Chris Horton, Arlington County’s independent auditor since 2016, is leaving his post.
Horton was hired in late 2016 after previously serving in the Office of Auditor General at Fairfax County Public Schools. His predecessor — the first auditor hired by Arlington after receiving authorization to do so by the state legislature — resigned after less than six months on the job.
During his tenure Horton asked residents for suggestions of things to audit, then went about examining economic development incentives; purchasing practices; fire department, police and Emergency Communications Center overtime; and fleet management — among other topics.
Just last month it was reported that Horton would be looking at whether the conditions set for site plan development actually end up getting carried out, in addition to other projects set to continue through the 2023 fiscal year.
It is not clear why Horton is leaving. A somewhat unusually worded press release said that the County Board “thanks County Auditor Chris Horton for his dedicated service and wishes him good fortune on his next professional adventure.”
The release also noted “the recent addition of two staff positions in the FY 2023 budget” for the auditor’s office.
The full press release is below.
It is with great appreciation that the County Board thanks County Auditor Chris Horton for his dedicated service and wishes him good fortune on his next professional adventure. Chris has announced his departure from Arlington County to pursue new career avenues and, while he will be missed in the County Board Office, the Board hopes for the best in his next chapter. Chris began his tenure with the Auditor’s office in 2016, in its infancy. He wisely pursued a path that prioritized building a firm foundation for the work products to be delivered through his office, along with building relationships throughout the enterprise so that his office could receive maximum cooperation and add value to County departments.
“Chris has decisively advanced the office of the Auditor to become a critical asset supporting the County Board’s work and a tool of good and transparent governance,” stated County Board Vice-Chair Christian Dorsey.
Chris has over twenty years of experience in audit and risk analysis within county, city, state, and school district functions. He has led or assisted in the development of performance audit functions in three different government audit shops. He has experience in broadening organizations’ focus toward risk management, and educating senior managers on the value of focusing on governance risks, process risks, IT risks, and reputational risks, in addition to the traditional financial risks.
“I have enjoyed the opportunity to serve the Arlington community by working to create and grow the County Auditor function. This has been an ongoing partnership with the County Board and the Audit Committee,” Chris said. “The support from County management has been critical to developing the County Auditor function, and continued support from management will be crucial for the next County Auditor. With several audit reports and follow-ups complete, a mature set of Audit Committee processes, and the recent addition of two staff positions in the FY 2023 budget, the foundation for the next County Auditor is well-established.”
Chris is a dynamic trainer, focusing on ethics for auditors, auditing techniques, audit report writing, and other audit-specific topics. He is a trained and experienced control self-assessment facilitator and is currently the President of the Association of Local Government Auditors. His BS and MS are from the University of Texas – Permian Basin and he has a PhD in Public Administration from Arizona State University.
“We are thankful for his many contributions, not the least of which is the fact that we are in a strong position to build upon his accomplishments as we approach the task of hiring his successor,” stated County Board Member Takis Karantonis.
Signature Theatre’s long-time leader is stepping down following allegations of sexual harassment.
The Shirlington-based theater said in a statement today that co-founder and Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer is retiring at the end of the month. No mention was made of the allegations.
Over the weekend, actor Thomas Keegan resurfaced his assertion that Schaeffer repeatedly grabbed his genitals at a local 2018 award show. Signature said in a subsequent statement that the allegations were investigated and found to be “without merit.”
Keegan, however, said he was personally aware of at least one other person sexually assaulted by Schaeffer. Yesterday he posted screenshots of other accusers who reached out to him.
In a statement posted online at 2 p.m. today, Keegan said Schaeffer should have stepped down years ago.
Eric Schaeffer’s resignation is more than a decade overdue. As the #blacklivesmatter movement is proving, abuse of power is systemic, insidious, corrosive, and institutional. I believe that silence is complicity. The entire hierarchy of Signature Theatre, to include the board and people I once called friends and colleagues, has aided and abetted a sacrilegious abuse of power, criminal activity, and depraved behavior, in a theatre that good, hardworking artists call home. They have betrayed their patrons, their employees, and the artistic community. They should be removed and replaced by the next generation of theatre makers, honestly and transparently committed to creating safe spaces and pursuing our most pressing matter: racial justice and equity.
Signature, which is reported to be in good financial shape despite the pandemic and its money troubles six years ago, says it will now embark on a search for a new Artistic Director, with a focus on ensuring a diverse pool of candidates.
The full announcement from Schaeffer and Signature Theatre is below.
(Updated at 8:10 p.m.) Erik Gutshall, who was hospitalized with a brain tumor earlier this year, has resigned from the Arlington County Board.
Gutshall made the announcement Monday evening in a Facebook post. He has been absent from Board meetings for the past couple of months, and on March 1 revealed it was due to a brain tumor.
“As a result of this health issue, it saddens me deeply to announce my resignation from the Arlington County Board,” Gutshall wrote today.
The full post is below.
Thank you for all the support that you’ve given me over the past month as I undergo treatment for brain cancer. My family and I really appreciate all the kind words and encouragement while I’ve been dealing with this sudden, difficult diagnosis. As a result of this health issue, it saddens me deeply to announce my resignation from the Arlington County Board.
I decided to run for elected office because I believe in the power of community voices to make a difference in our County. Serving Arlington for the past 2+ years as a Board Member and many years before that as a Planning Commissioner has been an incredibly rewarding experience. I’ve had the honor of working side-by-side with many Arlingtonians who always inspired me to work harder and to do more. I will miss working with my County Board colleagues, whom I hold in the highest regard. Even though this is a particularly difficult time for our County and country, I know that I’m leaving this position in very capable hands.
For now, I’m looking forward to quarantining at home with my wife Renee and our children.
I thank you all for putting your trust in me. It has truly been an honor to serve you.
With highest regards,
Gutshall was elected to the County Board in 2017, after Chairing the Planning Commission, a county press release noted.
“The Board will consult with the County Attorney about the next steps, as required under Virginia law, for holding a special election to replace Gutshall on the County Board,” said the press release.
Local officials and community members have offered words of encouragement and sympathy for Gutshall since his initial announcement and after tonight’s word that he is resigning.
“We are deeply, deeply saddened by Erik’s resignation from the County Board this afternoon for health reasons,” County Board Chair Libby Garvey said, in a statement Monday night. “As they have been for the past weeks, our hearts continue to be with Erik and his family. Erik’s statement reflects who he is, identifying his belief in the power of our community and focusing on the critically difficult time we are in as a County and as a country. We have missed Erik’s presence with us at this critical moment in Arlington’s history, and we will continue to miss him. We ask that you join us in continuing to support Erik and his family during this difficult time and send messages of love and appreciation for his work and friendship.”
I am deeply saddened over Erik Gutshall’s resignation from the Arlington County Board. He is a beloved and trusted leader, someone everyone calls a friend. Now it is our turn to be there for Erik and his family.
— Barbara Favola (@BarbaraFavola) April 6, 2020
I am very sad to hear that @erik4arlington has resigned from the Arlington County Board due to his health concerns. I wish him and his family the best as they go through this extremely challenging time.
— Don Beyer (@DonBeyerVA) April 6, 2020
Erik is a true public servant, through and through. https://t.co/0I2ZDlG1oB
— Parisa Dehghani-Tafti (@parisa4justice) April 6, 2020
We’re praying for Erik’s health and for his family and loved ones. https://t.co/JNF17qwwYY
— Arlington GOP (@goparlington) April 6, 2020
The County Board is accepting well wishes from the community and will pass along email to Gutshall and his family.
Few members of Congress have been as outspoken against Scott Pruitt and his scandal-plagued tenure as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency as has local Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.).
Now, with Pruitt’s resignation today (Thursday), Beyer is taking a victory lap.
“Finally,” the Congressman said in a single-word first sentence of an otherwise adjective-filled statement celebrating the resignation.
The congressman’s office, along with the Safe Climate Caucus he co-chairs, has sent out at least 32 press releases mentioning Pruitt since his nomination to the EPA’s top position was announced in December 2016.
“We urge President Trump to mark Earth Day by firing Scott Pruitt and replacing him with someone who will return the Environmental Protection Agency to its core mission, rather than using their position for perks and schemes at Americans’ expense,” said one such press release, sent this past April.
Today’s full statement from Beyer is below.
Scott Pruitt was able to keep his position for so long — despite astonishing megalomania and unethical behavior – only because of Donald Trump’s historic embrace of corruption. Pruitt acknowledged behavior in Congressional hearings and televised interviews that violated federal regulations and spoke to extreme levels of wasteful spending and abuse of public office. He committed dozens of offenses which would have led to immediate dismissal in any previous administration.
Pruitt now joins the growing ranks of ex-Trump officials, a testament to President Trump’s chaotic management style and poor judgment. Sadly, some of those who remain may be nearly as corrupt, as antithetical to the purposes of the agencies they lead, and as willing to besmirch their public offices with dishonest and unethical behavior.
Scott Pruitt stood out, even in Donald Trump’s uniquely corrupt administration, for his willingness to cede direct influence and control over EPA policy to industries and special interests which harm public health. His scandals were inextricably linked to his antipathy to environmental protection, and to his close association with those who value profit over clean air and water.
The only way to really turn the page on the Pruitt era will be for Trump to appoint an EPA Administrator who is committed to environmental stewardship, and willing to clean house and wrest control of the EPA back from polluters and lobbyists.
After his whereabouts became a source of gossip among parents, Arlington Public Schools announced Monday that Gordon Laurie, principal of Williamsburg Middle School, has resigned.
Tipsters reported that Laurie had not been seen in school since February 24, and that earlier this morning they spotted that his office had been cleaned out. The tipsters mentioned that rumors were swirling about the reason for his departure.
In a letter this afternoon to Williamsburg parents, students and staff, Superintendent Patrick Murphy said Laurie has resigned for personal reasons after 15 years with APS. An APS spokesman did not elaborate on the exact reasons behind Laurie’s resignation.
“After working closely with the exceptional and dedicated Williamsburg Middle School staff to put programs in place that helped students reach new levels of achievement, I am excited about completing my dissertation in pursuit of my doctoral degree,” Laurie wrote in a letter to parents.
Connie Skelton, a retired superintendent of instruction at APS and former Williamsburg teacher, will fill in as acting principal for the rest of the school year. Murphy and APS staff will begin the search for a new principal in the near future.
“Connie is an exceptional school leader who is very familiar with our instructional and administrative framework, and will work closely with the Williamsburg team to ensure a smooth transition in leadership while continuing to provide excellent support for the students, families and staff,” Murphy wrote.
Murphy’s full letter is below:
Dear Williamsburg Families, Students and Staff,
I am writing to share with you that Mr. Gordon Laurie, Williamsburg Middle School Principal, has resigned from the Arlington Public Schools for personal reasons. In his letter Mr. Laurie wrote, “After working closely with the exceptional and dedicated Williamsburg Middle School Staff to put programs in place that helped students reach new levels of achievement, I am excited about completing my dissertation in pursuit of my doctoral degree.”
I want to thank Mr. Laurie for his 15 years of service to APS and wish him the best in his academic and future professional pursuits.
For the balance of the 2016-17 school year, Connie Skelton, retired APS assistant superintendent of Instruction and a former Williamsburg teacher, has agreed to fill in as the acting principal for the remainder of the school year. Connie is an exceptional school leader who is very familiar with our instructional and administrative framework, and will work closely with the Williamsburg team to ensure a smooth transition in leadership while continuing to provide excellent support for the students, families and staff.
We know that changes in the middle of a school year can be challenging so all of us are committed to providing any added support that may be needed, and we will work to make this change as smooth as possible for everyone in the school community. In the coming weeks, Dr. Kristi Murphy, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, will join me to begin a process to select another strong leader for the school community. I look forward to your participation in that effort.
Thank you for your continued support.
Patrick K. Murphy, Ed.D.
Jessica Tucker, the county’s first independent auditor to report directly to the County Board, is resigning as of July 8 and taking a new job in California.
The county released the following press release about Tucker’s resignation and the search for a new auditor.
Arlington County will launch a broad search for a new County Auditor, following the resignation of County Auditor Jessica A. Tucker, who has accepted a position in California. Tucker was the first auditor for Arlington County to report directly to the County Board.
“We wish Ms. Tucker success in her new endeavor,” said Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey. “During her short tenure with the County, she laid the groundwork for a successor to quickly move forward with the Audit Committee’s work plan. At the same time, the work of the County’s internal auditor continues.”
Tucker will end her tenure with the County on July 8. She was named auditor in December, 2015. The County Auditor conducts independent program and operation audits and reviews of County departments, operations and/or County-funded programs, focusing on program efficiency, effectiveness and transparency. The County Auditor augments the County’s internal audit function within the Department of Management and Finance.
In March, The County’s Audit Committee, composed of two Board members, the County Manager, the Acting Director of the County’s Department of Management and Finance and three residents, developed a work plan for the County Auditor, reaching a consensus on the first three assignments:
- Site Plan Process
- Jail Medical Services
- Emergency Medical Transportation (Ambulance) Fee, from a list of 33 audit suggestions provided by the County’s Advisory Commission, the County Manager and the County Auditor.
Del. Rob Krupicka announced in an email to his campaign’s mailing list that he would not seek re-election this fall, leaving the 45th House of Delegates District as another open race on the November ballot.
Last year, according to the Washington Post, he opened a location of Sugar Shack Donuts in Alexandria. In his announcement, he said running the business, along with his family and legislative obligations, was too much to take on.
“Between business, family, and public service, it is clear that I’m burning more candles at more ends than I can sustain,” he said in a press release. “Having spent over half of my adult life involved in public service in some way or another, it is time for me to step back from elected life to focus on my growing business and on my family. I don’t like to do anything halfway and the demands on my time make it impossible for me to be the engaged, active public servant that I have always tried to be.”
Krupicka was elected in a special election in 2012 after his predecessor, David Englin, resigned amid his admission of marital infidelity. Krupicka was re-elected in November 2013 and is retiring after just one full term.
Krupicka served as an Alexandria City Councilman and on the state Board of Education before being elected to the House of Delegates. The 45th District covers parts of southeast Arlington, a large swath of Alexandria and a portion of Fairfax County.
Before Krupicka won the 2012 special election, he lost in a Democratic primary for the seat of state Sen. Adam Ebbin in 2011. Ebbin (D-30) released a statement following Krupicka’s announcement this afternoon.
“I was surprised to learn that Delegate Rob Krupicka has decided not to run for re-election this year,” Ebbin said. “Rob’s passion for education and expertise on the benefits of pre-K and high-stakes testing have made a difference, both from his work in the House of Delegates as well as on the State Board of Education. His well-informed, collaborative nature is just what the General Assembly needs more of and will be sorely missed. Rob has been a friend for 20 years, and I understand and admire his dedication to his family.”
Krupicka’s full announcement, after the jump. Read More
School Board member Sally Baird has resigned, effective Aug. 22, after previously announcing she wouldn’t seek re-election.
Baird is the second School Board member to resign this summer, following Noah Simon’s resignation on Aug. 1. That leaves the School Board with just three members: Chair James Lander, Vice Chair Emma Violand-Sanchez and Abby Raphael.
There will be no special election to replace Baird, since the election to fill her seat is already on the Nov. 4 general election ballot. Barbara Kanninen and Audrey Clement are running to fill her seat, while Nancy Van Doren is running unopposed to fill Simon’s seat.
“Commitments in both my personal and professional life have put increasing pressure on my time since the beginning of 2014,” Baird said in a press release announcing her decision. “I have worked to balance these commitments, trying to ensure that I dedicate the amount of time to my School Board duties which I truly believe a member must commit in order to perform this role effectively. This is the manner which our Arlington voters are fair to expect. But the time has come that I can no longer do that without great cost to my family.”
Baird was originally elected in 2006 and won re-election in 2010. She has two sons, who are students at Drew Model School and Gunston Middle School, according to her Arlington Public Schools bio.
Lander has yet to decide whether an appointment will be made to bring the Board back up to four members. If he does, APS said it’s possible that Van Doren will be chosen as appointee, since she is the only candidate to have filed.
“We have received Ms. Baird’s resignation with sincere regret,” Lander said in the release. “All of us on the School Board are thankful and appreciative of Sally’s eight years of leadership and dedication as a Board member. She has worked diligently to ensure that Arlington Public Schools provides high quality educational opportunities for all of our students. On behalf of all of the School Board members, I want to thank her for her dedication and service and we wish her well in all of her future endeavors.”
“To ensure that decisions by the Arlington School Board continue to be representative of the community,” Lander continued, “our goal is to see that those decisions made by the Board during this period of transition reflect support by at least three members of the five-member body.”
Simon announced his resignation, effective Aug. 1, at this morning’s school board meeting. He said he was resigning to spend more time with his two children, following the death of his wife, Kedron, on Dec. 30.
“Simply put, I’m doing this because the board work has made me a part-time father,” a visibly sad Simon said in a statement at the end of the meeting. “The last 6 months have been particularly difficult. I’m a broken man emotionally and physically.”
Simon said he hopes the timing of his resignation will allow the special election to replace him to take place on the same day as the general election this fall, thus saving taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars. Simon was elected to the school board in 2012 as a Democrat-endorsed candidate, and is serving a term that was set to expire on Dec. 31, 2016.
“I feel badly that I cannot fulfill my entire commitment to those voters,” he said. “I want to thank the Arlington parents and the Arlington community at large for teaching me as much as I can learn about Arlington. This is not a decision I wanted to make. It’s a decision I needed to make.”
A former Capitol Hill staffer, Simon has a son and daughter who attend Arlington Science Focus School, according to his official APS bio.
In May, Simon decried the state of civil discourse on school issues in Arlington, after parents upset at a budget proposal said that school board members “don’t care about children with special needs.”
The Jamestown Elementary School PTA issued the following statement about Simon’s resignation:
Noah Simon has been an exceptional public servant. He has listened and he has led. He has learned and taught, We have been very fortunate to have his time and ideas and tremendous devotion to all our children while he served on the School Board. He has helped make Arlington schools better today, and set good things in motion for the future. We will miss him greatly.
Nancy Van Doren, who was unsuccessful in her attempt to win the Democratic endorsement this spring to replace retiring school board member Sally Baird, hailed Simon’s service and announced that she will seek his seat.
“Noah is a well-respected, well-loved member of the School Board and Arlington community. He has set a very high mark for effective, thoughtful, and compassionate service on behalf of Arlington’s children, families, and educators,” Van Doren said in a press release.
“It is a critical time in our community as we work to manage our growing school system,” she continued. “I am prepared to meet the challenges facing our schools and therefore am announcing today that I will seek election to the seat that Noah is leaving.”
Greg Greeley, who ran against Van Doren this spring and also lost to now-Democratic endorsee Barbara Kanninen, released a statement Tuesday afternoon thanking Simon for his service and supporting Van Doren’s bid to replace him.
“Nancy has my wholehearted support and endorsement,” Greeley said.
Earlier in this morning’s meeting, James Lander was elected chair of the school board from 2014-2015 and Dr. Emma Violand-Sanchez was elected vice chair.
“On behalf of the entire School Board, we want to thank Noah for his tireless and exceptional commitment to the school community, especially in the midst of the grief he and his family have experienced during the past few months,” Lander said following Simon’s announcement. “We understand and support his difficult decision to resign, and were fortunate to have such a passionate and committed colleague on this Board during the time he served.”
Also at the meeting, Superintendent Patrick Murphy’s contract was renewed for four years, in a 4-1 vote. The contract renewal was not on the board’s published agenda.
Photo via Facebook
Smith, a 53-year-old Arlington resident, was arrested on the 1100 block of S. Rolfe Street, in the Arlington View neighborhood, around 3:30 a.m. on Friday, March 7. Smith was observed by an officer stopping at a green light, weaving in and out of lanes and almost striking a parked car, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
The officer pulled Smith over and she subsequently failed a field sobriety test, Sternbeck said. Smith was arrested and taken to the Arlington County Detention Center. Four days after the arrest, Drew Elementary parents were notified that Smith was “retiring.”
“We wanted to let you know that Jackie Smith, Principal of Drew, has informed us that she plans to retire from her position with the Arlington Public Schools for personal reasons,” wrote Arlington Public Schools superintendent Patrick Murphy. “She will be on leave the remainder of this week, and will retire effective March 17. We wish her the best in the future.”
“I have been grateful for my 21 years in Arlington as a teacher, assistant principal, and principal,” Smith said in the letter. “The support I have received through the years from Dr. Murphy, APS administrators, the School Board, and the many dedicated teachers and educational leaders throughout the county has been greatly appreciated. I want to express my best wishes to the Drew Model School staff, students, and community, and I hope for their continued success as they work to provide excellent learning opportunities for our children.”
Asked by ARLnow.com if Smith had been fired, APS spokeswoman Linda Erdos said “that statement is not accurate.” Theresa Bratt, who retired from APS last year, is now serving as interim principal at the school.
Smith’s next court appearance is scheduled for May 19. Court documents indicate that, if convicted, this would be her first DUI.
Photo via APS
Zimmerman handed in his letter of resignation in advance on Jan. 1, according to County Board Clerk Hope Halleck. At the County Board’s meeting two weeks ago, Zimmerman was the last to speak and gave a 10-minute farewell address (beginning at the 3:16:31 mark).
The main theme of Zimmerman’s speech was striking a balance between listening and leadership:
It is expected that the citizenry will be actively engaged throughout the decision-making process. That is the meaning of the Arlington Way. A board member must always be seeking input from the people of this community. That advice and counsel is no less important than the recommendations of the manager and the professional staff, which must also be carefully understood and taken into account. This is the listening part.
But listening does not mean taking a poll. It does not mean reacting to every stream of controversy fomented on listservs, in emails and on blogs before coming to a decision. In the end, each board member has to make a judgment about what is best for the community.
Leadership is the unflinching exercise of that judgment without regard to momentary swings in popularity. I believe that the great success Arlington has had is the result of the combination of leaders who actively engage the people; listen closely to what they’re saying; and then chart a path that they, in their best judgment, believe is most likely to result in the ultimate happiness of the community; and the willingness of the people in this community to let them do so.
The Board will now operate with four members until a special election is held to fill Zimmerman’s seat, which is expected to be held April 8. Running for his seat are Democrat Alan Howze, who won the party’s primary last weekend, Republican-endorsed independent John Vihstadt, Libertarian Evan Bernick, Independent Green candidate Janet Murphy and independent Stephen Holbrook.
Zimmerman announced he was resigning the day after Election Day last fall. His last Board meeting was 18 years to the week after his first. He will now join Smart Growth America as vice president of economic development.
“I will bring all of the lessons I have learned to the effort to help other communities across this country succeed in building a more sustainable, prosperous and more equitable future,” he said to conclude his speech, “and I will continue to be a proud Arlingtonian.”