Prince William News
Tue., Nov. 20 - haymarket-mayor-organizes-sandy-relief-effort
Haymarket mayor organizes Sandy relief effort
© Gainesville TimesIn the wake of Superstorm Sandy, Haymarket Mayor David Leake, his private sector employer and others from around town pitched in to help in the relief effort for a devastated military veterans' shelter in New York City.
Those delivering food, water and fuel to the community of Jamaica in the borough of Queens navigated dark streets on Nov. 3 littered with debris and vehicles pushed far enough inside the roadway that their convoy had just enough room to make it.
"They had no electricity," said Leake. "It was bad."
Leake, who works as a facilities manager for the same-day delivery company Quick International Courier, discussed with his boss the logistics of trying to deliver fuel cells, pumps and other items to a stricken area of New York City that needed them.
Eventually, the company came across the V.E.T.S. Inc, which needed the donations.
According to the organization's website, V.E.T.S. Inc. is a residential facility that provides food, shelter, clothing and supportive services to male veterans.
Leake and other Quick employees picked up supply items from across the region and the mayor himself talked to his predecessor, former Mayor Pamela Stutz, about whether the Haymarket Food Pantry had any surplus items to donate.
Around town, the Haymarket Baptist Church offered to serve as an organizational center for donations that the eight convoy trucks could take to New York City.
Demolition contractor John Payne, whose company has worked on the Hulfish House and Old Post Office buildings on the Town Center Property, offered up a trailer and volunteers for Leake's crew.
The Haymarket Wal-Mart and a local bakery also offered food.
By the time the trucks hit the road for Queens, thousands of pounds of water and other supplies already came in.
"It was like a spiderweb of people," said Leake.
The mayor mentioned that Delaware served as the refueling station for the trucks due to gas shortages in New Jersey and New York.
In the early morning hours, Leake heard from the veterans' home director, ret. Major Sharon Lindsey.
When he wanted to know if she would drive out to meet him, he said she told him, "David, we have no gas."
Spotting a "little dim latern" at the corner of a street marking the veterans' house, the caravan eventually found its way to the beleaguered facility, hooked up a generator and unloaded the trucks and trailer with the help the veterans themselves.
Back home, Haymarket Town Council member Rebecca Bare lauded Leake's participation in the effort but raised concerns about Leake not informing the council of the effort and the use of Leake's mayoral title being used by outside groups.
In a Nov. 13 letter addressed to Leake, Bare wrote, "Members of Council, the Planning Commission, the Architectural Review Board, Town Staff, Town Businesses and other Town Residents should have been contacted because surely they would have wanted to make all of their resources available, as they have done in the past with other Town charitable efforts.
"By not properly communicating with Council and limiting the (town's) participation as a whole, you dramatically reduced the size of the relief effort by not having the greatest number of people involved," she added.
Bare said during a follow-up interview on that "two different people from two different organizations had a misunderstanding that this was a town charitable event."
The first-term council member and multi-term member of the Planning Commission called Leake's organizational task a "a very noble effort" but added, "If it's possible that somebody thinks you're doing this on behalf of the town, you have an obligation" to inform council.
That came even though Bare acknowledged Leake did not use his elected title himself during the organizational drive.
She specifically highlighted a Nov. 3 post on the Inside Nova (Manassas News and Messenger) Facebook page, stating, "The mayor of Haymarket, David Leake, advised that the town of Haymarket is taking a caravan of trucks up to New York with food and fuel."
Bare said that instance and a completely separate group using Leake’s mayoral title while mentioning the relief effort created a misunderstanding among some town residents about whether such an act is being officially conducted by the town.
Separately, on the Quick.aero website, a reference about the relief effort states, "With the warm support of Quick's COO Dominique Brown, David began with contacting a local food pantry in Haymarket, VA, a small town of 2000 inhabitants, where he volunteers his time as a Mayor since July, 2012."
Leake insisted that no town staffers and resources were used to organize the relief effort.
Instead, he countered that he didn't think it was necessary to contact council members because he acted on behalf of his employer, not the town.
"Why didn't she call me?" he said about Bare raising concerns about his activities, later adding, "I did even think about calling (her)."
Bare essentially offered the same assessment back to him, saying that had the mayor "simply just made a phone call or a text message or an e-mail" while he was making preparations, there would have not been a problem.
As for what's to come, there likely won't be action against Leake over this. The council member requested in her letter that the mayor address questions she had and that his "efforts on behalf of the town be made known in advance to the council as a whole."
"It's just a communication problem," said Bare on Sunday. "I think the town (is) in a position that we could do more charitable acts."
According to Leake, "Everybody knew about the Sandy situation... She could still help out."