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Front Royal mayor under investigation – expresses shock, seeks answers

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Front Royal Mayor Hollis Tharpe, right, chairing recent town council work session – Royal Examiner File Photo/Roger Bianchini

Front Royal Mayor Hollis Tharpe says he was blindsided by information that Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney Brian Madden has recused himself from any possible prosecution relating to an “Investigation Concerning Hollis Tharpe” – the informational heading at the top of Madden’s August 30 notice of recusal.

In that notice Madden states that he is “so situated with respect to conducting an investigation and determining whether to file charges against the above named individual and to prosecute the same if filed, so as to render it improper for (him) to act in his official capacity as Commonwealth’s Attorney in any further official duties as required in said matter …”

Madden could not be reached for further comment on the basis of his recusal.

Winchester Commonwealth’s Attorney Marc Abrams was appointed by the court to replace Madden in the matter should charges be filed from the investigation.  Contacted by phone on Friday, September 7, Abrams declined comment on the nature of the investigation or whether the Front Royal mayor was its primary target.

In fact, Abrams told this reporter, “I was waiting for a call from an investigator to give me some information on the case – I thought maybe you were him.”

For his part, Mayor Tharpe denied any wrongdoing past or present and expressed frustration at a process that saw him alerted to the situation by the media.

“I have no clue, none whatsoever – and I can’t find anything out.  I don’t know if it has something to do with the EDA or Mr. Egger,” Tharpe said in a phone interview on Friday, September 7.

Mr. Egger is Mark Egger, father of former Front Royal Town Councilwoman Bébhinn Egger.  Mr. Egger has continued to publicly confront local officials at the town and county levels over allegations of improprieties in Economic Development Authority business dealing raised by his daughter prior to her resignation to marry and move from the area in June 2017.

EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald, who is Tharpe’s cousin, was charged by Virginia State Police investigators in June with one misdemeanor count of filing a false police report related to an alleged incident of vandalism at her home in June of 2017.  That incident report occurred about one month after a reported break-in at the EDA headquarters off Kendrick Lane in Front Royal.  A trial date of October 31 has been set in Warren County General District Court in McDonald’s misdemeanor case.

On Friday Tharpe expressed frustration at an inability to gain any information on the investigation “concerning” him as stated in Madden’s recusal filing.

“I can’t find anything out – no one has called; no one has threatened to take me to court.  If someone would pick up the phone and call me, I could say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ – but I guess the system doesn’t work that way,” Tharpe lamented of the informational vacuum he is operating in.

“It’s just baffling – I’m absolutely clueless.  I don’t do murder; I don’t write bad checks; I haven’t had any dealing with the EDA and Jennifer McDonald – I don’t have any loans with the EDA; I don’t shoplift; and I don’t do, I don’t mess with drugs – we know people who have lost kids to addiction,” Tharpe continued as he tried to fathom the nature of any potential criminal investigation into his behavior.

Knowing that any investigation into a local public official would be turned over to the Virginia State Police by local authorities, Royal Examiner contacted the VSP office in Culpeper.  State Police press liaison Les Tyler offered “No comment” and referred us to the Virginia Attorney General’s Office.

Attorney General Mark Herring’s media contact Michael Kelly replied by e-mail that the office does not generally comment on investigations, even to confirm or deny their existence.

Tharpe is running unopposed for reelection as mayor on this November’s ballot.

A search of court records indicates a lone 1995 assault and battery conviction in Tharpe’s past.  When that issue came up during his first run for public office this reporter contacted Tharpe, his wife and sister-in-law, the latter who filed the charge that conviction was based on.  She told this reporter that she had been in a fragile emotional state after exiting an abusive relationship.  Tharpe and his wife took her in at the time and when his sister-in-law lost her balance on a ladder helping with housework, Tharpe, who was holding the ladder, braced her fall with what she initially considered inappropriate or aggressive contact.

She expressed regret for filing the charge and said after the fact, with time to heal from her abusive relationship she believed she had overreacted to the incident.

Local News

Pedestrian struck near Rural King in Front Royal

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FRONT ROYAL – A pedestrian was struck by a pickup truck Tuesday afternoon in front of Rural King Front Royal Police say.

According to a press release from the office of Chief Kahle Magalis, a call came in around 3 p.m. regarding a pedestrian struck in front of the retail store, located at 465 South Street in the Royal Plaza Shopping Center.

Responding officers found the pedestrian, Jeffrey Richardson, 40, of Reliance, lying in the parking lot.  The release states that “it was determined that Richardson was struck by a 2011 Ford F-150 operated by Thomas Clark, 83, of Front Royal.”

Clark stated to officers that his foot had slipped off the brake while going over a speed bump and his foot made contact with the accelerator, which caused him to accidentally strike Richardson.

Richardson was transported to Warren Memorial Hospital and then transferred to Winchester Medical Centers Trauma Unit for observation.

No charges have been placed against the driver at this time.

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U.S. Postal Service announces new prices for 2019

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WASHINGTON — The United States Postal Service filed notice with the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) today of price changes to take effect Jan. 27, 2019.

The proposed prices, approved by the Governors of the Postal Service, would raise Mailing Services product prices approximately 2.5 percent. Shipping Services price increases vary by product. For example, Priority Mail Express will increase 3.9 percent and Priority Mail will increase 5.9 percent. Although Mailing Services price increases are based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI), Shipping Services prices are primarily adjusted according to market conditions. The Governors believe these new rates will keep the Postal Service competitive while providing the agency with needed revenue.

If favorably reviewed by the PRC, the new prices will include a 5-cent increase in the price of a First-Class Mail Forever stamp, from 50 cents to 55 cents. The single-piece additional ounce price will be reduced to 15 cents, so a 2-ounce stamped letter, such as a typical wedding invitation, will cost less to mail, decreasing from 71 cents to 70 cents.

The proposed Mailing Services price changes include:

Product
Letters (1 oz.)
Letters additional ounces
Letters (metered 1 oz.)
Outbound International Letters (1 oz.)
Domestic Postcards
Current
50 cents
21 cents
47 cents
$1.15
35 cents
Proposed
55 cents
15 cents
50 cents
$1.15
35 cents

The proposed domestic Priority Mail Retail Flat Rate price changes are:

Product
Small Flat Rate Box
Medium Flat Rate Box
Large Flat Rate Box
APO/FPO Large Flat Rate Box
Regular Flat Rate Envelope
Legal Flat Rate Envelope
Padded Flat Rate Envelope
Current
$7.20
$13.65
$18.90
$17.40
$6.70
$7.00
$7.25
Proposed
$7.90
$14.35
$19.95
$18.45
$7.35
$7.65
$8.00

First-Class Package Service, a lightweight expedited offering used primarily by businesses for fulfillment purposes, will move to zone-based pricing to better align with the cost of service and improve value based on distance.

The Postal Service has some of the lowest letter mail postage rates in the industrialized world and also continues to offer a great value in shipping. Unlike some other shippers, the Postal Service does not add surcharges for fuel, residential delivery, or regular Saturday or holiday season delivery.

The PRC will review the prices before they are scheduled to take effect Jan. 27, 2019. The complete Postal Service price filings with the new prices for all products can be found on the PRC site under the Daily Listings section at www.prc.gov/dockets/daily (see listing for Oct. 10). For the Mailing Services filing see Docket No. R2019-1. For the Shipping Services filing see Docket No. CP2019-3. The price change tables are also available on the Postal Service website at www.pe.usps.com/PriceChange/Index.

The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products, and services to fund its operations.

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Jenspiration

Project Positive comes to the halls of Skyline Middle School

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How do you brighten a gloomy day or turn that frown upside down?  Skyline Middle School students know how! Introducing “Project Positive” brought to us by Tina & Rodnay Culbreath (founders of I’m Just Me Movement). Let’s get the positive energy vibing in our town as the kids lead the way!

Watch this video to learn more straight from the kids. This video was filmed by MORE Program students.

Thank you to Bobby Johnston, Principal at Skyline Middle School for allowing Project Positive to launch in our town.

Jennifer Avery | Jenspiration, LLC
Owner/Inspirationalist
540-683-0790 | www.jenspirations.com
LIKE on Facebook

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Local News

State police respond to crashes, disabled vehicles during snowstorm

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A Virginia state trooper's vehicle is parked along a Loudoun County roadway Sunday afternoon. /Courtesy photo.

As temperatures dropped Sunday evening, Virginia State Police urged motorists to avoid traveling overnight. VSP spokesman Corrine Geller said that wet and/or snow-covered roads were expected to ice, creating treacherous conditions for motorists across the Commonwealth.

Conditions Sunday ranged from snow-covered highways along the I-81 corridor and Northern Virginia to heavy rain across eastern Virginia.

From 12 a.m. Sunday (Jan. 13) through 5:30 p.m., Virginia State Police troopers responded to 324 traffic crashes and assisted 196 disabled/stuck motorists statewide. The majority of crashes involved only damaged vehicles, Geller said.

In addition to those totals, state police troopers continue investigating 44 traffic crashes across the state. While state police in the Richmond Division responded to the most traffic crashes, the state police Fairfax Division responded to the most disabled/stuck vehicles. There has been one storm-related fatal crash, in Brunswick County.

From 12 a.m. Sunday thru 5:30 p.m. Sunday, state troopers responded to:
Richmond Division: 107 traffic crashes & 29 disabled vehicles
Culpeper Division: 40 traffic crashes & 30 disabled vehicles
Appomattox Division: 28 traffic crashes & 13 disabled vehicles
Wytheville Division: 12 traffic crashes & 4 disabled vehicles
Chesapeake Division: 49 traffic crashes & 21 disabled vehicles
Salem Division: 18 traffic crashes and 18 disabled vehicles
Fairfax Division: 68 traffic crashes and 81 disabled vehicles

VSP investigated three fatal crashes since Saturday night (Jan. 12):
1/12/19 – Pulaski County on Interstate 81 (1 fatality) – STORM-RELATED
1/13/19 – Brunswick County on a rural road (1 fatality – 16 yr old male passenger)
1/13/19 – City of Norfolk on Interstate 64 (1 fatality)
Pulaski County:
At 8:51 p.m. Saturday (Jan. 12, 2019), Virginia State Police Trooper J.L. Simone responded to a three-vehicle crash at the 90-mile marker in the southbound lanes of Interstate 81 in Pulaski County.

A 1991 Oshkosh M1074 (military surplus vehicle) was traveling south on I-81 when its driver lost control due to the slick road conditions. The vehicle was then struck by two southbound tractor-trailers. The M1074 and one of the tractor-trailers came to rest in the median.

The impact of the crash caused the other tractor-trailer to run off the left side of the highway, continue through the median, through the guardrail, cross over northbound lanes of I-81 and strike a fence.

The driver of the M1074, Ronald W. Harris, 73, of Gainesville, Ga., did not survive the crash and died at the scene.

Each tractor-trailer driver was transported to a nearby hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries. Geller had no additional information on the drivers.

The Virginia State Police Wytheville Division’s Crash Reconstruction Team responded to the scene and is  assisting with the ongoing crash investigation.

Geller said Virginians should call 511 or go to 511virginia.org for road conditions and not 911 or #77.  Those numbers should only be used for emergency situations.

State police remind motorists to take the following safety precautions:

· Clear off ALL snow and ice from your vehicle – windows, roof, trunk and lights…and use your headlights to make yourself more visible
· Add extra time to reach travel destination
· Slow speed for road conditions
· Increase driving distances between vehicles for increased stopping distance
· Buckle up and don’t drive distracted
· MOVE OVER for all stopped emergency vehicles, highway vehicles and tow trucks.

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Local News

VDOT advises motorists to avoid travel during snowstorm

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A VDOT truck plows along a deserted road during a 2018 snowstorm. / File photo

STAUNTON –(5:25 p.m.) The Shenandoah Valley received a light dusting of snow on Saturday afternoon. During Saturday night into Sunday morning heavier snow is forecasted, which is anticipated to bring treacherous driving conditions. VDOT spokesman Ken Slack said in a media release Saturday evening that the public is asked to avoid travel during the snowstorm, which allows plow drivers to efficiently and safely plow and treat roadways.

Vehicles stalled, parked or disabled along the roadways cause additional hazards for all drivers, Slack wrote in the release.

The road conditions at  5:25 p.m. Saturday in the Virginia Department of Transportation Staunton District:

Interstate 64 – Minor conditions in Alleghany and Augusta counties. Clear conditions in Rockbridge County.

Interstate 66 – Minor conditions in Warren County.

Interstate 81 – Minor conditions in Augusta, Rockingham, Shenandoah and Frederick counties. Clear conditions in Rockbridge County.

Primary roads – Minor conditions in Rockbridge, Highland, Bath, Alleghany, Augusta, Rockingham, Shenandoah, Frederick, Clarke and Warren counties. Clear conditions Page County.

Secondary roads – Minor conditions in Rockbridge, Highland, Bath, Alleghany, Augusta, Rockingham, Shenandoah, Frederick. Clarke and Warren counties. Clear conditions in Page County.

For winter weather road conditions go to http://www.511Virginia.org, look at the orange bar on the top of the page and click on “Text Views” and then click on “Road Condition Table”. Look at the pull down box that lists all jurisdictions. In this box individual counties can be chosen to view.

On the go? Then visit VDOT’s Free Virginia 511 Tools to get your 511 app for android or iOS. Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511.

The VDOT Customer Service Center can be accessed through its mobile friendly website. Agents are on site 24/7 every day of the year to assist the public. People can also call the VDOT Customer Service Center at 800-FOR- ROAD (800-367-7623).

The Staunton District Snow Page is on the VDOT website under Travel Center Snow Emergency Pages. The Staunton District Twitter feed is at @VaDOTStaunton.

The Staunton District Twitter feed is at @VaDOTStaunton. VDOT can be followed on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and YouTube. RSS feeds are also available for statewide information. The VDOT Web page is located here.

The VDOT Staunton District serves Frederick, Shenandoah, Clarke, Warren, Page, Rockingham, Augusta, Highland, Rockbridge, Alleghany and Bath counties.

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Northern Virginia 4-H Educational Center announces new director

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The new 4-H Center Director, Jeremy Stanford. Photo/Northern Virginia 4-H Educational Center

Virginia Cooperative Extension and the Board of Directors of Northern Virginia 4-H Educational Center, located in Front Royal, Virginia, are pleased to announce the appointment of Jeremy Stanford as the new 4-H Center Director. As Center Director, Jeremy will be responsible for overall leadership of the Center to include operational management, resource development, and strategic planning to enhance the 4-H Center’s portfolio of local and regional camps, youth and adult educational programming, and other conferencing and meeting services.

Jeremy comes to the 4-H Center via Charlotte, NC, where he most recently served as Associate Executive Director at YMCA Camp Thunderbird. Jeremy has over ten years of experience in camp and retreat center leadership. Prior to working for the YMCA camp, Jeremy worked for the Camp and Retreat Ministry of the West Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church. Very early in his career, he also worked for Ohio State University Extension as a Watershed Coordinator and Interim County Camp Director.

Jeremy’s career in camping has allowed him to leverage his strengths as a problem-solver, facilitator, strategist, maximizer, and amateur historian. He will be joined in his move to Front Royal by his wife, Aurelia, and their three children where they will be living on-site at the 4-H Center.

Tobin Smith, President of the 4-H Center’s Board of Directors notes that: “We are very excited to have Jeremy coming on board at the 4-H Center. He has extensive experience in camp and retreat management, facility operations, and in designing, implementing and managing both youth and adult educational leadership and development programs. He also possesses a strong understanding of the importance of developing a strong connection between the 4-H Center and the local community which is a top priority for the 4-H Center Board.”

Jeremy Johnson, State 4-H Leader with Virginia Cooperative Extension shares that “4-H was founded on the belief that when kids are empowered and supported to pursue their passions, they become true leaders in their lives, careers, and communities. Mr. Stanford’s positive history of success as a camping professional and leader will provide support the mission of 4-H through camping at the Northern Virginia 4-H Educational Center.”

The Northern Virginia 4-H Educational Center is a 501(c)(3), non-profit organization with a mission to facilitate experiential learning programs for youth, families, and adults. Since 1981, the 4-H Center has offered year-round, research-based programming to the youth and families of Northern Virginia. In addition to nine weeks of summer 4-H camp, the Center offers a full range of day and overnight camps, environmental education and team-building programs, and conference and meeting facilities and services. The 4-H Center provides meals and lodging for campers and adult guests, as well as access to the Appalachian trail, a challenge course, outdoor pool, pond fishing, sports fields, and horse stables.

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