FRONT ROYAL – At the February 20 meeting of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, Mark Egger, father of former Front Royal Councilwoman Bébhinn Egger, made pointedly critical remarks about the board and staff of the local Economic Development Authority. Egger went so far as to allege obstruction of justice and filing false police reports about break-ins he believes were staged targeting the EDA office and the home of the EDA executive director. Egger also raised questions about a closed session discussion of those incidents he cited as likely illegally convened.
During his references to a FOIA Council opinion the EDA closed session may have been convened illegally, an EDA board letter cited in that opinion was referenced. That letter signed by Greg Drescher as board chairman, dated July 17 three weeks after the EDA break-in, requested that the town police put its investigation of the EDA headquarters break-in on “inactive status” after a private investigator became involved. This request was what Egger cited as a potential obstruction of justice.
In the wake of Egger’s comments Royal Examiner asked EDA Board Chairman Greg Drescher and EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald if they cared to respond.
Drescher declined to comment on what is an active investigation regarding the EDA office reported break-in of May 18, 2017 or general EDA processes, but did respond to Egger’s closed session allegations. “The EDA has legal counsel at every meeting, including closed sessions to ensure that closed session rules are followed. The closed session referenced by Mr. Egger followed the appropriate guidelines and legal counsel was present to ensure those guidelines were followed.”
McDonald responded to questions related directly to her situation related to criminal and private investigations of incidents at her home property in the same timeframe as the EDA office break-in. She also sent a letter to the editor of Royal Examiner tracing the work and impact of the EDA on this community over the past two-plus decades, as well as how the EDA operates. That letter appears in the OPINION section of the Royal Examiner website.
As for her response to direct questions submitted by e-mail, McDonald explained that it was she, not the EDA board who hired a private investigator to explore the incidents directed against her and the EDA office.
“I hired the PI and provided a copy of the cancelled check. The EDA did not hire a PI,” she said. As for information gathered by her private investigator, she said “Information was provided as necessary” to local law enforcement investigating the incidents.
As to the incidents themselves, McDonald said, “Since this is an ongoing investigation I do not want to comment on what actually happened with all of the incidents and there were too many to keep count of starting in early December 2016.”
As for Egger’s suggestion a statute of limitations was approaching on the ability of law enforcement to make arrests in any of those incidents, McDonald said, “I was not aware of the limitations but have full confidence that the WCSO is doing everything they can to come to a conclusion, if any conclusion can be made on what happened at my home. I have a suspicion of who the culprit may be, but until he is located for questioning I am sure it will be difficult to prove anything.”
We asked Commonwealth’s Attorney Brian Madden and Town Police Chief Kahle Magalis about statute of limitations regarding prosecution of break-ins and similar criminal activity. Both confirmed that were an incident determined to be a misdemeanor, there would be a one-year statute of limitations; however, if ruled a felony there is no statute of limitations on bringing charges. The EDA office break-in occurred May 18, 2017. As McDonald stated above, the incidents at her home began in December 2016 and continued beyond the EDA office break-in. McDonald confirmed that to her knowledge there have been no public statements about details of the crimes.
In response to a question about who had been present in her home at the time of the incidents there, McDonald acknowledged that in addition to her husband, her stepson who had been in a car accident and was wheelchair-bound for some time after, had been.
“Yes, he was in a wheelchair for the first round of incidents that started shortly after the Berdyck stuff. For the duration of that time I stayed up at night trying to figure out how to get him in a wheelchair and out of the house if anything were to happen,” she said.
The “Berdyck stuff” McDonald referenced were social media posts by self-proclaimed “environmental activist” Matthew Berdyck beginning in January 2017. Berdyck is considered a cyber-stalker by a number of governmental, media and entertainment industry figures he has targeted around the country for six years or more. Berdyck landed in Warren County in 2016-17, after which he posted attacks on McDonald personally, the Avtex Superfund site cleanup in general, as well as the first announced commercial client at the site, ITFederal. McDonald says some of the personal attacks posted on social media included her home address with comments such as “let the lynching begin.”
Between January and March 2017 Royal Examiner published a series of commentaries about Berdyck’s allegations and actions locally, including a failed e-mail attempt to ingratiate himself with ITFederal principal Truc “Curt” Tran prior to his negative posts locally.
- In Defense of Jennifer McDonald and the EPA
- Superfund ‘watchdog’ reached out to ITFed owner prior to attack blog
- Royal Examiner responds to Berdyck denial of Tran e-mail
Asked if she could elaborate at all on the situation at her home property last year, McDonald said, “There is nothing I want to add here except it is a shame that we live in such a hateful world that people think it is okay to try and intimidate someone else just because they do not agree with their job description or have some type of vendetta to fulfill. I come to work every day, do my job as directed by my Board AND local officials AND according to state regulations and at the end of the day I go home to be with my family and/or come back out to night meetings – nothing that gives anyone the right to try and make me and my family uncomfortable in our home or this community that I grew up in and love.”
We concluded by asking McDonald about more generalized criticism aimed at Drescher over his dual role as superintendent of county public schools and EDA board chairman.
“There are those that feel Mr. Drescher spends too much time at the EDA, when in fact he does not. Greg attends our monthly meetings, comes in once a week to get updated on projects and to review invoices and checks. We have a Board of seven and they each have their own role, Greg is not the only Board member, but he is our leader and he is a very good chairman.”