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EDA Investigation: FRPD’s initial interview of Jennifer McDonald, Part 2

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Nearly two years after an alleged break-in at the Front Royal-Warren County EDA office on Kendrick Lane, the FRPD has no official suspect in the case. / FRPD crime scene photo

In this second segment of the initial interview on June 15, 2017 with Front Royal Police Department Investigators Landin Waller and Crystal Cline, McDonald pushes forward a theory targeting this reporter as a player in the EDA office break-in revolving around inquiries into and source information acquired that ITFederal principal Truc “Curt” Tran was the “secret investor” in the planned Skyline Regional Justice Academy.

McDonald referenced a time I worked at local radio station WFTR (WZRV The RIver 95.3 FM) and claims I accessed public files. However I never actually was in the EDA offices suite while a radio station employee.  After being fired from the radio station, perhaps coincidentally at the very time I was seeking information from Congressman Robert Goodlatte and his staff about the congressman’s involvement with and knowledge of ITFederal and its owner, McDonald invited me to come to her office “to talk”, presumably to glean information about what I had learned about Tran and his company.

The following is a transcript of the official incident report for the alleged break-in, reported on May 18, 2017:

Front Royal Police Department Investigation Narrative: Officer Report for Incident 17050871

Date, Time, Reporting Officer: 05/18/17, 14:00, Detective Landin J. Waller Description of the Incident:

On 05/18/17 I, Detective Landin J. Waller, was contacted by Captain Ryman in reference to an incident at the .Warren County Economic Development Authority (EDA) located at 400 Kendrick Lane. Myself and Detective King responded to the scene where we were met by Captain Ryman and Captain Nicewarner. Detective King and I were briefed about the scene by Captain Ryman.

Detectives arrived on scene to find several 4-inch by 6-inch photos taken from McDonald’s work area and placed on a conference table, along with a large cut-out photograph of the subject with a black plastic handle steak knife plunged through the forehead of the photo and stuck to the head rest of a brown leather office chair where McDonald stated she normally sat. / Photos from FRPD

We were advised four (4) 4″ by 6″ personal photographs and a large cut out photograph of Jennifer McDonald were taken from McDonald’ s office and found in the conference room. Three ( 3) of ‘the 4″ by 6″ photographs had McDonald in the picture with her face scratched out with a sharp object. The fourth 4″ by 6″ photograph was a picture of McDonald1 s niece and her toddler aged son with the word “NIGGAR” written in black marker across the face of the child. The large cut out photograph had a black plastic handle steak knife plunged through the forehead of the photo and it was stuck to the head rest of a brown leather office chair where McDonald admittedly normally sits.

Detective Waller noted that there was undisturbed dust on the window ledges and on the blinds at every window. The window to McDonald’s office was raised up about two inches and not secured; However there was cobwebs and undisturbed dust on the blinds and window ledge.

There were no signs of forced entry to the buildings windows, and doors. As I noted there was undisturbed dust on the window ledges and on the blinds at every window. The window to McDonald’s office was raised up about two inches and not secured; However there was cobwebs and undisturbed dust on the blinds and window ledge. The two doors of access to the building and office did not have pry marks or signs of tampering.

Investigators responding to the reported break-in documented that the two doors of access to the building and office did not have pry marks or signs of tampering.

The scene was photographed and processed by Detective King. Detective King took overall, midrange, close-up, and close-up with scale photographs. All photographs will be attached to this report in the images file. There were 6 items of evidence collected and packaged from this scene. Item #1: (4″ by 6″ photograph of niece and son), Item #2: 4″ by 6″ photograph of McDonald with Dolphin), Item #3: (4″ by 6″ photograph of McDonald with Niece), Item #4: (4″ by 6″ photograph of McDonald and family) , Item #5: (cutout picture of McDonald) , Item #6: (black plastic handle steak knife) . Detective King dusted the conference ‘ table and drawer for latent prints but was not successful.

I interviewed the two employees that were at the office, Jennifer McDonald and Missy Henry. These interviews were audio recorded and will be added to the case file.

From the interview with McDonald, I was informed that she was the Director of the EDA inhere she has been employed since 1999, She advised there are two other employees, Missy Henry and Maria Jones, that work out of this office. McDonald advised me she left the office last evening (05/17/18) at 17:00 or 17:30. She said she went to a Rotary meeting at 19;30. McDonald said left from the Rotary meeting and went directly home and the next morning she arrived to work at about 07:30. McDonald said she went to her office and she and Missy were talking when she noticed some pictures were missing from her office but she was not sure which ones. She said a while later she was notified by Missy of the scene in the conference room – McDonald did say that last Thursday morning she noticed a large knife (from the kitchen area of the EDA) was in her chair in the conference room on 05/11/17, but did not notify the police but thought it was odd.

Jennifer told Investigator Waller that this knife was found lying in her chair in the conference room on 05/11/17, but she did not notify the police.

I asked McDonald if she could think of anyone that might be mad enough to do something like this, she said “yes”. She informed me that there is a group of people who have made derogatory statements about the Work-Force Housing Project in the Royal Examiner. McDonald went on to explain there was a piece of land that was to be gifted to the town for this project; However, the EDA missed the deadline for the land to be gifted and now the land must be purchased. She said the piece of land in question was gifted by her family members (Aunt & Uncle). She stated the Royal Examiner has posted articles about this land deal in which many persons have commented negatively about her and the EDA. She listed Councilwoman Bebhinn Egger, Mike Graham, Stan Brooks, Shea Parker, Tom Conkey, Roger Bianchini, and Norma Jean Shaw as persons who she felt were angry with her.

Stack on the cabinet were copies of a voluminous press release and documents related to questions posed by then-Town Council member Bébhinn Egger. Those questions had been promised to Egger May 19, 2017, one day after the break-in was reported.

McDonald informed me that herself, Missy, and Maria Jones are the only ones with keys to the outside of the building and to the office door. She did say there was a spare key for each door in a real estate type lock box that was located on the iron railing of the stoop. She advised that Maria Crigler, The Administrative Assistant of Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission,  (the neighboring business) also has the code to the lock box because they have a spare key in the lock box. McDonald informed me the keys are kept in the lock box incase someone forgets their key to the office and needs to gain entry to the office. I was then informed that all 9 employees at Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission have the code to the lock box.

I also interviewed Missy Henry in the conference room. Henry stated she has been employed at the EDA as an Administrative Assistant since 2012. She advised that she left the office on 05/17/17 at 17:05 and did not return to the office around 0800 on 05/18/17. Henry advised me she was the first to notice the conference room scene. Henry also advised me that she had just changed the code to the lock box this past Monday to a 3 digit code instead of a 4 digit code. She advised that no one has been notified of the change except herself, Jennifer and Maria.

I spoke to all the employees at Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission and determined that the last employee to go leave the building was Brandon Davis. X was advised that Davis1 wife went into labor last night and he stopped by the office to grab some items from his desk before going to the hospital. I have yet to speak with him, but all the other employees did not notice anything out of the ordinary on 05/17/17.

Later on that day, I spoke with employee Marla Taylor Jones by phone. Marla advised she is the current Director of Marketing with the EDA and has been since 2009. She said she arrived to work at 08:10 on 05/17/17 and left at 17:00. She did say she noticed a man who was inside the gate of the property and he was holding a phone or a video recorder and it appeared he was recording. She described the male as a white male with a beard wearing blue plaid shirt, shorts, and a ball cap. ‘ She said he went outside to ask him if he needed assistance but he walked through the breezeway and towards Ameri-Sist which is a business on the east end of the building. Jones said she had Henry call Ameri-Sist to see if the man came to their business, but was informed that no one had stopped in. Jones also said that when she was leaving at 17:00 she noticed an old red Ford Explorer or Blazer with a white male inside and the engine was running. She said he was on the road behind the building and she asked him if he needed help. She said he told her he had just made a delivery and was routing his next delivery. She said she thought this was a bit unusual.

On 05/18/17 after clearing the initial asked McDonald if I might have the spare I wanted to set up surveillance cameras, keys. On 05/18/17 at 17:30 hours Myself, Sergeant Cline set up surveillance video scene, I responded back to* the EDA and keys to the building and office because McDonald agreed and gave me  the spare Detective King, Detective Fogle and inside the office.

Watch Part 2 of Jennifer McDonald initial interview with Front Royal Police Department that occurred on June 15, 2017:

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Crime/Court

RSW superintendent explains McDonald transfer to Fairfax jail

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Jennifer McDonald may find her experience of incarceration more normalized by her move out of RSW Regional Jail to Fairfax County where she is not so high-profiled an inmate. Courtesy Photo RSW Jail

On Friday, Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren County Regional Jail Superintendent Russ Gilkison confirmed the transfer of high-profile inmate Jennifer McDonald to the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center four days earlier, on Tuesday, June 11. McDonald was arrested by Virginia State Police on May 24 on four felony fraud-embezzlement charges related to the financial investigation of the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority.

The former EDA executive director has twice since been denied bond, being deemed a flight risk by Judge Clifford L. Athey Jr. After 10 years heading the EDA, McDonald resigned under increased financial scrutiny from her board of directors on December 20, 2018. According to EDA officials in her resignation email she admitted liability for the return of $2.7 million in assets to the EDA. However subsequent EDA civil litigation filed March 26 now seeking recovery of $21.1 million dollars alleges McDonald’s role in the loss of much more than her admitted liability.

Gilkison said the move was made to normalize McDonald’s jail experience.

“This will allow her to get into the general inmate population. She’s been in protective custody here due to the high-profile nature of her case,” Gilkison told Royal Examiner of the isolated nature of McDonald’s confinement so far.

RSW Jail is one inmate down – but could it soon house additional defendants related to the EDA financial investigation? Stay tuned… Royal Examiner File Photo/Roger Bianchini

The RSW superintendent said he had been in touch with McDonald’s criminal attorney Peter Greenspun for about a week prior to the move. Gilkison said the Fairfax City-based Greenspun supported the move and is now in much more convenient proximity to his client while she is incarcerated.

A hearing in which McDonald is slated to enter pleas in her criminal cases is scheduled for July 17 in Warren County Circuit Court.

Asked about costs to RSW of McDonald’s move to another facility, Gilkison said the Fairfax jail is not charging RSW for the transfer.

“It’s called a courtesy hold and we all do it for each other,” Gilkison said of the transfer of inmates for various reasons between area jails. “We would pay for any medication or medical costs but they aren’t charging us to house her.”

Asked if the move could indicate coming arrests of alleged co-conspirators in the EDA financial scandal that has shaken this community, Gilkison said only that he had heard the same rumors that many have about sealed special grand jury indictments, adding, “but not from reliable sources.”

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Limitations, assertions in EDA investigative report present a mixed bag

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An emailed explanation to the mayor and town council by Front Royal Town Attorney Doug Napier about how he may have appeared on a list of 28 recipients of USDA Rural Business Enterprise (RBEL) Loans given through the EDA between 2005 and 2018, points to certain admitted limitations in the Cherry Bekaert investigation of EDA financial “irregularities” and associated indicators of potential criminality tied to those irregularities.

Front Royal Town Attorney Doug Napier. “I never sought, nor received, an EDA loan,” said Napier.

“Our consulting services may or may not be in accordance with government auditing standards or auditing standards issued by AICPA (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants). We have not audited, reviewed, or compiled any financial information related to the EDA and accordingly, we do not express an opinion or any form of assurance on the EDA’s financial information under such standards …” Cherry Bekaert wrote in its “Transmittal Letter” accompanying its presentations of its finding to EDA Attorney Dan Whitten dated “May XX, 2019” in court-filed documents.

However they do add, “Our services were performed in accordance with the Statement on Standards for Consulting Services issued by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).”

Napier’s name appears at the top of the list of RBEL loans on page 97 of the Cherry Bekaert summary of its self-described “working papers” accumulated in its exploration of Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority finances. Napier is listed first due to the oldest date – January 25, 2006 – of loans cited on the list. The loan was for $30,000 and carried no balance remaining at the time the list was compiled by the contracted investigative public accounting firm.

“I never sought, nor received, an EDA loan,” Napier writes, adding, “Perhaps it is an EDA deed of trust (loan) for which I was the trustee which would list me in the Clerk’s Office as a party. At any rate, I never got an EDA loan, or any other EDA money for that matter. Even when I represented the EDA from 1996 to 2006, I received no compensation from the EDA. It was part of my County Attorney’s duties.”

Napier cites his naming as a principal in the loan, rather than the involved legal trustee, as one of “a few errors in the EDA Cherry Bekaert report I noticed”. An attempt to reach Napier, who appears to be recovering from eye surgery from one aside in his email to council and the mayor, by email about what other errors he noticed, was unsuccessful prior to publication.
As far as the limitations in its process that might allow such mistakes to occur, the very first line in Cherry Bekaert’s “Transmittal Letter” of its work to EDA Attorney Whitten is, “These working papers do not constitute a report”.

That opening sentence continues to acknowledge to Whitten that the material was “prepared solely at the request of and for Daniel Whitten, Esq., County Attorney and Counsel for the Economic Development Authority concerning matters regarding your client (the EDA) … under the terms of our engagement letter dated September 11, 2018.”

The second paragraph continues, “The following contains our complete working papers of procedures we performed under your direction regarding certain financial matters of the EDA based on information supplied by you and the EDA.”

The final sentence of the third paragraph, of five, in the “Transmittal Letter” adds, “Finally, our engagement cannot be relied on to detect or disclose all errors, irregularities, or illegal acts, including but not limited to fraud, embezzlement, or defalcations that may exist.”

And as reported in our lead story on the release of the Cherry Bekaert materials in the EDA civil litigation court files the company observes of its process, “Our scope and internal review procedures were limited in nature and used to determine predicates of irregularities indicative of embezzlement in the form of corruption activities and billing scheme sufficient to warrant a fraud examination.

Cherry Bekaert investigative report appears in EDA civil suit files

“The remainder of our working papers contain your allegations, our analysis and findings, along with evidence we obtained under your direction,” Cherry Bekaert concludes of the presentation of its estimated 2900 pages of documentation now in the EDA $21-million-dollar civil case file.

So it appears that nine months and $600,000 later the EDA, Warren County and finally the public (and Town) as a consequence of court-ordered evidentiary production has a national investigative public accounting firm’s detailed analysis of all the materials furnished to it by the EDA to uncover financial irregularities in the conduct of EDA business.

Thus far those provided materials and professional accounting analysis have pointed to the EDA’s former executive director as the central figure in multiple financial irregularities resulting in four criminal indictments against her.

Of the result of its review procedures related to the materials presented to it by the EDA and its attorney, Cherry Bekaert concludes in its “Transmittal Letter” of its assembled materials now included in the EDA civil litigation court files, “The irregularities discovered included material misrepresentations, falsifications, and evidence used to conceal suspected defalcations perpetrated by the former EDA Executive Director, Jennifer R. McDonald (“MCDONALD”), and other parties acting together, discussed in these working papers.”

Considering the above “and other parties acting together” representation when and where might the next legal hammers fall?

While keeping an eye out for RSW Jail booking reports, next we’ll delve into the 16-allegation Cherry Bekaert working papers files to see what clues they may offer.

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Cherry Bekaert investigative report appears in EDA civil suit files

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The Warren County Courthouse – some reporters are beginning to feel like the live there. Royal Examiner File Photo/Roger Bianchini

A trove of new plaintiff documents hinted at by Judge Clifford L. Athey Jr. during Jennifer McDonald’s second unsuccessful criminal case bond hearing on June 10, details circumstances surrounding embezzlement allegations against the former Economic Development Authority executive director. Also described are McDonald interactions with relatives, co-workers, and past private and EDA business associates related to some of the alleged illegal use, transfers or embezzlement of EDA assets.

Included in those allegations detailed in a 101 page summary of an estimated 2900 pages of documentation assembled by national public accounting firm Cherry Bekaert are “Payments to Relatives”, “Payments to Known or Suspected Business Partners”, as well as the use of the New Market Tax Credit Program and two USDA loan programs, among others.

What has brought this flood of thus far hard-to-find evidence forward?

It appears to have been Judge Athey’s May 22 civil case hearing admonition to EDA attorneys that it was “time to put up or shut up” as far as producing the evidence upon which its case against the nine named defendants is based.

May 29, July 17 set for further motions arguments in EDA civil case

And in apparent reaction to the production of that evidence he sought in the civil case, during McDonald’s June 10 bond hearing Judge Athey noted that the total amount cited for recovery in the EDA civil complaint against McDonald and eight other defendants, both people and LLC’s tied to those people, had risen from the initially-cited minimum of $17.6 million to $21 million dollars.

A consequent search of the EDA civil case records in the Warren County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office revealed the nearly 3,000 pages of the Cherry Bekaert report, and fortuitously a 101-page summary of those findings.

Those finding are the result of an investigation begun in mid-September 2018, now at a cost of $600,000 that has been called at various points by involved attorneys, EDA or municipal officials a “forensic audit”, a “Historical Financial Study”, an “Intrinsic Fact Finding” mission, a “final audit gap complaint” and finally perhaps out of frustration by Town of Front Royal staff as read into a June 10 motion authorizing litigation to recover Town assets lost to the EDA, “The Study”.

EDA officials lock down Jennifer McDonald’s office, computer and other belongings following her Dec. 20 resignation by email.

By whatever past names have been attached to it, what is outlined by Cherry Bekaert in a 101-page summary titled “Working Papers of Internal Review and Fraud Examination” of the Front Royal-Warren County EDA are 16 alleged areas of suspected misuse or illegal transfer of EDA assets.

Some of those are familiar and were pivotal in the initial EDA civil complaint. They include the Workforce Housing Project ($653,000 in lost assets), Afton Inn Property Improvements ($380,000), the Criminal Justice Training Academy ($619,000), Bargain Land Sale and Issuance of a $10-million dollar loan to ITFederal (listed at $10 million, though you could add to that total if the $1 gift of 30 commercial acres to ITFederal is calculated against at least part of the EDA-estimated $2.1 million value of that 30 acres), Payments on Behalf of ITFederal ($2,005,000), Payments to Earth Right Energy ($1,280,000).

Added to that list are 10 more transactions or EDA-related projects which appear to have added the additional $3.5 million raising the total sought for civil recovery to $21,152,000. Those transactions also include some familiar names, if not in this context, like the New Market Tax Credit Project ($3,501,000 lost assets), Leach Run Parkway Easements ($110,000) and Stokes Mart/B&G Goods ($21,000); as well as new ones.

Those new ones are Wetland Credits ($1,127,000), New Hope Bible Church ($345,000), 999 Shenandoah Shores Road ($6,000), Payments to Relatives ($457,000), USDA Intermediary Relending Program ($25,000), Payments to Known and Suspected Business Partners ($320,000), and USDA Rural Business Enterprise Loans ($304,000).

Of its investigation Cherry Bekaert writes in a cover letter to EDA and County Attorney Dan Whitten, “Our scope and internal review procedures were limited in nature and used to determine predicates of irregularities indicative of embezzlement in the form of corruption activities and billing scheme sufficient to warrant a fraud examination. The irregularities discovered included material misrepresentations, falsifications, and evidence used to conceal suspected defalcations perpetrated by the former EDA Executive Director, Jennifer R. McDonald (“MCDONALD”), and other parties acting together, discussed in these working papers.”

The cover letter dated May XX under a Raleigh, North Carolina site of origin concludes, “These working papers are for Daniel Whitten, Esq., County Attorney and Counsel for the Economic Development Authority and not for distribution without our expressed written consent.”

One guesses Judge Athey’s order that plaintiff civil litigation evidence be produced provided that consent, lest Cherry Bekaert officials risk facing the same sort of contempt citations now facing some recalcitrant congressional witnesses at the federal level.

And speaking of the federal level, see Royal Examiner’s related story on a federal climax to Cherry Bekaert’s chronology of its presentation of its findings to the EDA and “certain” County officials in December, culminating in a six-hour sit down with state and federal officials early this year.

Cherry Bekaert findings on EDA finances went federal in January

Agents of the Virginia State Police and FBI searched the EDA office complex and the former executive director’s still-sealed office on April 16

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Cherry Bekaert findings on EDA finances went federal in January

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Shredded no more – the Cherry Bekaert findings, once shredded by EDA officials after being presented in closed session, are now a part of the EDA civil case court record. Royal Examiner File Photos/Roger Bianchini

Of its findings unveiled in now-filed court documents ordered produced in the EDA’s civil litigation, investigative public accounting firm Cherry Bekaert writes, “As of the date of our working papers, MCDONALD (capitalization in context) appears to have systemically embezzled funds, with and without the apparent aid of collusion, that were accessed through the EDA from bank credit facilities designated and restricted for Town and/or County-sponsored capital improvement and development projects. This resulted in estimated losses of approximately $21,000,000.”

Cherry Bekaert investigative report appears in EDA civil suit files

Uh oh, I know what some of you are thinking – that dirty political “c” (collusion) word right here in River City.

And as some suspected, and was verified by the April 16 search of EDA headquarters, federal authorities are involved in the EDA investigation. In fact fairly reliable Royal Examiner sources indicate a U.S. Western District of Virginia federal grand jury is currently convened in Harrisonburg regarding the alleged EDA financial embezzlements now cited at over $21 million dollars.
April 16 was exactly three months and one day after Cherry Bekaert officials met with state and a variety of federal officials for over six hours in Charlottesville regarding their suspicions of financial corruption at play in the conduct of Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority business.

The EDA situation has garnered Federal and State law enforcement attention.

That January 15 Charlottesville meeting with state and federal officials was the culmination of a nearly six-week series of meetings, presentations and interviews culminating with two major developments occurring on December 20, 2018 – Jennifer McDonald’s resignation and admission by email of liability for the return of $2.7 million of EDA assets; and the EDA Board of Directors’ authorization for Cherry Bekaert officials to meet with federal authorities.

Federal climax …

In its report summary, Cherry Bekaert presents a chronology of its presentation of its findings to EDA and County officials. That chronology includes:

– a December 5, 2018, briefing of the EDA board on its findings of irregular activities, including questions to the board about its knowledge of potential fraudulent activities;

– a December 6 interview with McDonald during which she was confronted with evidence, and “admitted to using funds sourced from bank credit facilities restricted for Town and County projects”;

– a December 14 briefing of the EDA board “and certain members of the County Board of Supervisors on the results of our discoveries to date and concerns of suspected criminal activity”;

– the scheduled December 20 EDA board closed session discussion of the Cherry Bekaert findings after which Cherry Bekaert was informed of McDonald’s resignation AND after which the EDA authorized the firm to contact the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia;

County Supervisor Tony Carter and County Administrator Doug Stanley await an EDA closed session briefing.

– then there was Cherry Bekaert’s December 21 contact with U.S. Attorney Thomas T. Cullen and several assistants during which the company “verbally conveyed our evidence and findings to date regarding the EDA financial irregularities and the fact MCDONALD had admitted personal liability for $2,700,000 in an email to (the EDA);

– and finally, the January 15, 2019, six-hour meeting in Charlottesville with “Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Welsh, Western District of Virginia, Special Agents from the VSP, a representative from the Department of Justice Public Integrity Section, and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (‘FBI’) on our findings.”

As we have alluded to in past stories there are multiple reasons federal officials could be involved in the EDA situation. They include, though may not be limited to, the potential of illegal wire transfers of money or the movement of misdirected cash across state lines – both federal offenses; the involvement of a former federal superfund site; the potential involvement of federal EB-5 Visa Program funds in some involved transactions; and perhaps even the potential of federal racketeering charges coming into play were the above referenced “collusion” to accomplish some of the alleged embezzlements proven to be true and far reaching enough.

McDonald civil attorney Lee Berlik has asserted that his client is being smeared by her former associates as the architect of “implausible conspiracies” involving all of the eight other EDA civil suit defendants to cover for “every bad decision made by the Warren EDA board over the last several years”.

And however it came about, the Cherry Bekaert findings raise the possibility that the conduct of EDA business in recent years appears to have brought the quasi-governmental organization created to facilitate economic development in the Town and County to the point of insolvency.

Nice centrally-located office space, may soon be available off Kendrick Lane. Royal Examiner File Photo/Roger Bianchini Courtesy of CassAviation

“As of the date of our working papers, the EDA appears to be insolvent,” Cherry Bekaert writes, adding, “The monies suspected to be misappropriated by MCDONALD will likely result in shortfalls of funding to complete duly authorized construction projects for the Town and County.

“Based on our analysis of the EDA’s annual financial reports for the years ended June 30, 2018 (Audited); 2017 (Audited); and 2016 (Unaudited), the EDA’s operating expenditures … exceed EDA operating revenues in all three fiscal years, resulting in operating losses of approximately $427,000; $559,000; and $694,000, respectively … We could not find evidence that the EDA maintained sufficient cash reserves available to offset any operating losses apart from the periodic sale of any property unencumbered by debt,” the report page titled “Consideration of Insolvency” continues.
“Contrary to paying down outstanding bank debt, MCDONALD instead appears to have convinced EDA BOD (Board of Directors) Members, the Town, and the County to initiate more capital projects through increased bank financing channeled through the EDA by using various ruses, such as questionable tax incentives that have yet to be realized and bogus budget representations of the EDA’s financial ability to pay for debt servicing,” the Cherry Bekaert report states.

BOY, falling back on some of my preferred reading material over the years I can’t figure out if this is a chapter from “The Godfather” or “A Confederacy of Dunces”.

See more on the Cherry Bekaert report and allegations contained in the newly-filed EDA civil case documents in upcoming Royal Examiner stories.

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Town council votes to sue EDA for financial report and information

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Interim Mayor Matt Tederick, center, was often impassioned in addressing the EDA financial scandal’s impact on this community. Royal Examiner Photo and video by Mark Williams.

On Monday night, June 10, during the Report of the Interim Mayor, Matt Tederick called for Town-County discussion of the dissolution of the local Economic Development Authority in the wake of the multi-million-dollar financial scandal that has thus far left one former public official jailed without bond and another dead in what the Virginia State Police described as an “unattended death” with a firearm at the scene. Those officials are former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald and recently early-retired Sheriff Daniel McEathron, respectively.

Then after somewhat of a public about face, the past critic of town government behind closed doors defended the necessity of such closed meeting Executive Sessions in the type of legal matters council was poised to adjourn to. On Monday those matters included “legal mechanisms regarding recovery of moneys owed the Town by the EDA” and whether there is compliance with the terms of the Afton Inn-old Town Hall exchange that put the EDA in control of marketing and redevelopment of the Afton Inn site at the head of Front Royal’s Historic Downtown Business District.

Tederick suggested the press to “stick around” to see if “any action” would be announced as a result of that closed session discussion – like we were going anywhere since there was subsequent work session discussion of rescinding past council exceptions to its building codes at the request of the EDA for its at the time workforce housing project. And while the interim mayor was far from the end of his remarks regarding the EDA scandal, its consequences and possible solutions, it was that “stick around” hint that led to evening’s major development.

That development was a unanimously-approved motion to authorize the Town Attorney’s Office to file a lawsuit against the EDA for recovery “of all moneys owed” or that “will be owed” to the Town by the EDA.

The lengthy motion read into the record by Gary Gillespie, seconded by Chris Holloway, added pointed criticism of past and current EDA officials for a refusal to comply with past Town FOIA requests for information related to the EDA’s debt to the Town compiled as part of the EDA financial investigation conducted by the certified public accounting firm of Cherry Bekaert.

Noting the filing of “multiple FOIA requests” to two former EDA executive directors (McDonald and Interim EDA Executive Director John Anzivino) the motion comments on a seeming word game being played by EDA officials about that Cherry Bekaert investigative report on EDA finances over the past decade.

“EDA officials on multiple occasions have stated, orally and writing that the EDA would furnish to the Town a copy of the EDA’s historical study of the finances of the EDA back to at least the year 2014, which EDA officials referred to both publicly … and to the Town as a ‘forensic audit’, yet currently EDA officials not only refuse, in writing, to furnish this ‘forensic audit’ to the Town, but based on publicly reported accounts of court proceedings, the EDA has now represented to a court of law that no ‘forensic audit’ exists and has never existed, just some sort of other ‘historical study of the EDA’s finances’,” the motion reads.

The motion asserts the Town’s right to the information despite the County assuming its share of operational funding of the EDA nearly a decade ago leading to the County footing the total bill for the “forensic audit’, ‘EDA Historical Financial Study’ or ‘Study’ as the Town motion continues to refer to it for legal purposes.

The authorization for Town litigation against the EDA also notes that Town citizens whose Town taxes may be involved in financial losses to the EDA are also County citizens whose taxpayer money is involved in funding the EDA “Study”.

See the emotion of the interim mayor and the Town’s statement of its legal right to what the EDA and County officials are believed to already have, or to at least have seen, in the Royal Examiner videos:

Watch as Mayor Tederick addresses the Town Council.

Councilman Gary Gillespie reads the motion to sue the EDA.

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EDA in Focus

Should Town Council rescind Work Force Housing permitting exceptions? Interview with Councilman Eugene Tewalt

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Front Royal Town Councilman Eugene Tewalt speaks with Royal Examiner publisher Mike McCool about rescinding Work Force Housing special use permit. Photo and video by Mark Williams.

At the Front Royal Town Council Work Session of June 3, Councilman Eugene Tewalt raised the issue of code and permitting exceptions council granted to the EDA at the request of former Executive Director Jennifer McDonald in November 2016. Tewalt said he would like those permitting exceptions rescinded because the Town was lied to about who the actual developer of the property would be and more.

Councilman Tewalt discusses these issues in an interview with Royal Examiner publisher Mike McCool:

Tewalt raises specter of EDA ‘lies’ – Tederick calls for EDA closed session

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Upcoming Events

Jun
17
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10:00 am Design a chair for the SPCA CHAI... @ SPCA of Winchester, Frederick, and Clarke Counties
Design a chair for the SPCA CHAI... @ SPCA of Winchester, Frederick, and Clarke Counties
Jun 17 @ 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Design a chair for the SPCA CHAIR-ity Brunch @ SPCA of Winchester, Frederick, and Clarke Counties
Calling all artists!! Design a chair for the SPCA CHAIR-ity Brunch and save homeless animals. Pick up a chair from the SPCA Thrift Shop, build a chair, up-cycle a chair, paint a chair, or upholster[...]
10:00 am Summer Art Week – Session 1 @ Art in the Valley
Summer Art Week – Session 1 @ Art in the Valley
Jun 17 @ 10:00 am – 12:30 pm
Summer Art Week - Session 1 @ Art in the Valley
Summer Art Week for children is designed for students who love art and want to go beyond what they have experienced in the school setting, while meeting the Virginia Standards of Art. Recommended ages for[...]
Jun
18
Tue
10:00 am Summer Art Week – Session 1 @ Art in the Valley
Summer Art Week – Session 1 @ Art in the Valley
Jun 18 @ 10:00 am – 12:30 pm
Summer Art Week - Session 1 @ Art in the Valley
Summer Art Week for children is designed for students who love art and want to go beyond what they have experienced in the school setting, while meeting the Virginia Standards of Art. Recommended ages for[...]
Jun
19
Wed
10:00 am Summer Art Week – Session 1 @ Art in the Valley
Summer Art Week – Session 1 @ Art in the Valley
Jun 19 @ 10:00 am – 12:30 pm
Summer Art Week - Session 1 @ Art in the Valley
Summer Art Week for children is designed for students who love art and want to go beyond what they have experienced in the school setting, while meeting the Virginia Standards of Art. Recommended ages for[...]
Jun
20
Thu
10:00 am Summer Art Week – Session 1 @ Art in the Valley
Summer Art Week – Session 1 @ Art in the Valley
Jun 20 @ 10:00 am – 12:30 pm
Summer Art Week - Session 1 @ Art in the Valley
Summer Art Week for children is designed for students who love art and want to go beyond what they have experienced in the school setting, while meeting the Virginia Standards of Art. Recommended ages for[...]
5:00 pm Annual Wine Pull @ Blue Wing Frog
Annual Wine Pull @ Blue Wing Frog
Jun 20 @ 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Annual Wine Pull @ Blue Wing Frog
5th Annual Wine Pull | Thursday June 20, 2019 | 5:00 – 7:00pm | Blue Wing Frog, 219 Chester Street. Tickets: $40.00 – Includes food, glass of wine, and a bottle of wine or wine[...]
Jun
21
Fri
10:00 am Summer Art Week – Session 1 @ Art in the Valley
Summer Art Week – Session 1 @ Art in the Valley
Jun 21 @ 10:00 am – 12:30 pm
Summer Art Week - Session 1 @ Art in the Valley
Summer Art Week for children is designed for students who love art and want to go beyond what they have experienced in the school setting, while meeting the Virginia Standards of Art. Recommended ages for[...]
Jun
22
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9:30 am Acrylic Pour Workshop – Level 1 @ Art in the Valley
Acrylic Pour Workshop – Level 1 @ Art in the Valley
Jun 22 @ 9:30 am – 12:00 pm
Acrylic Pour Workshop - Level 1 @ Art in the Valley
Learn the process and art of acrylic pouring with artist and instructor Jan Settle. You’ll have a fun & exciting experience creating your own original masterpieces in this workshop! Learn how to manipulate paint &[...]
1:00 pm Meet the Author: NP Haley @ Royal Oak Bookshop
Meet the Author: NP Haley @ Royal Oak Bookshop
Jun 22 @ 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Meet the Author: NP Haley @ Royal Oak Bookshop
Lily and the Ghost of Michael Thorne By local author, NP Haley Feeling someone or something looking at her, Lily peered into the shrouded forest and buildings surrounding the alley. Blinking rapidly to make sure[...]
7:30 pm Middle School Pool Party @ Claude A. Stokes Community Swimming Pool
Middle School Pool Party @ Claude A. Stokes Community Swimming Pool
Jun 22 @ 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Middle School Pool Party @ Claude A. Stokes Community Swimming Pool
Middle School Pool Party! FREE to all Warren County students who will be in the 6th-8th grades for the 2019-2020 school year. Event will take place at Claude A. Stokes Community Swimming Pool on June[...]