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Attorney request Council’s consideration of memorandum regarding appointment of Jacob Meza

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MEMORANDUM OF LAW IN SUPPORT OF THE TOWN CHARTER

Issue:
Was the appointment of a former councilman, defined by the Town Charter as a municipal officer, four days after he held that same office, unlawful where the same charter prohibits the appointment or election of a member of council to an office under the jurisdiction of the council within one year?

Rule:
“No member of the council of the Town of Front Royal shall be appointed or elected to any office under the jurisdiction of the council while he is a member of the council, or for one year thereafter, except that the council may appoint one of the members of the council as town treasurer with all or any part of the duties, powers, obligations and responsibilities of the town treasurer provided by this act. ” Front Royal Town Charter § 47

Analysis:
Virginia statutory interpretation is governed by the following well-established principle:

If [a statute’s] language is clear and unambiguous, there is no need for construction by the court; the plain meaning and intent of the enactment will be given it. When an enactment is clear and unequivocal, general rules for construction of statutes of doubtful meaning do not apply. Therefore, when the language of an enactment is free from ambiguity, resort to legislative history and extrinsic facts is not permitted because we take the words as written to determine their meaning. And, when an enactment is unambiguous, extrinsic legislative history may not be used to create an ambiguity, and then remove it, where none otherwise exists. Brown v. Lukhard, 229 Va. 316, 321, 330 S.E.2d 84, 87 (1985)(citations omitted).

The phrase, “under the jurisdiction of the council”, in this context clearly and unambiguously refers to and modifies “any office” that the Town Council may appoint or elect.

Town Charter § 6(D) specifically grants the Town Council the jurisdiction to appoint councilman: “The council may fill any vacancy that occurs in the membership of the council for the unexpired term”, provided the appointment is not for one year thereafter holding his office.

In fact, § 9 of Town Charter specifically grants the jurisdiction to the Town Council to fill the vacancy created when a member of council is chosen to serve as mayor. “Should a member of the council be chosen to serve as mayor until the next municipal election such councilman shall be deemed to have surrendered his office as councilman forthwith upon his qualification as mayor and his office of councilman shall thereupon be vacant. The vacancy thereby created in the council shall be filled by the council as provided in § 6 hereof.” (emphasis added).

Section 11 of the Town Charter also makes it clear that the office of councilman is under the jurisdiction of the Town Council where it states, “If any member of the said council shall be voluntarily absent from three regular meetings of the council consecutively, his seat may be deemed vacant by resolution of the council and thereupon his unexpired term shall be filled according to the provisions of this act.” (emphasis added)

Furthermore, the Town Charter grants the Town Council jurisdiction over itself!

‘[E]xcept as prohibited by the Constitution of Virginia or restricted by this charter, the Town of Front Royal shall have and may exercise all municipal powers, functions, rights, privileges and immunities which are now, or may be hereafter, conferred upon or delegated to incorporated towns under the  constitution and laws of Virginia, as fully and completely as if herein enumerated in detail, and no enumeration of particular powers in this charter shall be held exclusive.”  Front Royal Town Charter § 1

The Town Charter specifically creates the Town and enables the Town Council the authority to create its own unique rules and laws that are granted to towns as a whole in Virginia.

Perhaps the most self-evident argument is that IF the appointment of the office of town councilman was NOT under the jurisdiction of the Town Council, we would not be having this discussion because the appointment by the Town Council of a councilman on January 4, 2021, would be null and void because the appointment would be ultra virus, or outside of the jurisdiction, for the Town Council to make such an appointment regardless of the one-year rule.

The only remaining question is whether the position of “town council” is an “office” in the context of Section 47 of the Town Charter. Not only does Section 9 of the Town Charter specifically refer to the “office” as councilman, the Charter defines the councilmen as “officers”:

“The municipal officers of said town shall, beginning with the effective date of this act and thereafter, consist of a mayor, four councilmen, a town manager, a town treasurer, and a town clerk, who shall also serve as the clerk of town council, and such other officers as may be designated by ordinance duly enacted from time to time. The town treasurer may additionally, by ordinance duly enacted, serve as the town’s finance director. Beginning July 1, 1994, and thereafter, the number of councilmen shall be six.” Front Royal Town Charter § 4

The press release of the Town Attorney claiming that Front Royal Town Charter § 47 does not apply to the appointment of councilman because it is found under the caption “Chapter 6 Town Officers” is misplaced. “Captions are intended as mere catchwords to indicate the contents of the subtitles”, Virginia Code § 1-244, Jones v. DCSE, 19 Va. App. 184, 450 S.E.2d 172 (1994). In Foster v. Commonwealth, the Virginia Court of Appeals rejected defendant’s argument that Virginia Code § 18.2-96 did not define “petit larceny” even though the caption to the Virginia Code section specifically stated, “Petit larceny defined ”. 44 Va.App. 574, 606 S.E.2d 518 (2004), affirmed 271 Va 235, 623 S.E.2d 902 (2006).

There is no ambiguity in the phrase, “or for one year thereafter” in the Town Charter. This is a period of time that councilmen are prohibited from appointment or election by the town council to an office under their jurisdiction. Four days is less than one year. The legislative intent, while unnecessary to interpret this section, is furthered by prohibiting a councilman’s appointment within one year of holding the office as councilman by minimizing nepotism and appearances of impropriety. The argument that the statute was only to avoid “double dipping” or a “conflict of interest” is misplaced since there would be no “double dipping” if the councilman is a former councilman. The “conflict of interest” remains applicable due to the recent appointment by his colleagues.

The Town Attorney’s reliance on Virginia Code § 15.2-1535 to assert that there is no time restriction on appointments is misplaced. Virginia Code § 15.2-1535(A) enables appointment to Town Council of a previous Town Council member. This is a correct, but incomplete, statement of law. The Virginia General Assembly permits “a member of a governing body may be named a member of such other boards, commissions, and bodies as may be permitted by general law”. Where the Town Charter precludes appointment for one year after serving as councilman, the Virginia Code does NOT permit appointment by general law. Consequently, the Town’s assertion the Code allows appointment “without any time restrictions” is contradicted by the statute which the Town relies upon.

Conclusion:

Where the appointment of council members is under the jurisdiction of the Front Royal Town Council and the Town Charter specifically precludes appointment or election of a council member to an office under the jurisdiction of the Town Council for one year, except for the office of Town Treasurer, any appointment by the Town Council of a councilman having held the office of  councilman within one year of his appointment would be an ultra virus act, specifically prohibited under the Town Charter, unlawful and null and void. The remedy would be to so find and vacate the appointment by proclamation of the Town Council unless Mr. Meza should decline the appointment. This clear meaning of Section 47 was also followed by former Town Attorneys when former Mayor James Eastham was found ineligible for appointment to the EDA (2009), when Councilman Bret Hrbek was found ineligible for appointment for committee appointment (2011), and when the current Town Attorney distinguished the interim Town Mayor as not a member of Town Council to enable him to serve in the office of interim town manager (2019) within one year after their respective terms of office.

David A. Downes, Esquire
Front Royal, Virginia

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Political ideology or educational background and common sense for North River School Board seat?

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Despite other candidates, and their preferred party falsehoods and tactics being pilfered, in apparent desperate attempts for votes to their failing campaigns, I continue to be thankful for the conservative, independent, classy and coherent approach which Angela Robinson continues to apply towards her campaign for School Board for the North River District of Warren County, VA.

Angela is a true educator, with a college degree (in education at that), a mother, wife, former local public school educator, current public school administrator, all while maintaining her strong conservative fiscal, social and common sense approach to education.

Angela, truly, understands the frustrations of Richmond and Washington.  She has the understanding and means (that are, actually, legal and practical) in how to address Supreme Court decisions on public education, as opposed to wasting taxpayer time and money on certain lawsuit failures, further disrupting the free and appropriate public education that all children are entitled to.

Angela trusts our teachers and administrators to do their jobs, while not shying away from asking, NOR ANSWERING, tough questions, and demanding accountability.  She won’t “block” you for asking her a tough question, or for disagreeing with her.  She will graciously seek to understand you, your thoughts and concerns.

Despite her conservative and Christian values, Angela understands the constitution, how it applies to education, and will maintain a common sense approach, to ensure that “all” children in Warren County (to include our most impoverished) will be treated with the same dignity and respect that she would desire for herself.

You will never hear Angela refer to children she has never met as “confused and misguided”.  Angela will, actually, get to know the young people of her district, and our county, as opposed to tossing out ignorant, confused and misguided statements, just to make a political establishment and their cultist juice drinkers happy.

In the end, if being conservative matters to you, Angela Robinson is your best bet.  If having someone with the proper education and credentials to insist on success, and actually possess the credentials to make it happen, Angela Robinson is your best bet.  Finally, if you want someone who will truly look out for the educational, emotional and social needs of your child, as opposed to seemingly trying to gain some form of political power, only to put our county on the road to lawsuits and failure, Angela Robinson is the clear choice for the North River District of Warren County, Virginia School Board.

Brought to you by an Independent Conservative resident, who thinks for himself, applies common sense to the realities of life, and refuses to drink the juice of a local political Cult.

Michael S. Williams
North River District Resident
Lifelong Advocate for Youth
Town of Front Royal, VA

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A grateful classroom parent endorses Angie Robinson’s bid for the Warren County School Board

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When my daughter went into fourth grade, I was recovering from cancer. After five treasured years spent homeschooling, our family needed to change plans. I was extremely nervous about putting my sweet girl into public school with all of the social challenges and my perception of how things would look for her as a dyslexic learner – already disadvantaged in the classroom.

We are forever grateful that her 4th-grade teacher was Angie Robinson. Angie is an extremely gifted teacher. She was able to set my child at ease, understand her learning style, and most importantly, Angie was able to communicate with me, the parent, with understanding, kindness, and respect.

Educating our children right now is a big job. One that is mired in social and health issues, while the actual business of educating seems to take a back seat. As a parent I can say truthfully that I do not care about the noise — I want my children well-loved and well-educated.

Angie Robinson is the kind of educator who can restore trust between families and teachers in our public education system; the kind of communicator who can speak with knowledge about the kind of resources needed in the classroom while leaving the partisan politicking in the parking lot, and the kind of advocate who can see Warren County schools and students thrive.

Angie has the experience to know that what matters to families is that children learn to read, and aspire to great heights in their lives, wherever their educational journey takes them. As a grateful classroom parent and now as a friend, I am proud to endorse Angie Robinson’s bid for the Warren County School Board.

Natalie Erdossy
Warren County

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Opinion

Cultural Appropriation

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historically speaking

In the current environment of race sensitivity, I think it is necessary to ask certain questions. I think the best way to move forward as a nation is to have a dialoged. With Halloween approaching I am reminded of a situation last year where children were criticized for dressing up as characters not of their race. In a time when we are pushing for equality and inclusiveness, at what point do we cross a line into racism? In the past Disney has been accused of racism by making most of their characters white and in recent years has done their best to create a diverse cast of heroes and princesses. In our efforts to diversify, what happens if a little girl loves a character like Moana and wants to dress as her for Halloween? In some ways this should be celebrated as the type of color blindness we want to teach our children, but in other ways this is being seen as racism and cultural appropriation. Historically speaking this is actually not new. We have seen examples of this over the past decade, but also from a tumultuous decade a long time ago.

In 2011, Touchstone released the movie The Help based on the very popular novel of the same name. The movie and the book were both massive hits; the book spent over 100 weeks on the best seller list. The story is set during the 1960s in the south and both the book and movie were praised for bringing to light the difficult subject of racism and the treatment of black domestic help. Yet it also showed the strength of the three leading women, two black and one white, as they in their own ways fought against this negative treatment. However, jump forward to the present and the same book and movie are now under scrutiny.

A similar thing happened last year when Oprah Winfrey announced the book American Dirt as her book club pick. Winfrey’s book club is possibly the most famous book club in history and her choices are normally celebrated. Winfrey claimed this book captured her attention from the very beginning and it was a story needing to be told. It is about a middle-class Mexican woman and her son fleeing from a drug lord that recently took over their Mexican town. This incredibly violent story details enduring hardships and the struggle many migrants must go through to try to better their lives. However, probably to Winfrey’s surprise, this book also came under attack.

In both cases the books drew criticism because the authors were white, and their detractors said both women wrote about issues they were not familiar with nor could possibly understand. The Help also is accused of having a white savior complex or the idea that it took a white woman to solve the black women’s problems. Even though, in both cases, the authors were actually trying to shine a light on the struggles of minorities, many felt they were trying to profit from others’ hardships. This may seem like a 2021 issue, where we have become very sensitive of cultural appropriation, but in fact this is a very old one.

In 1852, the most important and highest selling novel of the Nineteenth Century was released. Uncle Tom’s Cabin written by abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe told a fictional story of slaves in the south. The principal character, Uncle Tom, was owned by a good Christian family who came on difficult financial times and was forced to sell a couple of their favorite slaves, slaves who they saw almost as family. Tom ended up being passed from one master to the next, some caring, some bad, and eventually one who was evil and beat Tom to death.

The Shelby’s, Tom’s original owners, were also forced to sell the young son of Eliza, who when Eliza found out took him and ran to freedom in the North. It is a harrowing tale of survival.  What Stowe was able to do was put a face to slavery. Many in the north had no connection to slavery or had never met a slave. They only knew what they had heard, that blacks did not have the same feelings as whites. They were not as affected when their young were sold away. Whites used the fact that their slaves seemed to just go back to work and did not seem to mourn those that were lost. Of course, the slaves had no other choice but to go back to work under physical duress. What Stowe did was show the pain and agony slaves endured. She turned more people into abolitionists than anyone else. Even Lincoln when he met her said, “So you’re the little woman that started this Great War!”

The other thing it did was show that slavery hurt whites. The Shelby’s were good people forced to do an evil thing. Throughout the book are constant stories about whites forced to come to terms with this evil institution. In some ways the kind sweet young Eva, who took such good care of Tom, had to die. If not, she would have been corrupted by the institution of slavery.

Even with the success of the novel in some circles the book was condemned. One of the key criticisms was the fact that Stowe had never been in the south or around slaves and so could in no way know what slavery was like. Southerners claimed her depictions were inaccurate and slanderous and the book was banned from most southern states.

Historically speaking, even though Stowe was a white northerner woman, and for today’s standards perpetuated negative racial stereotypes, she possibly did more to bring to light the problems with slavery than any other person. If Lincoln was right, it was this book that brought on the war that brought an end to slavery.

I understand and want to be sensitive to cultural appropriation, but I also fear too much sensitivity is actually pushing us in the wrong direction. I understand the history of black face and as a white man may not understand the pain of cultural appropriation. Yet if a little girl has embraced diversity and her favorite princess is a person of color, is she crossing the line of racism, or should we celebrate her inclusiveness? I am not saying I know the answer to this, but what I fear is from now on we tell children to embrace diversity but when it comes to choosing your favorite characters make sure they are white.


Dr. James Finck is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha. He is Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. Follow Historically Speaking at www.Historicallyspeaking.blog.

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“But she’s a homeschooler!!!” Which is exactly why I am needed on the board!

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Most people don’t realize that school boards also affect homeschoolers.  It is the school board that sets local policy for homeschoolers.  For reference, look at Loudoun County.  Their school board attempted to change homeschool policy to EXCEED what state law allows.

Homeschooling doesn’t mean no involvement in the public school system—there are yearly requirements to be met.  Every year, homeschoolers must submit their “notice of intent” to the superintendent and at the end of the year submit their “proof of progress” for approval.  If you wish to file for a religious exemption for compulsory attendance, it is the school board that votes to approve or deny this request.  Homeschoolers in Warren County are also allowed to select certain classes to take at the public schools.  Homeschoolers are affected by the school board in many ways, so why shouldn’t we be able to hold a seat on the board?

Warren County, pre-covid, had one of the highest numbers of homeschoolers in the state.  As of the 2020 census, Warren County had roughly 23% of students opting out of their free public education, for schooling options such as homeschooling, private schooling, or co-ops.  (And no, students doing virtual schooling do NOT count in that number—those students are still counted as attending public school.)  With almost a quarter of our local population choosing alternative schooling methods, don’t we deserve representation on the board that governs us?  We still pay taxes into the system, so without a single homeschooler on the board (until I was appointed) I am reminded of the quote,  “No taxation without representation”.

It is a common misconception that you must have a child in the public school system to sit on the school board.  Our school board did NOT have a public schooling parent on the board until this school year when Dr. Pence’s child started kindergarten.  I was appointed to this board because of the skill set I possess.

Melanie Salins
Front Royal, VA

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Political Blame

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historically speaking

As we continue to watch events unfold in Afghanistan and see what many consider a failure to exit properly, it is important to remember that, historically speaking, failure is common. Many of the men that we consider our greatest presidents experienced failures. What sets apart some presidents over others is how they handled the situation. One such complete failure happened in 1961.

In January 1959, Fidel Castro and his communist forces overthrew the government of Cuba. Once in power he nationalized the sugar industry and kicked American companies out of the nation. America, fearing communism, especially so close to our shores, put an embargo on Cuban sugar, trying to crush their economy.

At the same time President Eisenhower began to put into motion a plan to remove the new dictator. Not wanting to get directly involved, the CIA trained ex-Cubans who fled the Cuban Revolution to lead the assault. When President Kennedy took office in 1961 the plan was already set. JFK was told there would be little resistance and that, instead, the Cuban people would rise up and support the invaders to overthrow Castro. Being in office for only three months and believing what he was told, Kennedy did not nix an operation already scheduled; instead, he gave the project a green light.

What became known as the Bay of Pigs invasion was a complete disaster. Castro was ready for the invasion and most of the men were killed or captured on the first day. It turned out the plan was far from secret and the Cuban people were not prepared to fight their new leader. All the invasion did was make Castro look like a hero for stopping the imperialist Americans. It also gave the Kennedy administration a black eye, not the way this young new American leader wanted to be introduced to the world. So how did Kennedy handle the situation?

The day after the invasion, April 20, Kennedy addressed the press. While not completely truthful about American involvement, he made three main points. First, “it is clear that the forces of communism are not to be underestimated.” Second, “It is clear that this nation, in concert with all the free nations of this hemisphere, must take an even closer and more realistic look at the menace of external Communist intervention and domination in Cuba.” And finally, “it is clearer than ever that we face a relentless struggle in every corner of the globe that goes far beyond the clash of armies or even nuclear armaments.”

The more telling admission came the next day in a press conference. The president started the conference by saying that he would not make any more statements about Cuba. Yet one reporter, Sandy Vanocur, challenged Kennedy with “In view of the fact we are taking a propaganda lambasting around the world, why is it not useful, sir, for us to explore with you the real facts behind this, or our motivations?” Kennedy answered the question by saying that, unlike with dictators, in free societies leaders must judge what information is helpful and harmful to the nation. About Cuba he said, “There’s an old saying that victory has 100 fathers and defeat is an orphan. And I wouldn’t be surprised if information is poured into you in regard to all of the recent activities.” He then talked about how it’s the same in the space race. He had read an article where someone said all America does is talk about putting a man in space while the Soviets just do it. Dictators have no obligation to the people or press, he said.

Kennedy finished his answer with, “But I will say to you, Mr. Vanocur, that I have said as much as I feel can be usefully said by me in regard to the events of the past few days. Further statements, detailed discussions, are not to conceal responsibility because I’m the responsible officer of the Government–and that is quite obvious.” Kennedy could have easily blamed Ike, or the CIA. Maybe he should have. It really was their failed plan and intelligence, but not a word.

Now compare Kennedy’s press conference to President Biden’s. He began by praising the “extraordinary success” of the mission, the same mission most saw as a failure. He did recognize flaws in the mission, starting with the Afghan Government. “The people of Afghanistan watched their own government collapse and their president flee amid the corruption and malfeasance, handing over the country to their enemy, the Taliban,” he said. The President then turned his attention to the man he replaced, “My predecessor, the former President, signed an agreement with the Taliban to remove U.S. troops by May the 1st, just months after I was inaugurated. It included no requirement that the Taliban work out a cooperative governing arrangement with the Afghan government, but it did authorize the release of 5,000 prisoners last year, including some of the Taliban’s top war commanders, among those who just took control of Afghanistan. And by the time I came to office, the Taliban was in its strongest military position since 2001, controlling or contesting nearly half of the country. The previous administration’s agreement said that if we stuck to the May 1st deadline that they had signed on to leave by, the Taliban wouldn’t attack any American forces, but if we stayed, all bets were off.”

I am not saying President Biden is responsible for what seemed like botched exit. Trump may have handled it the same way. What I do see is a difference between the way Kennedy and Biden handled a situation that they inherited. Historically speaking, Kennedy’s approval ratings continued to be strong. We will have to see what happens with Biden moving forward.


Dr. James Finck is a Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. To receive daily historical posts, follow Historically Speaking at Historicallyspeaking.blog or on Facebook.

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A vaccination decision made

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This ‘vaccinate or not to’ vaccination decision has caused division between families, friends, neighbors, and others. This is a message I sent to two of my dearest friend’s requests as to why I got the vaccination.

My friends,

In no way did I mean that you don’t believe this pandemic is not real.

I also have my beliefs in the Holy Spirit to guide and lead me in my decisions. I have been a rebel for most of my life when it comes to natural health and well-being. I have been able to dodge most of the illnesses that plague us mortals. Eating healthy, exercising, and having a relationship with my creator has blessed me with living a healthy life. To take any shots for anything was always my last resort.

It was not until I turned 60 that my attitude changed. It came during my physical that my trusted doctor laid some harsh facts on me.

He said you have lived a very healthy life, but unfortunately your body is aging. Your systems, as much as you have been taking good care of it, are not running at their max efficiency anymore.

Now you have a choice to make. You can ignore this fact and let nature runs its course, or you can allow me to help you extend its ability to run as efficiently as it can for as long as it can with a good quality of life.

The Flu and Shingles vacs help your immune system to help fight these types of viruses. There will be medicines that I will prescribe that will help your body to heal faster. There will be times that your body will need assistance that will stop the development of other illnesses. He closed by recommending that I continue to follow my health regimen. His job is to let me know what he can recommend for me to do to keep the quality of my life with some assistance at times. He said, of course, it’s my choice which way I want to go.

It was very hard for me to accept this wise counsel, but he was right. I have chosen to follow the doctors’ recommendation. He said to get the Covid vaccine, and I did.

So you can see from this response that I continue to be very guarded on what advice I believe. We are fighting a losing battle as we age and this I cannot deny even though I continue to fight to stay healthy. So I decided that getting the Covid vaccine would give my body the help it needs in fighting this ongoing Covid battle.

We really love you guys. We would not forgive ourselves if we were ever responsible for passing the virus to you.

Michael Graham
Front Royal, Virginia

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