Embattled city planning commissioner resigns
Fredericksburg Planning Commissioner Edward Whelan III submitted his resignation to fellow commissioners, the mayor and the City Council on Tuesday.
His action follows public questioning of his conduct by two members of the City Council on April 22 and subsequent calls by Mayor Mary Katherine Greenlaw and City Attorney Kathleen Dooley for his resignation related to a conflict of interests.
Whelan is manager of the Inn at the Olde Silk Mill and registered agent for the limited liability company that just bought the former Virginia Electric and Power Co.’s Embrey Power Station property.
In December, as a planning commissioner, he initiated an effort to rezone the Mill District of the Princess Anne Corridor, which impacts both properties.
He officially declared his involvement with the inn but did not disclose that he was involved in the other property despite having consulted Dooley and the city commonwealth’s attorney prior to beginning the process at the Dec. 11 commission meeting.
“Their [sic]sic has been an honest misunderstanding in declaring my evolving role in the zoning and restoration of the Mill District,” Whelan wrote in his email to fellow commissioners on Tuesday. “Out of abundance of caution I have submitted my resignation to City Council.”
Whelan had served on the commission for 8 years. He was initially appointed to fulfill the unexpired term of another commissioner in October 2005.
The City Council will appoint Whelan’s replacement after applicants are interviewed. Anyone interested in serving should contact Clerk of Council Tonya Lacey at City Hall, 540/372-1010 or download an application at the city’s website: freder icksburgva.gov.
Whelan said that his extended family operates Dreamland LLC, which bought the Embrey Power Station property two weeks ago.
On Monday, Whelan submitted to the Planning Department a form disqualifying himself from partic- ipating in Planning Commission discussions and votes on the proposed rezoning of the Mill District.
But then on Tuesday, after days of vacillating on whether to resign, he notified city officials.
Virginia law requires public officials to make a “conflicts of interest act declaration.”
Once made, the official can still participate in a transaction if he feels he can do so without bias.
On Dec. 11 when he proposed the rezoning and in March during a vote on the issue, Whelan declared that he felt he could “participate in the transaction fairly, objectively and in the public interest.”
He didn’t make a public declaration nor sign a conflict of interests statement regarding the Embrey Power Station property, a deal that has been in the works for at least two months.
State law says that a public official “may participate in the transaction if he is a member of a business, profession, occupation, or group of three or more persons the members of which are affected by the transaction” if he complies with the declaration requirements.
More than three property owners are impacted by the proposed rezoning of the Mill District.
Questions about Whelan’s actions first surfaced publicly at the City Council’s April 22 meeting. There, Councilman Fred Howe and Vice Mayor Brad Ellis expressed concerns.
On Friday, after learning of Whelan’s involvement in the power plant deal, Dooley called Whelan and told him he should resign.
On Monday, Mayor Greenlaw told The Free Lance–Star he should step down.
Whelan submitted his resignation to the City Council about noon on Tuesday and told The Free Lance–Star he had nothing further to add.
In the email, he said it had been an honor to serve the city as a commissioner since 2005.
“During that time, I have always worked hard for what is best for the entire city and its future. I believe my experience as an entrepreneur has bought [sic]sic valuable insight to the planning commission as we weigh how we will grow as a community. I have always strived to handle my duties in the most honest and forthright manner possible and long been upfront about my role as an active member of our business community.”
He added that his role had recently grown and that “looking forward I believe that it is best that I step down from the planning commission to avoid any distraction from the city’s important work.”
Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972
Below is the unedited content of the email Planning Commissioner Edward Whelan III sent to Fredericksburg’s mayor and City Council on Tuesday to announce his resignation.
Mayor Mary Katherine Greenlaw and City Council,
It has been an honor to serve the city of Fredericksburg for the past eight and half years. During that time, I have always worked hard for what is best for the entire city and its future. I believe my experience as an entrepreneur has bought valuable insight to the planning commission as we weigh how we will grow as a community. I have always strived to handle my duties in the most honest and forthright manner possible and long been upfront about my role as an active member of our business community. Recently, that role has grown, and looking forward I believe that it is best that I step down from the planning commission to avoid any distraction from the city’s important work. While I will no longer serve in city government, I look forward to remaining an active voice in our community as a business and civic leader.
Respectfully Ed Whelan