchy though. She should have disclosed it or refused it.

        • Burger

          You are correct. Can’t remember which by a City Council member in DC is in hot water for supporting the on-line gambling bill and also working for a law firm that is lobbying for the bill.

          Even if she did no wrong it stinks of corruption but is that really that surprising given the total unaccountablility the board has to the voters since no board members ever lose a county board election.

          • Bluemontsince1961


    • John Fontain

      Taking money from a party who has a matter before the Board just days before the vote? What the @#$%? This is getting into special independent investigation territory here.

      • doodly

        If that were true, half the elected reps in the country would be under investigation.

        It’s possible that she would vote that way regardless of who gave her money, and they chose to give her money to help her get elected because of that.

        • Aaron

          …and that would be a problem? “Everyone else does it” is among the worst excuses in politics.

        • Sam

          Then at the very least, she should have abstained from voting since she has a financial interest.

        • Kevin

          Agree. She has supported increases in the past. The fee is supposed to be “fair market value”
          and it is not there!

        • Not a Member of the People’s Republic

          Yep, and the reason we should vote every last one of them out of office. Most of the County Board members think they can do as they please because they’ll always get elected regardless of their actions– recognizing that the D by their names will win the automatic approval of 2/3 of the PROA electorate

          • Bluemontsince1961


  • Chris Wiz

    So the takeaway here is not that she votes for increased towing fees when she receives contributions from towing companies. The important thing is that she ALWAYS votes for increased towing fees.

    • doodly

      Right, which would indicate that it’s not corruption. But it still sucks.

      We should remember to judge them on what they vote for when we’re so busy judging why.

    • Daniel


    • Eponymous Coward

      +1. What Chris said. I have no particularly interest in Favola’s fate, but as I pointed out when this thread last surfaced, contributors give contributions to the people who support their interests. In Advance Towing’s case, that would someone who consistently votes for increased fees.

      There are hundreds of members of Congress accepting contributions from people who have business before the committees on which those Congressmen serve. The 70 Democrats who just told the Administration not to block the AT&T merger received almost $2 million from them.


      This is why I said what I said last time: if people have a problem with this, that’s cool. But that is not a problem with Favola; that is a problem with is our existing system of campaign finance.

      • jjbug1

        Thanks for this quiet opinion presenting good sense! Even as one supports a Democrat (if you call yourself that) by sending financial support, you know you also need to speak up on any issue that comes before the Board and encourage all members to consider the particular quarrel you have with what is proposed. Your contribution never bought their vote – even if it was huge! You might get to have lunch with one because your contribution was large but you still have to bring convincing arguments to assure attention to your concerns. Your Dem choice also is privileged to meet and know Republicans who can converse with them about issues, expecting them to value insights into issues.

        Arlington has had at least 50 years of experience enjoying joint leadership from 2 parties. While there are now 5 Dems on County Board, this does not mean they do not enjoy the advice of concerned Reps! Community-concerned persons know they can talk with the opposition to gain a change in decision. There is no way Dems expect to have all the right answers! Issues are raised from many quarters1

        There is no question in my mind that Barbara “Babs” Favola has the acuity to discern where changes in her votes are well-supported by new facts – not just the campaign support of the objector!

        I think Jaime, having no experience in government yet, ought to be allowed to lose this election. Besides, we have retired 2 women: we need a woman Senator badly to continue the balance of approaches to problems that women add to a traditional male posturing when they are our only leaders.

        Sorry. Barbara Favola has records of service to Arlington and Virginia and the Metro area that work for me! Jaime cannot match that and offers not a whit of new promises that excite me. Kiss him goodbye Aug 23! Too bad we cannot have him run for her seat on the County Board. He has similar instincts to Bsrbara’s, but he isn’t an Arlingtonian. Maybe there is another local position he can seek next year!


    • LyonParkVoter

      If someone had the time, I would bet $1 million that she has received other donations supporting each of her prior campaigns. This is not a one off. Also, again if someone had the time, I bet there are numerous other examples of conflicts of interest with the other special interests that have donated to her.

      • Thes

        @LPV: Here’s where to find the list of prior donors. For $1million, shouldn’t take you too long to look through it.

        • Thes

          Oops. here is that link.

        • Thes

          Well, I’m having trouble posting the link, but it took me under 5 minutes to check Favola’s 2008 donors. No contributions over $100 from Advanced Towing, it seems.

  • Scott

    Maybe she can use her new found clout with Advanced Towing to get them to stop driving like maniacs around Arlington. The drivers for Advanced Towing show no regard for safety or traffic laws.

    • JamesE

      I was at Lyon Hall once watching people get towed out of the BB&T lot, that guy was hauling ass circling around, backing up without looking.

      • Tabby

        I was on Wilson last night when they took off with someone’s car. The tow truck driver hadn’t turned his headlights back on.

    • CW

      They scare me most at the intersection of Quincy and Wilson. That’s such a pedestrian-dense intersection, and it has that right-turn slip lane which they blow right through. Come to think of it, why the hell does that intersection have a slip lane anyhow? Same goes with Clarendon and Washington. There really should not be slip lanes in areas this dense with pedestrians.

      • doodly

        Slip lanes are slowly being ripped out of Arlington.

        • CW

          Good riddance.

  • Southeast Ben

    The fact that a towing company can donate up to $2,500 is silly. While I’ll agree they are necessary, they don’t need to be predatory in their craft. I feel most tow truck drivers tend to me a little reckless on the roads.

  • Rick

    Advanced Towing is a crooked outfit! Was towed out of the CVS parking lot on Columbia Pike, the no parking was covered by snow, was only in CVS for five minutes, they can go to hell!

  • Tim

    Since it was a $10 increase per tow, it will take Advanced Towing only 250 tows to recoup the donation. That should take, what, one day?

    • Daniel

      It was only a $10 increase? So this is basically a non-issue? OK, back to our lives everyone. Thank you.

      • PIkeMan

        A $10 increase that is estimated to generate an additional $250,000 (at least) for Arlington Towing. Best $2,500 they ever spent.

      • Absolutely false. See comment below.

        • PIkeMan

          Thank you for correcting that. Clearly worse than I realized.

    • LyonParkVoter

      They stand to profit for the year by $100,000s

  • No, it’s not just $10. See here (http://arlington.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=&clip_id=2083&meta_id=91131) for more details:

    The big changes?

    2. for the towing of a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of between (the word “between” was ADDED) seven thousand five hundred and one (7,501) pounds (the words “or greater” were CROSSED OUT) and ten thousand (10,000) pounds, the maximum fee shall be two hundred fifty dollars ($250.00),

    3. {THIS LANGUAGE WAS ADDED] for the towing of a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of ten thousand and one (10,001) pounds or greater, the maximum fee shall be five hundred dollars ($500.00).

    • PikerShorts

      Let’s tow some high GVW with Advanced owing on the door

    • Daniel

      For the average person not driving a Hummer, Tank or 747, it’s a $10 increase. Still a non-issue, and life is good. I love Arlington scandals…so luke warm compared to the rest of the region.

      • False. If you’re a small businessperson who drives a minivan or small delivery truck or whatever, it’s far more than a $10 increase. Nice try minimizing this, though.

      • Captain C.B. “Sully” Sullenberger


  • BrownFlipFlops

    The fact that she doesn’t even care about the appearance of impropriety shows a great deal of arrogance, and a huge lack of respect for constituents.

    • Bluemontsince1961


      • Tabby

        I raise you another 10 brown flip flops.

    • Plunkitt of Clarendon Blvd

      “The fact that she doesn’t even care about the appearance of impropriety ”

      And why should she ??

      The odds that an ACDC endorsed candidate will lose an election in Arlington are about the same as how long a snowball will last outside today.

      • Peter Rousselot

        In the case of this primary election for the Democratic nomination in VA Senate 31, neither Barbara nor Jaime is “an ACDC endorsed candidate”. Therefore, whatever the odds might have been for Barbara if she were an ACDC endorsed candidate, those odds are not relevant here.

      • Angus Mckinnon

        I ain’t endorsin’ nobody this year!

      • Bluemontsince1961

        Ain’t that the truth!

  • BerryBerryCold

    Let’s just use the same language that Bill Maher uses when talking about women from the other side of the political aisle. Surely we won’t be called “sexist.”

    • Bluemontsince1961


  • Pablo Escobar

    Estimada Senora Favola,

    Como le va?

    A piece of advice.

    When I’m looking to collude with a less-than-savory party, I usually wait till sundown then arrange for a meet and greet at Applebees. No one ever expects Applebees and their food is reasonably priced. Also bring a pitbull with you into Applebees. Claim that it is a service animal, then feed it grapes out of an old coffee bag, it is very unnerving.


    Pablo Escobar

    • Jackflops

      Pretty funny! Sounds like the Dos Equis guy combined with Jack Handey.

  • Rosslynite

    BREAKING NEWS: Political contribution results in favorable treatment. The full story at 11.

  • LyonParkVoter

    She’s in violation of Arlington’s own County Code of Ethics where it states that:

    “Public officials have an obligation to conduct and model ethical behavior in support of the organization’s values, standards and vision. The Arlington County Code of Ethics contains the following core principles of ethical conduct:

    Personal Integrity – Adhere to conflict-of-interest rules and avoid activities with real or PERCEIVED conflicts of interest”

    Obviously, she feels she doesn’t’ have to abide by them. Nor do here fellow County Board members, County Manager or Attorney Office feel the need to investigate or take any disciplinary action.

    • Bluemontsince1961

      “Code of Ethics?!?!? We don’t need no stinkin’ Code of Ethics.” Whether Democrat or Republican, politicians have one standard for themselves and one for everyone else. Both parties on Capitol Hill have shown that for years. Not saying it is right, but seems to have been that way with humans in power from time immemorial.

  • chris

    The fact she is running for another office not on the county board makes the hubbub over the donation moot. If she was running for a position on the board and took a donation that would not sit well with me.

    What is a correlation between ArlNow and towing? Do readers of ArlNow have a higher tow rate? I have lived in Arlington for 20 years and have never been towed by Advance. Because I follow the rules…..

    • CW

      If you’ve lived here from 20 years you probably own your residence, most likely a single-family. A lot of the uproar comes from people living in apartment or condos who follow the rules and still come home to find that they or their guests have been towed.

      Also, I’ve never been towed either, but just seeing the way they aggressively and recklessly drive around endangering people 24/7, and knowing the fact that the county does not to stop it, makes me hate their guts anyhow.

      • Tabby

        Today we are in love.

        • CW

          We’re all friends here…

    • Captain Obvious

      She will remain on the board if she loses the primary or loses the general, both of which might very well happen, since Favola has never won a contested race.

      • LyonParkVoter

        And she will “favorably” remember all those who were so generous to her campaign. In other words, the Conflict of Interest issue does not just go away. The smell lingers on…..

    • LyonParkVoter

      The issue is not moot. You can’t wear two hats which is why she needed to resign or refuse the donation.

      To say that she simply accepted the donation for her Senate race, but that in no way influenced her decision to vote in favor of an increase doesn’t come close to passing the Laugh Test.

      As I point out below in another entry, if she ends up losing the primary or general election, the conflict issue lingers on. Why would she not remember favorably these very same special interests when they come up for future votes? We are all human. Do you not think if someone donated generously to your campaign that you would not be unduly influenced in your decisions making?

      What if you were elected Senator and now had to vote on issues that affect those very same special interests (i.e. State imposed cap on fees/regulations on towing companies or new requirements for developers)? Again, any of your votes would be questioned as a tit-for-tat.

      • BrownFlipFlops

        And that’s the problem, right there. It’s not that provable corruption has taken place. It’s that the appearance is there. One of her responsibilities is to avoid conflicts or situations that look like conflicts. Forget that it’s explicitly outlined in the code of ethics, it’s just what a responsible, conscientious leader should do.

        As her constituents, we now have to wonder whether her decisions are being made on their merits. The erosion of trust, and not-so-irrational doubt that the system is fair, is reason enough for her to have known better than to have accepted, and then kept, that donation.

        • Suburban Not Urban


          It also calls into question the folks she keeps around her, which is probably the most important point about any “leader”

          Lastly the point is not so much that Advanced bought future consideration at the state level. But that she would allow this kind of conflict for any matter before her, potentially one that could be much more serious at higher levels of the political establishment

      • Arlington Voter

        Also, campaign finance laws in VA are very loose. If Favola loses, she can just roll over the money in her State Senate campaign account to her future County Board campaign account. Which means towing company donations WILL have an effect on her County Board campaign (and vote?). In fact, she can spend that money on virtually anything in any capacity: Board member, candidate, citizen.

    • Adv. Towing Drivers Corner Market on Driver’s Licenses From Cereal Boxes

      I’ve lived here 18 years and been towed onced. Learned my lesson in a hurry. That being said, the drivers (using the term loosely) for Advanced Towing are highly unsafe. Clearly they recognize that time is money based on the fact that any time you see them, they are driving recklessly at a speed double that of the legal limit.

      Undoubetdly, the CB is aware of this, yet they’re happy to jack their rates so they can make more $$. Now we know why– quid pro quo.

      How does one put someone up on ethics charges anyhow? Can a county resident file the charges?

  • chris

    No concerns that Favola has taken money from other Arlington regulated industries such as the monopolistic cab companies? or that most of her opponents money has come from out of the district and out of the state?
    or is this just about getting towed…..

  • Truth

    Well if Jamie whaever his hypenaed name is hinks Barbara has broken the law he should forward his complaint to the Commonwealth’s Attorney and yes at that piint Barbara should take a leave of absence until the cloud is cleared from her name or she is indicted whichever comes first.

    Otherwise this is a non issue

    Put up or shut up Jamie

    • LyonParkVoter

      Any ethics violation under the Arlington County Code of Ethics are reported to [email protected] !!! Yes, the Board! So you get to report to Favola and her other Board members who then decide whether or not they will have someone in the Legal Office or in the County Manager’s Office investigate!

      I believe the Commonwealth’s Attorney only investigates at the state level. Speaking of which, if there are violations of the “State and Local Government Conflict of Interests Act” then that would need to be investigated.

      More importantly, it is your very attitude of not caring whether a classic textbook Conflict of Interest situation exists which is at the heart of the issue. It is this very attitude of not caring whether your elected officials are ethical, that encourages them to continue to act in this callous way.

      The majority of us are fed up and want it to change. The issue is not whether or not it is legal, if there is a loophole or some other technicality on why Favola can receive the contributions. There are plenty of things that may be legal, but are clearly not ethical. The issue is a larger one and voters in the 31st should say enough is enough!

      • Westover

        The Commonwealth’s Attorney will investigate corruption at any level within the Commonwealth. While ethically questionable, not sure that this would be legally corruption since it was done in the open. Hopefully folks will see how she operates and make a judgement at the polls.

        Frankly, based on the candidates I am inclined to just Write In Daffy Duck or Mickey Mouse.

        • Bluemontsince1961

          LOL! Ain’t it the truth, Westover!

        • Jackflops

          How would it not be corruption? If I’m an elected official, and I announce that my vote is for sale and accept the highest bid at a public auction of my vote, that’s still illegal.

      • Bluemontsince1961

        I agree. Time for new blood and new faces.

      • 4Arl

        The emails for individual board members is listed at http://www.arlingtonva.us/Departments/CountyBoard/meetings/members/CountyBoardMeetingsMembersMain.aspx
        You could try reporting it to each member separately if the combined email doesn’t lead anywhere. At the least, this year’s candidates for county board, Tejada and Hynes, should state their position on whether this is an ethics violation. Since there is another candidate (Audrey Clement) running, you might actually get a response.

  • chris

    ArlNow needs to post another story about Bardo Rodeo. Towing and Bardo. The staples of Arlington news.

    • Shill

      Keep posting Favola Campaign Manager Chris– you are quite convincin!! You might want to tell your buddy Barbie that she should stop storming out of meetings right after you recommend she stop accepting large sums of money from companies for whom she’ll be voting favorably on legislation with in less than a week.

      The only way this could have been better was if she was paid off (er, uh given a donation) the day after the vote.

      • chris

        I am not a shill, shill.

  • Webster

    There’s pretty much zero tolerance when Democrats accuse Republican politicians as being beholden to special interest groups. Why should things be different in this case?

  • Civic Activist

    If this 31st district race seems “interesting”, just wait until the 32nd district race heats up. The incumbent, Janet Howell, has already started a smear campaign of “world class” proportions. She is ready to out a closeted Northern Virginia Democratic delagte because her opponent once contributed to his campaign. About the only left for her to toss in is that her Republican opponent is dating Willy Horton.

  • TMP

    I wonder if Favola (or the other two board members that voted for this) have ever walked out to their vehicle in the morning to find it had been stolen by Advanced Towing. Yes, stolen. I have. They towed my vehicle out of my community’s parking lot even though my parking pass was visible. I had to figure out how to get from Douglas Park to Ballston to get it back. Even the woman manning the booth acknowledged that she could see the parking pass, but wouldn’t release it until I paid. It took several days of pressure by my property manager to get them to refund it. Same thing happened twice while I was a renter. My vehicle was towed even though I had my parking sticker exactly where it was supposed to be. Tow companies in Arlington are legalized auto theft. I’m not surprised that the board is in their pocket. When you have one party rule like Arlington does, they have nothing to fear from the people.

    • Thes

      You should paint “the Board” with a slightly less broad brush. This was not a unanimous vote. Nor have prior Board votes on towing matters always gone the way the towing companies asked for.

      • TMP

        The vote passed, did it not? When the majority of the board votes for something, the board is responsible for the result.

  • LyonParkVoter

    Glad to see that Favola is so proud of the fact that she took the donation and has a conflict of interest. No denial by Favola or her campaign that she received the money. No denial that there is at best a perceived conflict of interest and violation of the Arlington Code of Ethics.

    Favola continues to show a total lack of disrespect for the voters. I hope voters overwhelmingly repudiate her in the primary and hopefully her fellow Board members will also get the message.


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