EDITORIAL: The Developer’s Wife

August 28, 2013

An earnest commenter, upon reading the Wave’s story about the developer who plans to convert the Old School into an apartment building, wrote, “I don’t think it’s fair to smear someone’s name just for “knowing” another person. . . . Mary [McCormack, wife of developer J. David McCormack] is one of the kindest, sweetest people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing and I am sure there are lots of people here on the Shore that would agree with me that her name should not even be brought into this mess.”

Indeed, it’s a journalistic axiom when reporting the actions of a public figure that family members’ privacy should be respected. But what about when the public figure himself brings up his wife’s name?

In this case, developer McCormack, addressing a meeting of the Cape Charles Planning Commission, noted that his wife, Mary, “just by sheer coincidence realized that she had a relationship with Heather [Arcos, the town manager].” The Wave videotaped McCormack’s statement (to the discomfiture of the Planning Commission chair), and the video may be viewed by clicking here.

Why is it newsworthy that the wife of a developer “had a relationship” with the town manager? Because what the Town did with the Old School property was highly irregular. When authorities decide to divest public property, it is unusual to give it away, and even more unusual to pay a developer $41,000 to take it – especially when the property was valued on the tax rolls at $900,000.

If a municipality wants to sell public land, it normally would advertise for bids, and then sell to the highest bidder. That didn’t happen in Cape Charles. Instead, Town Council met secretly with McCormack. No one else knew that Town Council was considering selling the building (much less paying someone to take it). Most people still thought the Cape Charles Christian School was going to lease the building. [Read more…]