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EDA Board extends Afton Settlement date, approves Crime Coverage insurance claim among other post-Closed Session actions

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This press release has been updated to include the resolution documents passed by the Board of Directors. Additionally, the first two motions passed out of Closed Meeting have been corrected from yesterday’s press release to include specific language from their corresponding resolutions.


The EDA Board of Directors met for a Special Board meeting Wednesday, January 6. After a 40-minute Closed Meeting, the Board voted on three actions in greeting the new year:

  • On a motion by Jorie Martin and seconded by Tom Patteson, the board unanimously passed a resolution approving a Release and agreeing to an amount of $500,000 with Cincinnati Insurance which represented the total amount of the Commercial Crime Coverage policy to settle a claim regarding alleged misconduct by, among others, its former Executive Director, Jennifer McDonald.
  • On a motion by Jorie Martin and seconded by Greg Harold, the board unanimously passed a resolution approving the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Commonwealth Opportunity Fund Performance Agreement with Silent Falcon UASA Technologies. The $161,482 grant is an inducement to the company choosing to move from New Mexico to Warren County. With this agreement, Silent Falcon is committed to bringing jobs to the county as well as making a significant capital investment in building construction for their new operation here.
  • On a motion by Jorie Martin and seconded by Tom Patteson, the board unanimously passed a resolution approving a Release and agreeing to an amount of $500,000 with Cincinnati Insurance which represented the total amount of the Commercial Crime Coverage policy to settle a claim regarding alleged misconduct by, among others, its former Executive Director, Jennifer McDonald.
  • On a motion by Jorie Martin and seconded by Greg Harold, the board unanimously passed a resolution approving the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Commonwealth Opportunity Fund Performance Agreement with Silent Falcon UASA Technologies. The $161,482 grant is an inducement to the company choosing to move from New Mexico to Warren County. With this agreement, Silent Falcon is committed to bringing jobs to the county as well as making a significant capital investment in building construction for their new operation here.
  • On a motion by Greg Harold and seconded by Tom Patteson, the board unanimously approved a motion to extend the date of settlement with 2 East Main, LLC for the purchase of the Afton Inn to February 12, 2021. The developers, Jim Burton and Alan Omar, are dedicated to renovating the historic building which will bring jobs and commerce to downtown Front Royal.
  • Lastly, in New Business, on a motion by Jorie Martin and seconded by Tom Patteson, the board unanimously approved an annual grazing lease with Jeremy Baldwin for $1,000. Board Chairman Jeff Browne congratulated the new Town Manager and new Town Council members. He had a good meeting this week with Town Manager Steven Hicks and is hopeful of starting a new chapter for EDA-Town relations back that focuses on economic development issues.

The EDA Board of Directors will have their regular monthly board meeting via Zoom on Friday, January 22, 2021 at 8 a.m.


APPROVAL OF COMMONWEAL TH’S DEVELOPMENT OPPORTUNITY FUND PERFORMANCE AGREEMENT WITH Sll.,ENT FALCON UAS TECHNOLOGIES

WHEREAS, Warren County (“County”) has been awarded a grant for $161,482 from the Commonwealth’s Development Opportunity Fund (“COF”) to induce Silent Falcon UASA Technologies (“Silent Falcon”) to locate in the County and creating and maintaining a significant number of new jobs; and

WHEREAS, the County will provide those grant funds to the Industrial Development Authority of the Town of Front Royal and County of Warren dba the Warren County Front Royal Economic Development Authority (‘•EDA”) so that the EDA can provide the funds to or use them for Silent Falcon provided that Silent Falcon meets criteria relating to Capital Investment and New Jobs;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the EDA hereby approves the attached Commonwealth’s Development Opportunity Fund Performance Agreement with Silent Falcon VAS Technologies, Warren County and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, and authorizes its Chair to sign the Performance Agreement.

APPROVAL OF SETTLEMENT WITH CINCINNATI INSURANCE COMPANY OF POLICY CLAIM FOR EMPLOYEE THEFT

WHEREAS, the Industrial Development Authority of the Town of Front Royal and County of Warren dba the Warren County Front Royal Economic Development Authority (“EDA”) made a claim on its insurance policy with Cincinnati Insurance Company (“Cincinnati”) under the Policy’s Commercial Crime Coverage, which has a $500,000 limit of liability, regarding alleged misconduct by, among others, its former executive director Jennifer McDonald; and

WHEREAS, the EDA and Cincinnati desire to resolve the claim by Cincinnati making payment to the EDA in the amount of$500,000 upon the EDA executing the attached Release of Cincinnati from any further liability;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the EDA hereby approves the settlement and the attached Release, and authorizes its Chair and Secretary to sign the Release on its behalf.

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County Supervisors review VDOT issues, contracts, coming FY-2022 outside agency requests and public comment rules

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On Tuesday afternoon beginning at 4 p.m. and continuing after a brief adjournment at 6 p.m., the Warren County Board of Supervisors held a work session to discuss, first VDOT issues entering the new year and later early FY 2022 budget items. Those items were requests of partner agencies, including Samuels Public Library, Northwestern Community Services, the Economic Development Authority, and County Health Department.

The EDA discussion included some reference to the ongoing $20-million legal dispute with the Town of Front Royal and how to approach any future work for the Town, should the Town desire it.

As EDA Board Chairman Jeff Browne listens to left, EDA Executive Director Doug Parsons told county officials the EDA will work with the Town or without it, as the Town chooses. The supervisors have not absorbed the EDA as a County Department while waiting to see if a new town council and new town manager will bring a new direction to Town attitudes regarding the EDA. Based on unchallenged mayoral comments Monday evening, the answer would appear to be ‘no’.

There was also discussion of meeting rules regarding the length of time devoted to public comments and how that should be addressed in the future, by code or meeting decisions by board members.

Also, on the agenda was a review of the parameters of several renewable contracts tabled for supervisors unaware of those contract dynamics and use and value to the county government.

See the County meeting video here.

Is it live or is it virtual? With a nod to an OLD Memorex cassette tape commercial; and an additional nod to the 1960’s-70’s ‘surreal’ comedy troupe Firesign Theater for the timeless observation about time and space that has been challenged in 2020 – ‘How can you be in two places at once when you’re not anywhere at all?’ the 1969 album cover of which is pictured below just so you didn’t think I was making that one up. Royal Examiner Photos by Roger Bianchini

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EDA Board Chairman and Executive Director look back, and to the future

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On Wednesday, December 30th this reporter sat down in the Royal Examiner/National Media studio with Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority Board of Directors Chairman Jeff Browne and Executive Director Doug Parsons for a perspective on the long, strange, and productive year they have experienced as a newly aligned board and staff navigate the EDA into the future of economic development in this community, while attorneys focus on recovering from the past financial scandal.

The conversation began with two recent announcements – the landing, literally, of drone manufacturer Silent Falcon UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) in Warren County with the potential of eventually adding as many as 249 quality jobs to the local market; and the EDA’s heading into the final round of consideration, with experienced distributor Parallel LLC, to land the Eastern regional medical marijuana distribution contract. Should Parallel LLC score that contract, it would also entail the purchase of the huge Baugh Drive warehouse the EDA has been marketing for some time.

Hear how Randolph-Macon Academy’s drone program played into Silent Falcon’s decision to locate its manufacturing headquarters here, and how the drone manufacturer and operational services local presence might stimulate similar educational initiatives in Warren County’s Public School system. And learn why Warren County Sheriff Mark Butler got a big smile on his face upon learning Silent Falcon was bringing its operations to Warren County.

Questioned about the controversial Sheetz proposal at the base of Apple Mountain in Linden, they also explained the EDA’s role there – absolutely NONE.

Browne and Parson also noted that a conversation with the Town of Front Royal to finalize the sale of the Afton Inn property to developer 2 East Main LLC is continuing – and where there is conversation, there is hope. And they hope those discussions are just the beginning of continued conversations that will lead to repaired relations with the town government to everyone’s benefit, not only at the intersection of East Main Street and Royal Avenue but countywide on both sides of the municipal boundary line.

Hear Browne and Parsons reflect on 2020 and look toward a productive 2021 for the EDA, Front Royal, and Warren County in this Royal Examiner video interview:

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R-MA, County officials react to EDA ‘landing’ Silent Falcon UAS Technologies in Warren County

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The Industrial Development Authority of the Town of Front Royal and the County of Warren (FRWCEDA) is excited to welcome Silent Falcon, UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) Technologies to Warren County and the Front Royal/Warren County Airport.

Silent Falcon is a UAS Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) drone builder that specializes in aerial data collection and analysis for a variety of applications. At their Warren County location, they will design, fabricate and build their drones using advanced carbon fiber materials. They typically build 1-3 aircraft per month. This new location will also be their maintenance repair and flight training facility.

Silent Falcon has a fleet of 10+ drones that they deploy to remote locations to fly and capture data with their pilots. They also hire pilots with full aviation ratings for manned aircraft. Silent Falcon provides firefighting and security services in which a live feed from the tracking sensors is provided to law/fire officials.

Their software team, using data collected from the drones and their proprietary Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) software, they create data visualization pages and reports for their customers. Their most popular product is their PCI+ (Pavement Condition Index) report and pavement management program (PMP) which is required by FAA regulations for airport pavement management. They can scan an airport in a short period of time and produce a report in just a few hours.

Silent Falcon will also utilize their cutting edge, technologically advanced aircraft in a partnership with the Randolph Macon Academy (RMA) in Front Royal to train their students in the UAV program. This will provide RMA students the opportunity to learn about and work with the latest UAV technology. “To say we are “excited” about this announcement doesn’t quite capture what we are all truly feeling. This partnership with Silent Falcon strikes at the very core of our mission at the Unmanned Systems Lab at Randolph Macon Academy”, said Brian Kelly, Director of the Unmanned Systems Lab at RMA.

“As a signature offering in our pre-professional pathway’s initiative the R-MA drone program provides students with the tools and real-life experience needed to leverage the potential of unmanned technology in whatever career field they choose. Much of what we are doing is out of the classroom learning — applying drones and drone collected data to solving real-world problems. In this environment students take part in real projects from planning through execution and experience first-hand how “actionable” drone data is applied to many of today’s community management, business, environmental and economic challenges”, Kelly added. The partnership will also benefit the company due to the workforce talent pipeline that RMA offers through their well-developed UAV curricula.

The Warren County Board of Supervisors and Staff played a crucial role in successfully competing for this project. They worked with the EDA and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) to structure a state and local incentive package that is entirely performance based. “The efforts of all the team members have made things happen to build an additional industry in our community. We wish Silent Falcon well and we all are looking forward to their expansion and future successes.” added Walt Mabe, Chair of the Warren County Board of Supervisors.

Supervisor Delores Oates added, “It is my privilege to welcome Silent Falcon to our community. Their investment in Warren County to provide higher paying jobs focused on emerging technologies is a positive step toward our goal of building a community where we can live, play and work! Our County Staff, EDA and EDA Executive Director, Doug Parsons have done a tremendous job partnering with Silent Falcon to achieve this win for Warren County!”

“The Airport Commission is enthusiastic and excited about the UAS capabilities and services that Silent Falcon is bringing to Front Royal/Warren County Regional Airport.”, said Kenneth Roko, Chair of the Airport Commission. “We offer our support to help Silent Falcon pursue its business and R+D interests and their ongoing collaboration with Randolph-Macon Academy. As a Commission, we welcome the increased visibility of the Airport as one of many valuable assets to attract industry, tourism and economic opportunities to Warren County. We thank Grant Bishop, CEO of Silent Falcon and his company for selecting KFRR (our airport code). We also thank the Virginia Commonwealth, Warren County Board of Supervisors, Randolph-Macon Academy and the Warren County Economic Development Authority for supporting and enabling this important addition to our community.”

“I’d like to thank the BOS and Staff at the Warren County Government for their hard work and collaboration on this project. There were several departments involved, including the General Services Division, Public Works, the Administration and Legal teams and the Front Royal/Warren County Airport Commission. We also want to thank our partners at VEDP for bringing us this great opportunity and giving us the chance to compete for this investment.”, said Doug Parsons, Executive Director of the FRWCEDA. “This project shows that collaboration is the key to success in attracting jobs and tax revenue. We look forward to working with Silent Falcon and RMA going forward to ensure they are as successful as possible in their endeavors”.

For more information about this exciting new business, please contact Doug Parsons at 540-635-2182 or dparsons@wceda.com.

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Could Town-EDA disagreement over dynamics of Afton Inn sale kill redevelopment plan?

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During the Asset Committee report at Friday’s Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority meeting, the Town of Front Royal, specifically through its legal department, was accused of “obstructing” the closing process on the sale that would allow redevelopment of the historic Afton Inn site to proceed at the head of the town’s Historic Downtown Business District.

“2 East Main, the contract purchasers of the Afton Inn, continues to work toward a settlement by the end of December. The Town of Front Royal, via their legal department, has begun obstructing this process by not cooperating with requests made by both 2 East Main and the EDA,” Asset Committee Chairman Greg Harold stated in his December 4th meeting agenda written report.

Greg Harold during the Dec. 4 EDA Board virtual meeting. His Asset Committee report highlighted a recent email exchange between potential Afton Inn developer 2 E. Main St. LLC and Town Attorney Doug Napier expressing the opinion the EDA cannot finalize the sale without written Town approval, which apparently has not been given. Royal Examiner Photos by Roger Bianchini

Harold’s Asset Committee report on the status of the Afton Inn sale that would facilitate redevelopment observed, “The EDA’s sole ambition in this sale is to remove it from our asset book by selling it to a private developer that is qualified and capable of rebuilding this historic structure to the benefit of the entire community, including the Town Administrative Offices that sits adjacent to this currently dilapidated building.”

Royal Examiner called Harold following the 10:40 a.m. adjournment of Friday’s EDA Board of Directors meeting to seek more information on the impasse between the Town and EDA over the sale and redevelopment of the Afton Inn property. Harold referred us to Board Chairman Jeff Browne as point man on the EDA’s effort to solicit cooperation from the Town of Front Royal governmental apparatus to facilitate the long-pending sale to redeveloper 2 East Main Street LLC.

Contacted by phone, Browne explained that the 2 East Main Street development partnership and its title company had sought legal assurance from the Town that it agreed to the pending sale. The Town Attorney’s November 30th email reply to 2 East Main and the involved title company – the EDA was not copied in Napier’s response, Browne noted – disputed the EDA’s ability to sell the property to the development group without the Town’s written consent, consent apparently not yet given. Napier referenced a 2014 Land Exchange Agreement (LEA) and Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) in making the assertion, Browne said. That was a condition of the referenced 2014 MOA, he explained.

With Town Hall’s proximity to the derelict Afton Inn, one is left to wonder why the town council would not have already endorsed the EDA sale for redevelopment.

In response to this assertion the EDA Board of Directors is preparing a response to town officials, including the mayor, council, and town manager, seeking a meeting of all involved parties as soon as possible to resolve the impasse to everyone’s mutual benefit, Browne told Royal Examiner. The EDA and 2 East Main Street LLC hope to have the sale closed by the end of the calendar year.

Town perspective

In an email response to our inquiry on the matter, Town Attorney Doug Napier explained his and apparently the town council and its governmental apparatus’s stance.

That stance is that the EDA has simply been a real estate broker for the Town in dealing with the Afton Inn property. “The EDA itself never had any skin in the game. The Town was never about to ‘give’ the EDA a million-dollar piece of property in the form of Old Town Hall for nothing, that would be insane,” Napier wrote, perhaps highballing the 2014 assessment a bit in referencing the eventual EDA-enabled 2014 swap of the old Town Hall building the town government had outgrown, for the Afton Inn in order to facilitate its marketing and redevelopment.

The town attorney and interim town manager at a recent council meeting. Questions may have risen through EDA Board discussion as to whether there are sufficient communications between staff and council and the mayor on the status of the EDA’s attempt to sell the Afton Inn for redevelopment.

Perhaps coincidentally, that swap was bitterly opposed by then citizen Matt Tederick who repeatedly appeared before the town council to berate the swap idea. That idea was hatched to get the Afton property out of the hands of its owner, Northern Virginia developer Frank Barros. Barros let the property languish for several years, refusing to take calls from the Town about the property after the town council had alienated him, in part by suing its own Board of Zoning Appeals to overturn its code exception granted to allow Barros’s elaborate Afton Inn redevelopment plan to increase the height of the building to about 10-feet above the height of the County Courthouse across the street. Building above the height of the courthouse was and remains against Town Code.

“For many years the Town had been trying to get the owner of the Afton Inn to fix up that building, but could get nowhere with the owner,” Napier wrote in his December 4th reply to our inquiry on the current sale impasse, adding, “Town Council had an idea to exchange Old Town Hall for the Afton Inn, but it is difficult for local governments to do real estate investment deals on its own under the Code of Virginia, a big reason EDAs exist in the first place … The title company doing the real estate closing agrees with me. It’s the law, as well as the facts of the case. There is no real controversy here at all.”

No real controversy here?

However, the EDA Board of Directors and its legal counsel do not agree.

The 2014 Land Exchange Agreement and Memorandum of Agreement referenced above by EDA Chairman Browne were attached by Napier to his reply to us to bolster his contention the EDA does not own outright and cannot sell the Afton property without the Town’s written authority.

However, Harold pointed us to a December 1st email from EDA attorney Sharon Pandak in response to Napier’s November 30 reply to 2 East Main Street LLC and its title company seeking the Town’s signing off on its purchase contract with the EDA. In the letter, Pandak counters Napier’s conclusion and the developer’s title company’s concurrence with it. – The short version:

1 – the 2014 MOA, which came after the LEA, was never signed by an EDA representative; and

2 – the Town was not a party to the Lease Exchange Agreement in which Barros’s Afton Inn LLC conveyed the Afton property directly to the EDA.

The complete explanation of the EDA stance penned by the EDA attorney elaborates:
“As I indicated to you … previously, we do not believe that 2 East Main LLC’s current title company’s (Chicago/Champion Title Company) position is meritorious. The EDA can convey “good and marketable fee simple and unencumbered title” to the Afton Inn for the following key reasons:

1 – The conveyance to East Main is not for a required “future purpose” under the Memorandum of Agreement between the Town and the EDA, dated June 23, 2014 (MOA). The MOA, if operative, relates to future use of the Afton Inn, and is not a limitation on the EDA’s ability to convey the property. Therefore, the MOA, if operative, simply does not apply.

2 – The MOA was signed by the Town after the conveyance of the property by the Town to the EDA (June 11, 2014). The agreement is not signed by the EDA.

3 – The Land Exchange Agreement (LEA) between the EDA and Afton Inn, LLC conveyed the Afton Inn to the EDA. The Town was not a party to LEA, and the land never passed through Town ownership to get to EDA ownership. There are no restrictions on the EDA’s use or future conveyance in the LEA. The LEA precedes the incomplete MOA,” Pandak wrote. But she wasn’t finished countering the Town stance.

Two perspectives of March 2019 Town-permitted work on the Afton Inn related to the 2 E. Main St. LLC redevelopment plan. If the Front Royal Town Council finally authorizes the EDA sale to the developer, within a year or so the site might be worth a second look from the town trolley.

“There are other reasons for believing that the Town Attorney’s recently expressed opinion is not well-taken which include: The Town has already issued permits to 2 East Main for some work on the Afton Inn and the Town has implicitly approved 2 East Main’s proposed redevelopment by including it in its VDHR (Virginia Department of Historic Resources) grant application (resulting in the Town’s Community Development Block Grant – CDBG award from the State). These actions indicate a Town approval of the ‘future purpose’ by 2 East Main for the Afton Inn, if the MOA is operative. Mr. Napier also does not acknowledge that the EDA gave the Town notice of its Purchase Contract with 2 East Main on June 16, 2020, directly and through him.

“The Title Company’s requirement to have the Town of Front Royal provide consent to the transaction is not well-grounded for the reasons set forth above,” Pandak concludes.

Delaying sale to what end?

Asked what investment the EDA has made in marketing and moving the Afton Inn property toward redevelopment since acquiring it in 2014, Brown and Harold both pointed to $478,000 in various legal, closing, and developmental costs, including masonry work to shore up the crumbling building as its sale and redevelopment have stalled. The sale price if made this month will be $345,000. Had it been made by September it would have been $325,000. So, the EDA is not looking to even recoup its total investment in the property, which means the Town would not be eligible to collect any proceeds from the sale according to the disputed MOA were it ruled to be enforceable without an EDA signature on it.

Bullet point 5D of the MOA states the “EDA shall be entitled to retain from the sales proceeds an amount equal to any sum it has paid without reimbursement from the Town during its ownership, management, maintenance, repairs and marketing for sale or lease of the Afton Inn property.”

So, one might wonder why the Town is stalling on endorsing the EDA’s sale to 2 East Main Street LLC after past permitting of work related to the 2 East Main Street development plan and referencing that plan in its CDBG application.

“Their stonewalling this sale only hurts them and the community,” a perplexed Harold told Royal Examiner. Following conversations with 2 East Main principals Alan Omar and Jim Burton, the EDA Asset Committee chairman said, “I am fully confident 2 East Main Street wants to move forward and are willing to develop the property to the betterment of the community in a way that will make it a cornerstone of historic downtown Front Royal. We are willing to broker communications and we’ve both tried to work with the Town to realize this project since September.

“If this sale can’t occur because of obstruction by the Town we are going to execute any leverage we can to covey the property if this falls thru,” Harold said of the EDA, including acquiring a demolition permit “to keep all available options at our disposal”.

Harold’s written report to his board Friday morning added a call for public action to add another dimension to EDA Board Chairman Browne’s effort to bring all involved parties to the table for a mutually beneficial resolution before the year’s end.

“The community should start lobbying Town Council to allow this sale to commence without further delay or disruption. This is critical both from a safety standpoint as stated by Town Attorney Doug Napier and from an aesthetic standpoint being the corner of historic downtown Front Royal. Delaying the sale and settlement places additional unnecessary risk to public money in the maintenance and public security of this building which has been previously stated by the Town Attorney as the responsibility of the Town taxpayer.”

The EDA Board of Directors hopes a new face and perspective on the scene, new Town Manager Steven Hicks who begins work Monday, Dec. 7, might mean a new day in the EDA-Town relationship. Hicks was lauded by the council for his work in Selma, N.C. on a redevelopment project.

During subsequent open meeting discussion Friday morning, board member Tom Pattison suggested “reaching out” to new Town Manager Steven Hicks, who begins the transition from Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick on Monday, December 7, in an attempt to re-establish a meaningful relationship with the town government. That relationship has deteriorated into expensive hostile civil litigation and an absence of communications under Tederick and the current town council majority over the past year-plus. While a spot for a “Town Manager’s Report” has remained on the monthly EDA Board meeting agenda, as has been the case for much of 2020, no town manager or designee was present virtually to deliver that report Friday morning despite the Town’s continued legal partnership with Warren County in the operational oversight of the half-century-old joint County-Town EDA.

EDA Board Chairman Jeff Brown and the five-member quorum present virtually concurred with Doctor Pattison’s notion of attempting to restore a meaningful relationship with the town government with the coming personnel change at the head of the Front Royal Administrative network.

While we didn’t get a call back from Mayor Tewalt, we did reach Vice-Mayor Bill Sealock about the EDA board discussion of “Town obstructionism” in finalizing the Afton sale to 2 East Main Street. Sealock said his last recollection of council discussion of the proposed sale to 2 East Main Street LLC group was when the September option date was missed.

The vice mayor also expressed disappointment council and the mayor wasn’t included in the EDA communications with town staff over the project. “I’m very upset – we’re the ones who would decide these things,” Sealock said of Town approval or endorsement of the sale.

Above, in the wake of his proactive work bringing council and the Save Happy Creek Coalition together could Vice-Mayor Bill Sealock find himself at the point of helping correct another possible communication breakdown in Town affairs? EDA Board Chair Jeff Browne, below at Friday’s virtual EDA meeting, hopes to aid in bridging any communications gaps between the council, the EDA, and the Afton Inn redevelopment group.

“I’d be happy to do that,” EDA Board Chairman Browne said when told of Sealock’s observation, adding that he had personally been involved in several “reach outs” to council and the interim town manager in past efforts to resolve issues surrounding finalization of the Afton sale. And as reported above, he is planning to have a letter to all involved parties, including council and the mayor out by early in the coming week.

And he noted that the recent email exchange with the town attorney came from 2 East Main LLC and its title company’s direct effort to seek assurance the Town would endorse the EDA sale of the property, not from an EDA inquiry.

So, it seems the EDA, the Front Royal Town Council, and mayor, and 2 East Main Street LLC principals and staff will have an opportunity in coming weeks to sit down and get on the same page philosophically and legally to the joint benefit of the entire community. Will they be able to pull it off?

Stay tuned as the Afton Inn redevelopment project perhaps reaches a point of no return if a sale is not finalized within the next three weeks.

Can council reach a quick consensus that an EDA sale of the Afton Inn property to 2 E. Main LLC for redevelopment is a good thing for the community? One might wonder why that consensus hasn’t already been reached.

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EDA approves two motions related to Afton Inn sale impasse with Town of Front Royal

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The EDA Board of Directors met for their regular monthly board meeting. Following a two-hour Closed Meeting session the Board approved the following 2-part motion regarding the Afton Inn:

• Sending a letter to the Town of Front Royal stating the position that the EDA can proceed to convey good title of the Afton Inn property to 2 East Main, LLC, or any other purchasers.

Additionally, with respect to concerns about Town actions as part of this transaction, the EDA extends an offer to meet with Town officials to discuss the matter.

• Authorizing the EDA, through Asset Management Chair Greg Harold, to submit a demolition permit application with the Town of Front Royal to demolish the Afton Inn. The EDA would use this option if it cannot otherwise sell the property.

The motion was proposed by Greg Harold, seconded by Jim Wolfe, and passed unanimously (Director Jorie Martin excused herself at the end of the Closed Meeting so did not participate in the vote or the remaining board meeting).

The remaining portion of the meeting included reports from the various EDA Committees, Interim County Administrator Ed Daley and EDA Executive Director Doug Parsons. Director Jim Wolfe reviewed the latest work on the Strategic Plan. He asked each Director to review the five goals and list of objectives included in the document and rank their top three objectives for each goal. He will compile all the responses and continue working on the document.

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Former EDA Board members Biggs, Sealock say no sexual harassment settlement with Jennifer McDonald ever existed

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(Editor/writer’s note: In Part 2 of our coverage of former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald’s testimony at a conference call meeting of creditors at her first Bankruptcy hearing we pick up with further exploration of her claim of a $6.5 million settlement and debt to her by the EDA Board of Directors from an alleged 2015 out-of-court Voluntary Settlement Agreement regarding a sexual harassment claim by the then EDA executive director against her board. We believe the claim relates to a post-McDonald resignation social media-circulated document which indicated McDonald was made sexually uncomfortable by initial dealings with a potential EDA business property client. Our recollection of that document’s content was that despite her expressed discomfort, the EDA board allegedly sent her back to the property alone to meet with the client at which time some sort of sexually tinged encounter was claimed to have occurred.)


We ended our first story following EDA lead civil case attorney Cullen Seltzer’s explanation to the creditors meeting that after investigating McDonald’s claim of a sexual harassment settlement agreement with the former EDA board, the EDA’s civil case counsel was of the opinion no such agreement exists.

Following reference to a series of Fifth Amendment pleas in response to questions about that settlement it was noted, “McDonald did respond to an earlier question as to who had negotiated the Voluntary Settlement Agreement with her, citing then-EDA Board Chair Patricia Wines (deceased) and then-Treasurer William “Billy” Biggs.

We first contacted the lone surviving EDA Board of Directors member McDonald cited as negotiating the 2015 Voluntary Settlement Agreement, nearly three-decade EDA Board member and long-time Board Treasurer William “Billy” Biggs. Though dealing with the aftermath of a stroke he suffered in July 2013, Biggs remained on the EDA board for over five more years, eventually leaving for age-related health issues in October 2018.

So, does he recall that alleged sexual harassment negotiation resulting in the EDA board, on his and Wines’ recommendation, awarding McDonald a $6.5 million out-of-court settlement there is no known finalized legal documentation of?

“It’s pathetic. It makes me mad as hell – there’s no truth to it at all,” Biggs began gathering a head of indignant steam. “And she’s relying on a dead person and someone, me, who had a stroke to corroborate her story – it really burns me up.”

Asked if his stroke may have affected his memory of the alleged negotiation and resultant $6.5-million Voluntary Settlement Agreement, as the former EDA executive director and her counsel might eventually try to assert in court, Biggs replied with emphasis, “I remember it NOT happening!!!

Billy Biggs, right foreground light shirt, directly across EDA meeting table from Jennifer McDonald in Sept. 2018, about a month before his retirement and three months before McDonald’s forced resignation. Royal Examiner File Photos by Roger Bianchini

Rather than his perceptions after his stroke, Biggs lamented one example of them years earlier. “You know, Roger, we’ve talked about this, I helped her get that job. I can’t believe I misjudged her like that. But what finally started getting to me was the lies, all the lies – I called her a liar at a (EDA) meeting. And when she started talking about all the money she won gambling, what was it, three years in a row – $600,000 here, $400,000 there, another what, $500,000? Nobody does that,” Biggs concluded of such a gambler’s continued run of luck against odds stacked in the “house’s” favor.

In late January 2018 Jennifer McDonald displays alleged winning slot machine tax receipts in her EDA office for a Royal Examiner story on her ‘gambling luck’ at Charles Town’s Hollywood Casino.

“You know the number of people’s lives she’s affected? – The whole community, not to mention the poor sheriff (then-Sheriff Daniel McEathron) and his family,” Biggs observed of the ripple effect of McDonald’s alleged embezzlement and misdirection of EDA, County and Town assets to her own and others’ benefit. McEathron is believed to have committed suicide not long after retiring after having been implicated as a partner in McDonald’s DaBoyz LLC real estate company allegedly used to move EDA land assets as part of the embezzlement conspiracy at the root of the EDA civil litigation.

In fact, that ripple effect was a topic of conversation at the December 1 Warren County Board of Supervisors work session when $2.8 million in legal fees on EDA civil litigation was mentioned as part of a Strategic Agenda Action Item of reducing the County’s legal fees in the future. Those are county taxpayer dollars paying those legal bills seeking to recover lost EDA assets from McDonald real estate and cash assets. And that ripple effect legal expense has snowballed to include defense of the EDA against the Town’s civil claim against it. And town side ripples, in addition to its EDA civil suit costs, may eventually include operational and debt service costs from the town council’s plan to create a second, independent EDA that will be solely supported by Town taxpayer dollars.

A lot of material was taken by an FBI-led task force from the locked down executive director’s office at EDA headquarters on April 16, 2019 – anybody find a certified copy of a 2015 sexual harassment settlement agreement?

Speaking of the Town of Front Royal, current Vice-Mayor Bill Sealock was a member of the EDA Board of Directors in 2015 when McDonald alleges the sexual harassment claim was negotiated by Biggs and Wines, but approved one would assume, by the entire EDA Board of Directors.

Did he recall signing off on a Voluntary Settlement Agreement payoff of $6.5 million to the then EDA executive director, we asked Sealock.

“I don’t know anything about it – it didn’t happen. I don’t know anyone that knows anything about it. I was flabbergasted she even said it. You’d need the entire board to approve something like that,” Sealock replied, adding, “It reminds me of that time I, the entire (EDA) board had to parade down to the courthouse to say that closed session document she produced in court approving her sale of a piece of property with our signatures on it … was a forgery.”

Former EDA Board member Bill Sealock on the job last month as Front Royal’s Vice-Mayor. He corroborates Biggs’ recollection of no negotiation or board approval of a $6.5 million sexual harassment settlement with Jennifer McDonald.

Now it appears both former and current EDA Board of Directors members, as well as the current EDA’s civil litigation counsel, believe a second document referenced by the former EDA executive director to be a forgery.

Two questions seem particularly pertinent with an online bankruptcy hearing looming mid-month:

  1. will that most recent document regarding the alleged 2015 Voluntary Settlement Agreement ever be introduced as evidence in a courtroom? and:
  2. will the EDA’s contention the sexual harassment settlement agreement McDonald referenced as an outstanding $6.5-million debt to her is a lie, and any documentation in support of it a forgery, have any impact on the bankruptcy judge’s rulings on motions, particularly the EDA’s motions, for exceptions to McDonald’s bankruptcy filing?

Stay tuned as the only EDA financial scandal court proceeding currently in motion, continues online December 16 from a Harrisonburg Bankruptcy Courtroom.

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Known in medieval Celtic culture as a storyteller, verse maker, and composer, the word ‘Bard’ has become synonymous with the world’s greatest poets. However, few are as celebrated as Scotland’s own ‘National Bard’, Robert Burns,[...]
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10:00 am Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
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The Warren Coalition, in partnership with Northwestern Prevention Collaborative, will offer area residents two opportunities to take a free, virtual Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training in February. This course is designed to provide information about identifying[...]
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6:30 pm Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training @ Online Event
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The Warren Coalition, in partnership with Northwestern Prevention Collaborative, will offer area residents two opportunities to take a free, virtual Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training in February. This course is designed to provide information about identifying[...]
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6:00 pm Parent’s Night Out @ Code Ninjas
Parent’s Night Out @ Code Ninjas
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Help Code Ninjas Front Royal celebrate our Grand Opening! We are hosting our first Parent’s Night Out! $35 per child, space limited to 5! – Drop them off. Go have fun. Just remember to pick[...]
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9:00 am Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
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Free tax preparation will be available again this year through the AARP Tax Aide at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Front Royal, Monday and Wednesday mornings beginning Feb. 15th. To make an appointment, please call[...]
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The Warren Coalition, in partnership with Northwestern Prevention Collaborative, will offer area residents two opportunities to take a free, virtual Course 1 Trauma-Informed Training in February. This course is designed to provide information about identifying[...]
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9:00 am Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
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Free tax preparation will be available again this year through the AARP Tax Aide at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Front Royal, Monday and Wednesday mornings beginning Feb. 15th. To make an appointment, please call[...]