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Council decides to keep residential trash collection and recycling service



As Gene Tewalt listens, Jacob Meza, right asks staff if new numbers match the old numbers council got in May. / Photos by Roger Bianchini.

FRONT ROYAL – At a Tuesday, January 16, work session Front Royal Public Works staff explained what happened to the Town’s plan to move to single-stream (unseparated) recycling, then analyzed the cost, pros and cons of maintaining its residential trash collection service.

Fueled by staff analysis that contracting out trash collection to a private, for-profit business would cost the Town and its taxpayers an additional $635,000 annually, the verbal unanimous consensus to maintain the Town’s Solid Waste Department trash collection services appeared to be a no-brainer.

“I think we have a bargain … and should stay with what we have been doing,” Mayor Hollis Tharpe said following a power point presentation by Public Services Manager Robert Boyer under the watchful eye of Environmental Services Director Jimmy Hannigan. Eventually, all six councilmen agreed.

Environmental Services Director Jimmy Hannigan, (standing left) and Robert Boyer, (at podium), assure council the Town will save $635,000 annually –at least the next three years–maintain solid waste collection.

As for the plan to move from separated to non-separated, single-stream recycling that seemed on the horizon early last fall, a failure to get a single bid on two Requests For Proposals (RFP’s) the Town issued, explains why town residents are still asked to separate their recycling. That is not likely to change any time soon.
Sans bids, town staff met with the sales manager of Manassas-based American Disposal to discuss single-stream recycling. They were informed the company wasn’t accepting new clients and was in the process of raising prices for existing customers to cover an estimated monthly loss of $400,000 to $500,000 at their facility.

Solid waste variables
The bargain on maintaining residential trash collection that the mayor referenced included an estimate that if outsourced, base residential trash collection costs would rise from the current level of $14.10 a month by about 70% to $23.99.

However, council’s decision to maintain residential trash collection didn’t come before a detailed examination of the numbers presented in support of the staff recommendation to maintain that service. Jacob Meza led that examination, questioning costs in both past town budgets and in a staff analysis of trash collection options presented at a work session last May.
Pointing to an apparent gap of only $190,000 between a past solid waste budget ($982,000) and projected annual outsourcing costs of $1,171,402, Boyer pointed out the outsourcing number Meza was looking at did not include $411,033 in annual tipping fees the Town would be charged. In fact, those tipping fees counted for $6.59 of the $9.89 increase in estimated monthly costs to customers.

Boyer also pointed out that council approved $240,000 for the purchase of a new trash collection truck in last year’s budget. Dropping the service, the Town would be stuck with that purchase and nothing to do with the truck other than figuring out how much of a loss it would take on an attempt to unload (pun intended) it.

As for the projected need to purchase additional replacement trash trucks and recycling trailers ($45,000 to $50,000 each for the latter) at some future point, Town Manager Joe Waltz said the new truck would be paid for by the time the next truck needed to be purchased. Waltz added that staff could guarantee that residential trash collection rates could be kept stable for the next three years. The staff power point also stated that the Town would continue to realize a $20,000 annual profit on traditional recycling collection in house.

Asked what staff wanted from council Tuesday night, Waltz responded a decision on the future direction of the town trash and recycling collection service. That decision was being sought to assure solid waste staff they would continue to have jobs in the coming year or years. Boyer’s power point presentation noted that as of January 2017 several solid waste collection staff positions had been lost in the wake of the fact council was considering outsourcing the service became known. While all but two of those lost positions have since been filled, the department will continue to wrestle with staff turnover without a guarantee the department would be kept.

With staff numbers on relative costs and service advantages explained, council concurred with both staff and the mayor’s position that in-house trash and recycling collection services are in the best interest of the town and its citizens.

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Local Government

Town Planning Commission Meeting May 15, 2019: Dog kennel, daycare & new subdivision



Jeremy Camp, Director of Planning and Zoning. Photo and video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

At the May 15th Town of Front Royal Planning Commission meeting, one public hearing on a special use permit, submitted by Fianna Litvok, for a dog training facility, with a kennel, at 650 W. 11th Street, Ste A in Front Royal. The Commission also reviewed a preliminary plan application, submitted by Ramsey, Inc. for a 33 lot subdivision within the R-1 district.

The proposed dog training facility/dog kennel would be called Tip Top K9. It would offer obedience training for dogs. The applicant Fianna Litvok states that most training would be done off-site at the pet owner’s house or other location. However, there would be “doggie bootcamps” on-site. Commercial kennels are described as secondary and relate only to the “doggie bootcamps”, where pet owners would leave their dogs at the facility for 2-4 weeks. Litvok says initially hopes to be able to have 1-4 dogs housed at the site, but with a potential for up to 10 dogs. Click here to download complete application and photos.

Chris Ramsey of Ramsey, Inc submitted a preliminary plan for a 33 lot subdivision at the end of Ewall Street and and the end of Happy Ridge Drive to be called Happy Creek Knolls.

Click here to download application and photos.

The daycare application was extended to the next Planning Commission meeting in June.

Jeremy Camp, Town Planning and Zoning Director gave his report to the Commission.

The Royal Examiner‘s camera was there:

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Local Government

Town of Front Royal Receives Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting



B.J. Wilson, Director of Finance at recent Council work session.

The Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting has been awarded to the Town of Front Royal by the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) for its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2018. The Certificate of Achievement is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting, and its attainment represents a significant accomplishment by a government and its management. The Town has received this award consecutively for 32 years.

An award of Financial Reporting Achievement has been awarded to the designated by the Town of Front Royal as primarily responsible for preparing the award-winning CAFR.

The CAFR has been judged by an impartial panel to meet the high standards of the program, which includes demonstrating a constructive “spirit of full disclosure” to clearly communicate its financial story and motivate potential users and user groups to read the CAFR.

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EDA in Focus

Tran defense motions echo earlier filings, cite vague summary of allegations



‘Curt’ Tran was all smiles during discussion with media during EDA board closed session on Dec. 20, 2018. However, Tran expressed distress at the fact Jennifer McDonald’s job was in jeopardy that day. The EDA announced McDonald’s resignation following re-adjournment to open session. Royal Examiner File Photos/Roger Bianchini

On May 2, the attorney for ITFederal and its CEO Truc “Curt” Tran followed attorneys for the other seven defendants in the EDA civil suit of March 26 in filing defense motions attacking the style and substance of the case against their clients.

In the demurrer seeking dismissal of five of the six counts (1-4 and 6) in the EDA Civil Complaint it is asserted that the filing by attorney Cullen Seltzer of the Richmond law firm of Sand-Anderson lacks the legally-required specificity and factual basis to support its oft-stated conclusion that the defendants have acted to improperly divert EDA assets based “on information and belief”.

“And many of the Plaintiff’s allegations being made solely ‘on information and belief’ is fatal under the heightened pleading requirement for fraud,” Tran/ITFederal attorney Brandon H. Elledge writes citing case history, adding of such wording, “and thus to avoid dismissal, a fraud plaintiff must supplement such allegations with ‘a statement of facts on which the belief is founded’ and also ‘must delineate at least the nature and scope of plaintiff’s efforts to obtain, before filing the complaint, the information needed to plead with particularity’.”

As to the sixth count omitted from the Tran/ITFederal request for dismissal, Count 5 – “Breach of Fiduciary Duty of Loyalty” – the demurrer notes that it “does not purport to state a claim against Mr. Tran and ITFederal” but rather asserts actual claims “only against Defendant McDonald” – which does appear to be the case as it would impact all defendants other than McDonald. See Related Story:

Sheriff, ITFed principal Tran, Donnie Poe named with McDonald in EDA civil suit

“As an employee of the Warren EDA, Defendant McDonald owed the Warren EDA a fiduciary loyalty,” Count 5 begins in recounting the obligations of McDonald’s role as the executive director of the EDA.

Talk about smiles, these at the ITFederal groundbreaking – you won’t catch these two smiling at each other these days as Supervisor Tom Sayre and Jennifer McDonald are engaged in dueling civil defamation lawsuits. Social Media Courtesy Photo

And it is in the absence of the detail of the preceding 160 paragraphs leading to the $17.6 million-plus civil suit’s call for compensation in six counts against all nine defendants upon which defense attorneys have focused their arguments for dismissal.

The six counts seeking a judgment of “not less than $17,640,446.16” against “the Defendants jointly and severally” are: 1/ Fraud and Fraud in the Inducement; 2/ Conversion; 3/ Conspiracy; 4/ Unjust Enrichment; 5/ Breach of Fiduciary Duty of Loyalty; and 6/ Ultra Vires (improper) Transactions and Agreements.

And other than that one mention of the minimum of $17.6-million-and-change of allegedly misdirected or embezzled EDA assets there is no other reference to specific amounts of money tied to any defendant in the plaintiff presentation of the resultant civil “Counts” against those defendants. In fact, only “Defendant McDonald” and “Defendant Earthright Energy LLC” are cited in the six counts – McDonald in the aforementioned Count 5 “Breach of Fiduciary Loyalty” that does appear focused on her alone; and Earthright Energy LLC in Count 6 “Ultra Vires Transactions and Agreements” related to work arrangements or contracts engaged in with Earthright Energy through McDonald without approval of the EDA Board of Directors “in the manner required by law.”

However as alluded to above and noted in previous stories on the EDA complaint and defense motions against it, there is detail concerning specific amounts of money involved in specific transactions involving specific defendants throughout the first 160 paragraphs of the complaint. Those 160 graphs appear to present the basis of fact and finance leading to the final 39 paragraphs stating of the more generalized summary of offenses described in Counts 1 through 6 of the EDA civil suit. See Related Story:

Defendant attorneys cite vagaries, legal conflicts in EDA civil suit

However for Tran/ITFederal attorney Elledge that detail too, is lacking.

“While the Complaint is long on allegations as to McDonald’s misconduct, it offers very little as to Defendants … Tran … and ITFederal except for conclusory recitations or vague statements made only ‘on information and belief’,” Elledge asserts, adding, “Mr. Tran and ITFederal expressly deny the meritless claims asserted against them and any alleged wrongdoing in this matter.”

Of the summary nature of the stating of the Counts against the defendants, the Tran/ITFederal defense memorandum of support of the demurrer for dismissal states, “… the group pleading method employed by the Warren EDA in its Complaint is improper and fails to fairly inform Mr. Tran and ITFederal of the nature of the claims levied against them …”

However, is that true of the first 160 paragraphs of the 199-graph complaint – well 209-graphs if you include the 10 paragraph “Prayer for Relief” seeking return of EDA assets, attorneys fees and “punitive damages (of at least one million dollars) jointly and severally against the Defendants”?

This way to the Promised Land of commercial investment and high-dollar tech jobs in your community, then Congressman Robert Goodlatte may have been gesturing – or he may have been pointing ‘Curt’ Tran toward the bank by way of the EDA for a little help with that investment.

The complaint devotes many paragraphs to the securing of a $10-million bank loan for Tran/ITFederal through the EDA, citing the involvement of McDonald and then-U.S. Congressman Robert Goodlatte, R-6th, along with Tran. It is noted that loan was made at Goodlatte’s request despite repeated assertions by “Tran and Defendant McDonald …that Tran did not need the financial support of the Town and Warren EDA”.

However that “unnecessary” $10 million dollars of financial support was acquired, along with the gift of a 30-acre parcel at the Royal Phoenix site publicly valued by the EDA at $2 million for a one dollar price. Conditions were attached to that gift, including completion of the project by an eventually extended completion date of mid-2020; and a reduction of the scope of the project from an approximate 40,000 s.f. in a three-building complex alleged by Goodlatte to produce over 600 high-paying tech jobs through ITFederal to the community, to a 10,000 square-foot building producing at least 10 jobs of indeterminate wage.

And while the complaint notes that far less than $10 million appears to have been spent to date on the ITFederal Project here, the Tran/ITFederal motion for dismissal asserts Tran did nothing wrong and has worked within the parameters of his agreement with the EDA, both on the loan and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) regarding nearly $1.5 million in what is described as “Subsequent Payments to ITFederal” alleged to have been unauthorized by the EDA.

The lone ITFederal building on site in January 2019 – while more work has been done completing the outside façade, the one-story, 10,000 s.f. size has not expanded beyond minimum requirements to become eligible for EB-5 Visa Program funding.

Regarding the Count of “Conversion” of EDA assets to Tran’s personal benefit, Elledge writes on behalf of his clients, “The only Warren EDA funds allegedly retained by ITFederal are a $10 million loan pursuant to a promissory note and a deed of trust and some $1.5 million pursuant to a Memorandum of Understanding. Thus, ITFederal received those funds in accordance with such agreements. Plaintiff does not – and cannot – allege a breach of such agreements, and it, therefore, alleges no right to immediate possession of the funds. Rather, it lawfully controls them subject to the terms of the loan documents and the MOU …

“The only payments due to Plaintiff is the repayment terms of the promissory note, and it has not – and cannot – allege that ITFederal has breached or defaulted on any of its contractual obligations,” the Tran/ITFederal filing in support of its motion for dismissal states.

But at issue for the EDA as plaintiff is an alleged fraud perpetrated by Tran in conjunction with McDonald in her role as EDA executive director and possibly others, to acquire the loan, gift of property and “Subsequent Payments to ITFederal”. That fraud is alleged to involve a $140 million in purported ITFederal government contract the plaintiff found no evidence exists – though Elledge asserts it does – as well as websites said to create a false impression of financial viability of Tran companies the plaintiff asserts there is no discovered substantive support of, and false representations of Tran’s personal worth and intentions of investment in this community.

“Plaintiff does not allege any cohesive fraudulent scheme here, but rather a series of independent transactions connected only by the involvement of Defendant McDonald … In the portions of the Complaint referencing Mr. Tran and ITFederal, Plaintiff obscures who actually made what representations at issue by repeating the phrase ‘Tran and Defendant McDonald represented, through McDonald (emphasis in context) … Such vague construction fails to establish Mr. Tran’s connection to the alleged misrepresentations by omitting how Mr. Tran managed to represent anything ‘through McDonald’,” the Tran/ITF filing states, adding, “By lumping Mr. Tran together with Defendant McDonald and referencing ‘multiple occasions,’ Plaintiff unsuccessfully tries to create an impression of wrongdoing without articulating who made what statement to whom on which occasion.”

From a different angle, Tran/ITFederal attorney Elledge echoes Jennifer McDonald attorney Lee Berlik’s argument that his client is being villainized for the alleged actions of other defendants and/or bad decisions by past EDA boards.

“Plaintiff suggests every statement by every counterparty it now regrets crediting was a false statement by Ms. McDonald … instead of a false statement to Ms. McDonald (emphasis in context),” Berlik wrote in his April 16 filing on his client’s behalf, adding, “The Warren EDA is looking for someone to blame for every decision it now regrets since new leadership has taken over – and Ms. McDonald is it.”

File photo of EDA board meeting, circa 2016-17, with since-deceased Patty Wines holding the chairman’s seat. Empty seat to left is Jim Eastham’s, who was absent as he battled the cancer that eventually killed him. Other members from left are Ron Llewellyn and Greg Drescher, resigned effective March 23, 2019, Executive Director McDonald, Wines, long-time Treasurer Billy Biggs who resigned last October due to health issues, now Vice-Chairman Bruce Drummond and Toray’s Brendan Arbuckle who resigned when he left the area. Standing is County Administrator Doug Stanley giving an update on County business.

From Tran’s legal perspective he has simply taken advantage of a series of sweetheart deals offered by the EDA Board of Directors at the urging of friends in high places, including Congressman Goodlatte and the EDA’s then executive director.

What could possibly be wrong with that?

At issue in the wake of the filing of the series of defense demurrers for dismissal of the cases against their clients is will that question in regard to all defendants ever be argued in front of a jury in a Warren County or any other courtroom?

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Local Government

Budget funding, UPS lot permitting, tax deadline and street closure concerns



Photo and Video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

The Front Royal Town Council meeting of Monday, May 13, saw:

  • first-reading approval of appropriations to support its $47,538,060 Fiscal Year 2019/2020 budget;
  • approval of UPS’s request for a special use permit to expand its commercial parking area at its 470 South Commerce shipping facility contingent upon nine conditions recommended by the planning commission to protect the habitability of a nearby residential neighborhood;
  • extension of the deadline for payment of Town real estate and personal property taxes from June 5 to June 21 this year;
  • and the reading of several proclamations into the record.

See these actions and Downtown Bakery proprietor Keith Menefee’s “Public Comments concern about the event-long extent of East Main Street’s road closure during the Family Fun Day event of the previous Saturday on the Royal Examiner video:

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Local Government

Council addresses legal options in replacing Mayor Tharpe



Vice Mayor Sealock talks to media about Council's decision on filling vacant Mayor seat. Photo and video by Mark Williams.

After a closed session at the end of Monday’s meeting, Vice-Mayor Bill Sealock explained that council will meet its legal obligation to appoint a new mayor within 45 days of the resignation of Hollis Tharpe on May 2. The announcement of the intended appointment will be made by May 28, Sealock indicated.

The vice mayor, who has been serving as acting mayor since Tharpe’s resignation following a solicitation of prostitution indictment, indicated he does not want the appointment – “I don’t want to lose my vote,” he said of the mayor’s role of only breaking council vote ties.

Council could appoint one of its own or any town citizen legally qualified to serve as mayor to fill the position.

Council has authorized Town Attorney Doug Napier to petition the court not to have to call a required special election to fill the mayor’s term out before the county’s upcoming municipal elections this November. State code allows such requests to be made when the next municipal election is less than a year away.

See Vice Mayor Sealock address council’s plan moving forward in this Royal Examiner video:

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Local Government

Town Council to consider how to fill the seat of former Mayor Hollis Tharpe



Former Mayor Hollis Tharpe at recent Council meeting.

The Front Royal Town Council at it’s May 13th meeting has scheduled a Closed Meeting for filling the seat of former Mayor Hollis Tharpe.

There appears to be three scenarios:

a) the possible appointment of a specific public appointee of Town Council, namely, a citizen of Front Royal or a sitting Town Council Member, to fill the seat vacated by the resignation of former Mayor Hollis L. Tharpe, pursuant to Section 2.2 3711. A. 1. of the Code of Virginia;

b) the possible appointment of a specific public appointee of Town Council, namely, a citizen of Front Royal, to fill a seat vacated by the possible appointment of a Town Council Member, should a sitting Member of Town Council be appointed to fill the seat of Interim Mayor, due to the resignation of former Mayor Hollis L. Tharpe, pursuant to Section 2.2 3711. A. 1. of the Code of Virginia; and,

c) for the purpose of consultation with legal counsel employed or retained by a public body regarding specific legal matters requiring the provision of legal advice by such counsel, specifically, the law regarding filling vacancies on positions of the governing body of the Town, pursuant to Section 2.2-3711. A. 8. of the Code of Virginia.

After the closed meeting, hopefully the Council will have a decision on how this seat will be filled.

See related story:

Vice-Mayor Sealock will continue as ‘acting mayor’

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33rd Annual Virginia Wine & Craf... @ Downtown Front Royal
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Wine and craft lovers unite!  The 33rd Annual Virginia Wine & Craft Festival, presented by Jack Evans Chevrolet, will be held on Saturday, May 18th in historic downtown Front Royal, Virginia from 10 am –[...]
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