The potential of a delay in the misdemeanor trial of Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Executive Director Jennifer McDonald for filing a false police report has been raised by the commonwealth. That delay requested on October 2 is based on the unavailability of what is described as “an important Commonwealth witness” identified as “James Michael Graham”.
Graham, who is more commonly known by his middle name, served as town manager of Front Royal from October 2006 to September 2010.
The Commonwealth’s motion for a continuance in the McDonald case cites a scheduled two-week business trip to Southeast Asia by Graham that overlaps the trial date. Contacted, Graham said only that he first found out he would be called as a witness in the case a week earlier when he was served a witness subpoena. He declined further comment.
An October 31 (Halloween) trial date has been set in the case alleging that McDonald fabricated a reported vandalism at her home on Thursday, June 15, 2017. McDonald reported the incident at 9:02 p.m. However, Front Royal Police investigators believe McDonald told an unnamed individual details of the incident several hours before it occurred.
The case was eventually turned over to the Virginia State Police who filed a misdemeanor warrant against McDonald on June 13, two days before the statute of limitations on a misdemeanor charge expired.
On June 22, the EDA Board of Directors expressed unanimous support of their executive director “through this ordeal she is going through.” A scheduled annual performance evaluation of McDonald was also scheduled for a closed session that day. While there was no public comment on the evaluation, it would appear the unanimous consensus on Vice-Chairman Bruce Drummond’s expression of support for McDonald might be a clue as to how that evaluation went.
According to a report by Royal Examiner’s Norma Jean Shaw FRPD Chief Kahle Magalis explained that when Acting Chief Bruce Hite first discussed moving a two-pronged investigation of the McDonald home incident and an earlier May 18, 2017 break-in at the EDA headquarters to the state police, they initially declined to pursue the investigation.
After becoming chief on October 1, 2017, Magalis sent the then-inactive case file to Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney Brian Madden “who asked (VSP) to consider investigating the case.” That investigation was taken over by VSP Special Agent Eric Deel in March of this year, resulting in the June 13 misdemeanor warrant.
During his tenure as town manager Michael Graham worked with McDonald and the EDA in an effort to bring a 26-acre solar power field as the first commercial endeavor at the former Avtex Superfund site.
That effort fell apart among town council infighting and intrigue that eventually led to multi-million-dollar illegal interference in a business contract negotiation lawsuit being filed by the involved local solar power company SolAVerde and its principals Greg Horton and Donnie Poe against three councilmen – Tom Sayre, Chris Holloway and Carson Lauder. That trio was sued for over $6-million each. However, the case was eventually dismissed on a technical ruling that the actions of the three councilmen were protected as part of their service as elected public officials.
One of those three involved councilman, now Warren County Supervisor Tom Sayre filed a $25,000 defamation lawsuit against McDonald on September 21. Sayre alleges McDonald attempted to frame him for the rock-throwing vandalism she reported at her home in June 2017. A hearing date of November 16 has been set in that case.
Both the misdemeanor criminal case and the Sayre civil suit will be heard in Warren County General District Court.