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Rift between sheriff, supervisors comes to the surface

Times-Mirror File Photo/Beverly Benny Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman and the Board of Supervisors haven’t seen eye to eye on budgetary matters in recent weeks. The sheriff is on track to overrun his $73 million budget by approximately $2.3 million in the current fiscal year.
Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman had his money. Then the county's supervisors read a newspaper.

After initially voting to approve an additional $1.9 million allotment to the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office during its March 20 meeting, the Board of Supervisors a couple hours later reconsidered and voted to table final action on the spending decision until April.

This move comes after Supervisor Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) in early March brought to light the LCSO's approximately $2.7 million budget overrun of its current $73 million budget. The exceeding amount was later estimated to be closer to $2.3 million due to an error on behalf of the county's finance staff. The supervisors $1.9 million in extra allocation was directed for that purpose.

What changed in the short time between the supervisors' initial vote and reconsideration was that several board members read a letter to editor Chapman sent to local news sources and published in Leesburg Today.

While none of the supervisors directly said Chapman writing the letter was the reason for withdrawing the allocation, their comments made clear their discontentment with the sheriff's approach.

Buona, the board's finance committee chairman, was blunt in his criticism of Chapman's leadership. He stated the sheriff was blaming everything except himself.

“The fact is most of these policies have been in effect for years … and the previous sheriff didn't overrun his budget with the same policies,” Buona said March 20. “ … I wish the sheriff had taken personal responsibility for overspending his budget

“When you're a rookie you make mistakes, but missing your budget is no small thing,” Buona told the Times-Mirror in an interview.

When board Chairman Scott York (R-At Large) asked the sheriff to explain why he wrote the letter, the sheriff said he “thought it was important that the county at large understand the complexities involved with the way the budget is designed.”

In the letter, Chapman reiterated his position that overtime pay and personnel staffing are the driving forces behind LCSO's budget excesses. Vacancy savings, a county policy through which departments must leave approved positions vacant for cost-savings, is the key element, Chapman said.

The sheriff explained vacancy savings as under-staffing stemming from the Board of Supervisors approving additional positions yet not allowing the sheriff's office to fill the positions.

“These positions are held hostage,” Chapman wrote in an editorial. “Doing this makes the county appear as though it saved [money] … By forcing the LCSO to incur such a high number of vacancy savings, our workforce becomes understaffed and we must backfill (sic) the positions by paying time and a half overtime – a process that actually costs more than filling the originally allocated, but unfunded positions.”

The additional funds will likely be needed in the weeks ahead, several supervisors agreed, in order to ensure law enforcement officials receive paychecks later in the current fiscal year, which runs through June; but the board wants a deeper look at the financial data on precisely why and how the sheriff has exceeded his budget allotment. County staff is expected to present that information to the supervisors in the weeks ahead.

Supervisor Geary Higgins (R-Catoctin) initiated the reconsideration March 20, noting the disagreement between Chapman and the county's finance staff on budget details.

Buona on March 25 said Chapman's answers and concerns are real, but other departments have been able to adhere to their budget.

Speaking of the sheriff's letter, Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles) said it probably wasn't a good strategy to get the results he wanted.

“I think the op-ed was probably not the wisest way to communicate some of these things,” Letourneau said.

Lack of communication was of parallel concern for the supervisors, who wondered why the budget excesses weren't brought to their attention until so late in the fiscal year. According to the board, Chapman was aware his budget was heading for the red as early as November.

"What we don't want is surprises," Buona told the sheriff in early March. "If this would've been brought to our attention a few months ago, we could've maybe put a dent in this gap."

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In the know…. You are lying..

Fact. Sterling has a higher violent crime rate by percentage of resident then any Fairfax station - public record…. Look it up..

Fact. Loudoun has the lowest number of officers to citizens then anyone else. Again, look it up.

Fact. Loudoun is the 2nd largest force in NOVA. Yes ffx is bigger, obviously.  But LCSO is bigger then Arlington PD, Alexandria City PD, MWAA, METRO Transit,  Herndon,  Falls Church, Leesburg ect ect…... yet we are the lowest paid…

I think you need to ride along in station 2 or 3 one night. You might be shocked at the fight calls, shot fired, assaults, burglary,  pursuits,  foot chases, gang activity ect. “In the know” you are so full of it and flat out lying…

Loudoun County is a little bigger the you know.. instead of getting crime stats from the towns of Bluemont or Lincoln open your eyes to the police work taking place in the middle and east.

Chapman has some learning to do - YES, but he isnt a criminal and thatt is far more then can be said for the last bunch..

Response to:

“Lillly”, aka LCSO PR wing member- sorry but the only one to put Chapman over budget was Chapman himself, your mention of the County being responsible for that is comical.  Poor and inexperienced leadership has got the LCSO where it is now.

@in the know:

LCSO PR wing member?!? What is that exactly?  Hate to disappoint you, but I have absolutely no affiliation with LCSO, nor do I even no anyone that works there.  I’m simply a LC resident who responded (with my opinion) to this article.  And for the record, I did not say BOS was responsible for entire loss, just partly responsible for the mess (over budget) and I think it disingenuous of this board (Letourneau) to say ‘it wasnt wiset way to communicate..’  The board needs to be reminded that Chapman is an elected official (like Letourneau and other members).  I’m sure he felt an obligation to get his side out to Loudoun voters, just like the board disclosed to public the ‘over budget..’

And to other posters on here-you lose clout in arguments when you simply think everyone that disagrees with you is somehow in someones pocket or works for the ‘other side’....

I advise anyone who hasnt to read Mr. Chapmans op-ed piece.

In the know wrote- “Kind of silly to compare salaries here with Fairfax and other points east.  All of those places are highly urban areas with much more serious crime and many more challenges.  Heck, half of Loudoun is still as rural as Clarke and Fauquier.”

Ok genius, is that why Leesburg PD gets paid more than deputies, or is it that Leesburg is such an urban area??? Or maybe that’s why Mwaa Police get paid more than deputies.. Oh yeah it might be because Sterling Park is so rural..no foot traffic, and more cows than people.  No homicides, no vehicle chases, no sexual assaults, no assaults on law enforcement, no domestic assaults, no drug rips, no domestic assaults, no foot chases, no burglaries in progress, no larcenies, no weapon brandishings etc….oh sorry those are just regularly serviced calls constantly handled within the last five months.  In the know You’re a joke!

“Lillly”, aka LCSO PR wing member- sorry but the only one to put Chapman over budget was Chapman himself, your mention of the County being responsible for that is comical.  Poor and inexperienced leadership has got the LCSO where it is now. 

Hey, how come Chapman didn’t submit his op-ed piece to the LTM in the first place?  If he wanted the public to hear his opinion so bad why not send it to the LTM?  What’s he afraid of? 

Bottom line is when you have a budget you are expected to live within that budget, that’s just the way business and government works.  If you know you’re heading to go over budget that’s not the time to buy more things that aren’t mission critical….. uniforms, hats, etc.  You have to pick and choose your priorities.  We need a complete audit of LCSO operations.  There are rumors flying around that the “books have been cooked”.  We certainly don’t need an FBI investigation here at LCSO.

Editor’s Note: Some comments on this article have asked about publication of the Sheriff’s Op-Ed in the Times-Mirror. We were contacted regarding publication of a letter/opinion by Sheriff Chapman, but were then asked to withdraw the opinion piece because additional editing was required. Subsequent communication with the Sheriff’s Office indicated that submission of a revised version was omitted in error. However, since this revised version was not received through official channels, we have declined to publish it in its entirety. We have extended an offer to the Sheriff’s Office to publish a follow-up to clarify Sheriff Chapman’s thoughts in light of the subsequent criticism. This, like any other opinion piece from an elected official, will be evaluated for submission through our standard editorial process.

John Geddie
Editor, Loudoun Times-Mirror

Response to:

“Speaking of the sheriff’s letter, Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles) said it probably wasn’t a good strategy to get the results he wanted.
“I think the op-ed was probably not the wisest way to communicate some of these things,” Letourneau said.”

This statement bothers me the most.  Their (the BOS) interpretation since Chapman ‘didnt tow the line’, they’ll make life difficult. I personally appreciated his op-ed piece, because had we not had it, we would have simply thought Chapman was out of control.  And need I remind everyone (including Mr. Letourneau) that it was the county that put out Chapman was over budget, as if they werent aware or knew the cause.  I suspect the BOS wants to present itself as ‘saving’ Chapman from a mess(that they partly are responsible for).  So bravo to Chapman for playing his cards—- he will not be bought (or played) by this board.

Well the LCSO PR wing in DEFCON 3, LOL, even resorting to pretending to be street cops in an attempt to blunt the LCSO budget scandal. Anything to try and spin this and get the discussion away from the true topic of the LCSO budget crisis.

Let’s set the facts straight:

Salaries and overall budget - one of them cited the Fairfax law enforcement budget, no surprise that it is much more than Loudoun seeing that they have about 4X as many residents, what 1.3 million to Loudoun’s 320,000.  Is it really a surprise that there budget is more?  Kind of silly to compare salaries here with Fairfax and other points east.  All of those places are highly urban areas with much more serious crime and many more challenges.  Heck, half of Loudoun is still as rural as Clarke and Fauquier. 

The true issue at hand here is the failure of the Sheriff to stay within or close to budget and worse, knowing of the multi-million dollar excess and then failing to communicate that to the Board of Supervisors.  The Board, and rightly so, is not happy.  They have every right to question everything about the LCSO budget.  The “letter”  by the Sheriff that some are referring to is merely an opinion piece which by design is attempting cast the LCSO budget crisis is a light that makes the Sheriff look as good as possible.  I believe once all the facts come out it will show that there was much unnecessary excess spending, and this spending was done when it was already known that it was going to put them way over budget. 

If the BOS does anything less than a complete audit of the Sheriff’s books the taxpaying citizens of Loudoun County are left holding the bag.  No County agency is beyond being required to stay within their budget.

Interesting comments, but the mark seems to be missed.  This is all about a board of supervisors who demand that others cut, cut, cut their budgets, so that the 9-0 republican board can get re-elected.  After all, if you can get others to do your work for you, then you get to take it easy.  Maybe, just maybe, this 9-0 republican board of supervisors will fess up, admit that they do not have a clue, and move on.

To clarify. FFX PD has a budget of 270 million,  not 130 mil. Check their gov site, you can see it.

topum, I’m with you on moving to a police force vs sheriff. There shouldn’t be an ounce of politics within a police/sherrif’s force. Too much corruption. Unfortunately, Virginia is still behind on moving forward in politics/laws/schools.

Topum is not prior law enforcement his statement has many flaws in it.  So Topum, properly research prior to posting, then catch a clue.  Fairfax has two Law Enforcement entities, one FFX Sheriff with a operating budget of 39 million.  They are in charge of the Courts, Jail, and Civil Process.  The next is FFX Police Department with a operating budget of 137 million.  They police Fairfax, investigate crimes and deal with public safety.  Put the numbers together and you get 176 million dollars.  The Loudoun County Sheriff is a full service department with a budget of 76 million.  Are you serious??!!!

BOS get the budgets in the 21st Century and hope you make it after the next election.  Your priorities are Public Safety to the citizens, Schools for the children, and social services for those struggling to live in the second richest county in Virginia.  Do something, or be replaced.

Sad…when you can always find two Sheriffs Deputies parked somewhere talking and killing time. Nice new playhouse in Round Hill, new costumes, hats,and guns. Why does everyone wonder where the money went? Add that to the firing of senior Officers? Come on, the costs of this garbage is ridiculous!

Why did LTM even post this article?

THERE is no new information,  nothing at all.. further more why hasnt LTM posted the Sheriff’s letter… Report the news, dont direct it..

I agree 100 % on the Police Department,  long overdue.  LCSO has 700 employees,  we need oversight and just treatment.  With a Sheriff’s Office, it will always fall short. 

Also agree that morale is no lower now then it was 5 years ago. Deputies are leaving due to low pay - simple as that.

And “forced overtime that Deputies dont want”, please inform me on that because I cant find overtime at all, I check staffeasy twice a day, there is no overtime and Deputies fight over the little bit left.

A plea to the Board of Supervisors. Take politics out of law enforcement!
Long time resident here and retired local law enforcement officer (not Loudoun).  I don’t know how these deputies do it. There salaries are peanuts compared to other law enforcement agencies in the area, the benefits stink, it’s no wonder they are leaving. Not to mention they have to put up with kissing up to the Sheriff so they will have a job in 4 years. Talk about breeding “yes men”.
Why on God’s green earth do we not have a police department? Wake up BOS!! Sheriff Simpson used to argue that it would cost the taxpayers a lot more money for the same service and they would lose there voice /say every four years. Little known secret, the state gives the county a set amount (peanuts compared to the overall budget) and we as taxpayers already pick up the rest. The transition to a police department would be spread over several fiscal years and would not cost the county much more then now and they would have a lot more control over its operation and leader. As far as the voice we elect the BOS every four years who in turn oversees the County Manager who in turn supervises a Police Chief. This would prevent an elected Sheriff or should I say politician, who is more interested in posing for pictures, hiring his fed buddies (with no local law enforcement experience I might add) and sending out social media updates about his appointments to various boards drummed up out of Richmond from leading our law enforcement professionals.
Here is a scary thought, the only requirements to become Sheriff is to be 21, and a resident of Loudoun. Yep, that’s it. A department with 600 hundred people is too large to possibly have a complete turnover every 4 years, and be led by a politician instead of a local law enforcement professional. You think its bad now wait till election year; unfortunately the ones who are/will suffer again are the hard working supervisors and front line guys within the Sheriffs Office. Just remember Chapman many of your employees and there relatives are voters to!

“Oh, and BTW, on the sad day when the young man was shot and killed in Sterling, where was the Sheriff??  Isom or Simpson would have been right there”

They would have been there for…...whom??

Let me get this straight.  This article follows several from multiple sources about how the BOS is at odds with the School Board.  A couple of weeks ago it was the Library Board.  That makes three departments at odds with the Board of Supervisors. 

Seems to me it would be more productive to consider the common thread and have some Supervisors evaluate their roll in the problem(s).  It comes off as petty to only point fingers and blame others without some level of introspection.

Poor leadership is why the Sheriff’s office is over budget. Poor reason for so much OT when I notice them sitting around in patrol cars(in odd places in Loudoun, 3 way stop not even major roads, 1 dead ends into a company lot). Why do they waste time sitting around at locations that have had no traffic accidents? I pass cars on route 7 with young kids in front seat, driver texting/cell use or reading and many cars with outdated stickers and yet I seldom see a loudoun sheriff’s car on 7.

In the Know - “Oh, and BTW, on the sad day when the young man was shot and killed in Sterling, where was the Sheriff??  Isom or Simpson would have been right there, how come Chapman couldn’t make it down there? Not very good leadership there.”  What would his presence have contributed to the situation other than getting in the way of his investigators?

In the Know, it is obvious that you are either one of the command staff from the old regime that got terminated, or a current command staff member left over from the old regime.  You take every opportunity you can to attack the Sheriff almost in a child like way.  You are trying to convene messages to the public that are just untrue.  I’m sure that you will reply to this post with, “you are LCSO’s PR staff,” or something to that effect, which is not the case.  I’m just a regular patrol deputy. I’m on the bottom of the totem pole, a cop who’s out with the public in the community, and interacting with fellow peers.  In the know, I’m sure you are out of touch with the regular street cop, so let me tell you how we feel.  Why do you keep saying that Deputies are leaving because of morale issues.  This is completely false.  Deputies are leaving because we do not get paid enough!!  We are the lowest paid cops in Northern Virginia.  Deputies leave because we are having a hard time supporting our families especially when our take home pay has decreased for the third year in a row due to higher healthcare, higher taxes, and paying into our own retirement benefits.  None of this is the Sheriff’s fault, he has no control over our pay.  This is all the fault of the BOS, who unethically get away with half price law enforcement.  The LCSO is a great agency to work for.  We have good people, and good first line supervisors.  We are cops that love being cops, We protect the community from criminals and we love doing it.  But, there comes a point where you have to choose between doing what you love and living check to check, or moving on to another police department where you will be justly paid, and receive your yearly increases.  In the know, you come off as somebody in the agency who is highly paid, or was highly paid.  Well guess what, we aren’t.  The front line in the war on crime, and we qualify for social services.  The sheriff has modernized the agency as he should’ve.  Yes we did need a knew gun because the manufacturer stopped making the gun, which meant no replacement parts for the gun were going to be available.  And, yes guns do break In the know, just in case you were not aware.  Now you keep going on , and on about these units that were take off of the street.  The rapid response unit, which makes up the full time swat team.  The LCSO was the only agency in Northern Virginia without a full time swat team.  We needed a full time Swat team, and we got it.  Not only does the Rapid Response unit respond to swat call outs, but they serve warrants, provide proactive patrols on the street, and conduct surveillance, which would otherwise be conducted by a body who would be getting paid overtime.  You say,  “The Officers who are faced to work overtime don’t even want it.”  Are you kidding me?  I need all the overtime I can get with the way we are paid.  Oh yeah, In the know, the “campaign manager,” as you referred to her does not make 100,000 a year so stop trying to mislead the public.  So in the know I agree, lets hope the voters come to their senses in two years and oust the unethical board of supervisors who continue to keep the entry salary for a deputy at 43000 a year, meanwhile Leesburg PD has an entry salary of over 50, so does Herndon, so does MWAA etc…  Sheriff Simpson? that crook made us flex our hours illegally! illegally!  In The Know, you obviously have a bone to pick with the Sheriff, but don’t lie to the public, we leave due to being poorly paid not because of morale.

Every Loudoun County sheriff in recent memory had to deal with vacancy savings, storm overtime, VIP visit overtime, etc. and none of them ever blew their budget like Chapman has.  As the County’s own head budget honcho stated “This is unprecedented”.  The real difference is that previous sheriffs knew how to manage their budget and understood that they couldn’t just go out and spend money they didn’t have to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars on new uniforms just for the sake of changing the color, new hats, new guns, none of which were needed. Yanking patrol officers out of their assignments and sticking them in unbudgeted newly created specialty units, and then backfilling those vacancies with officers on overtime… no wonder they are way over budget.  Not to mention that the officers who are forced to work that overtime don’t even want it.  These days it really seems like amateur hour at the LCSO, and now the taxpayers are going to be stuck with the bill.  Officers are leaving and that can mostly be attributed to the very low morale under this new regime.  The cost to the taxpayers from the departure of both senior and front line officers is astronomical.  Let’s hope the voters come to their senses and in two years elect a sheriff who is able to manage a budget and lead the agency with class and integrity.  This experiment of having a retired federal law enforcement public relations chap with no local law enforcement management experience has been an abject failure and is now costing the taxpayers of Loudoun County an arm and a leg.  Anyone notice that the almost year-old cold case unit has yet to make an arrest in a cold case?  Or hiring his campaign manager to run the LCSO Facebook page for a salary of over $100,000 a year?  It’s things like this that just want to make you shake your head as you see your taxes go up. 
But all of this is nothing compared to what could well be the story of the year, or years, if the Virginia State Police or the FBI end up investigating the LCSO administration as to budgetary matters.  The ship is sinking; wonder how many of the upper command is going to be willing to go down with it. 
Oh, and BTW, on the sad day when the young man was shot and killed in Sterling, where was the Sheriff??  Isom or Simpson would have been right there, how come Chapman couldn’t make it down there? Not very good leadership there.

First let’s ask the staff and editors of the LTM a couple of questions: Why hasn’t the LTM run Sheriff Chapman’s Op-Ed so the readers can understand the context of this article?  Sheriff Chapman’s letter was posted in its entirety by a competing newspapers 7 days ago. 7 days is a lifetime in the 24 hour news cycle.

Now lets address Sheriff Chapman’s informative letter to the tax payers of Loudoun.  In his March 20th letter the Sheriff explained several factors that attributed to his department’s over-run.
Since ‘07 LCSO gas run a $5M deficit, under the helm of Loudoun’s part-time nine-iron Sheriff Simpson an audit will disclose, Simpson payed a shell game.  Moving funds from the Operations & Mgmt accounts, didn’t hire the needed deputies and employed an illegal staffing practice.  Simpson"s flextime policy has led to a class action suit against the County & LCSO.  In 2011 the Courts found this practice illegal.  Our new (and competent) Sheriff Mike Chapman out an end to this illegal practice.

Sheriff Chapman went to the public with his informative Op-Ed. And how did our esteemed Board of Supervisors react; budget reprisal, basically publicly trying to shame & embarrass our Sheriff, who attempted to be transparent with the taxpayers. Again the BoS asserted the only power they have, withhold funding for the LCSO, because our Sheriff dared to be transparent & shed a bright light on the questionable budget practices of the BoS.

SHAME on the BoS. You got called out for your questionable budget practices & your reprisal was to punish our Sheriff and by proxy punishing our dedicated men & women of our LCSO, while playing political games with the public’s safety. Those who lead the charge and complicity voted to reverse your previously voted action and deny our Sheriff the needed supplementing the LCSO budget over-run, will be 1 term BoS members.

Tax payers: LCSO received less than10% of the over all budget of the LCPS.  That’s right LCSO gets <$86M compared to the (over bloated, pork lined) public schools budget of >$867M.  Every year the BoS expects the Sheriff’s department to do more with less funding.  Public Safety is a core County Service. Fund the LCSO & stop the petty political games.

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