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Judge weighing revisiting of initial Meza appointment ruling

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After hearing 40 minutes of oral arguments and responses to his questions regarding the dueling perspectives presented by attorneys to justify or deny revisiting his April 7 ruling that Jacob Meza could be reseated on the Front Royal Town Council four days after the term he chose not to run for reelection to expired, Judge William W. Sharp took what he heard Tuesday afternoon, May 25, under advisement.

His ruling, which he noted would be given in writing unlike his verbal decision of April 7, will determine whether the Town and Meza’s defense counsel’s demurrer for dismissal of the plaintiff removal petition remains upheld by the court or will face re-argument. Heather Bardot appeared as counsel for the defendants – neither Meza nor anyone from the Town was present for the hearing. David Downes represented plaintiff Paul Aldrich, a town citizen who also applied to fill the vacancy created by Chris Holloway’s election to mayor in November 2020.

Plaintiff Paul Aldrich, right, and his counsel David Downes outside the Warren County Courthouse following Tuesday’s oral arguments for reconsideration of the court’s April 7 ruling Jacob Meza’s Jan. 4 council appointment to fill now Mayor Chris Holloway’s vacant council seat was allowed by Town Charter. Royal Examiner Photos by Roger Bianchini

Bardot began by telling Judge Sharp the defense opinion was “We don’t think we should be here” retreading ground she believes has already been adequately covered by both sides in the courtroom.


Downes countered that he disagreed that all aspects of core issues had been settled. He opened his case for revisiting the court’s initial ruling by pointing to one pivotal issue – Is the office of a councilman under the jurisdiction of council collectively?

Plaintiff counsel added that the 1937 Town Charter where the disputed chapters and sections reside, must be read in the context of its entirety to root out issues of vague or cloudy language. Otherwise he reasoned that “14-year-old convicted felons, living out of town” could be appointed to council. Downes said what began as a simple argument rooted in Charter Section 47 had been complicated through “creative” defense arguments rooted in vagaries of language.

Downes reasserted the plaintiff contention that Town Charter Section 47 prohibits “appointment or election” of former members of council by council for one year after their term in office expires.

“No member of the council of the Town of Front Royal shall be appointed or elected to any office under the jurisdiction of the council while he is a member of the council, or for one year thereafter,” the relevant Section 47 passage reads, continuing to note for an unexplained reason an exception for the position of Town Treasurer. On Tuesday Bardot pointed to the absurdity of the above wording’s implied notion that a council person would be “appointed” to a council seat while they were a member of council. Plaintiff counsel countered that the wording referred to two different actions, appointment to a staff position while a counsel member or reappointment to a council seat after leaving council.

In her Demurrer filing for dismissal, Bardot pointed to Section 6D and related wording on filling council vacancies, such as the one created by Councilman Chris Holloway’s November 2020 election to mayor. “The council may fill any vacancy that occurs within the membership of council for the unexpired term, provided that such vacancy is taken within 45 days of the office becoming vacant,” Section 6D states. No reference to a one-year hiatus per appointments is made here, Bardot noted.

Citing the inclusion of the words “appointed or elected” Judge Sharp’s initially ruled that Section 47 applied only to paid staff appointments, not council member appointments. Sharpe said it seemed clear that the Town Charter’s intent, dating to its 1937 adoption, was not to prevent council members from running for re-election for a year. So, the court sided with Bardot’s stance for the defense that Sections 6 and 9 of the Charter were the applicable sections on council appointments, rather than Section 47.

In revisiting these issues Tuesday afternoon, Downes said it was “dangerous to take one word out of context” in trying to decipher the intent of town fathers 84 year ago. That intent with Section 47’s application to council appointments was to avoid the appearance or fact of political cronyism in council vacancy appointments. Downes raised the specter of Meza’s decision not to run for re-election after a sometimes controversial final two years in office revolving around a vote in support of his employer Valley Health’s $60-million loan application for new hospital construction through the Town-County EDA after initial potential conflict of interest recusals from that discussion.

Rather, Downes told the court Meza cast his electoral future in the hands of his political allies within council, all save one who are fellow county Republican Committee members. Avoiding such appearances of cronyism was the intent of the town fathers who authored the charter in 1937, Downes asserted, as he had on April 7.

Sharp said he remained aware of the desire on both sides to have the matter resolved in a timely fashion and said he would strive to accomplish that with his written ruling this time around. In his April 29 letter to the attorneys authorizing Tuesday’s oral arguments for reconsideration, Judge Sharp explained, “Not a small part of my decision to enter the stay order, and give one last chance for oral argument, is my realization that I gave a very poor articulation of my reasons for my original decision, and I do not want to make that mistake again. It is therefore my intention to give a written explanation of my decision, whichever way it goes, in which my words are more carefully expressed.”

Stay tuned for what may or may not be the final chapter in the Jacob Meza council appointment drama as we await news of Judge Sharp’s written ruling.

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Broadband Expansion, Sheriff’s Office Community Policing options highlight Supervisors evening

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The major takeaway from a nearly three hour work session-closed session-meeting trifecta of the Warren County Board of Supervisors Tuesday, July 20, were two proposals presented during the hour-and-a-half work session beginning at 5 p.m. And movement forward on both was approved as part of the board’s 19-item Consent Agenda during the subsequent meeting.

Those proposals were, first, the potential of achieving countywide broadband service within two to three years, as opposed to the six or seven Chairman Cheryl Cullers said she was told to anticipate in seeking to attain such expanded coverage; and second, a Warren County Sheriff’s Office certification proposal to become a “Certified Crime Prevention Community” (CCPC) aimed at prescribed methods, including community-wide cooperation, to achieve a more law-abiding community.

Board Chair Cullers noted that broadband expansion to the county’s more remote areas, some in her South River District, has been a priority since coming to the supervisors just over a year and a half ago. Royal Examiner Photos by Roger Bianchini

The help of citizens in several recent successful Sheriff’s Office busts, including of a regional vehicular theft crime ring, were cited as positive movement in that direction. And while long-term costs, including possible additional staff positions, were a concern, the overall community benefit appeared to win the day


But what happens after you arrest them?

However, it was noted that for such a community policing effort to be truly successful, it needs to include judges and a Commonwealth Attorney’s office dedicated to getting repeat offending criminals brought to them by law enforcement, convicted and off the street. North River District Supervisor Delores Oates cited the recent death of a 33-year-old motorcyclist killed in a head-on collision with a driver who had been convicted 20+ times in the last decade without significant time in jail, who was charged with multiple offenses in the fatal accident, including possession of drugs.

North River’s Delores Oates wondered how effective a community policing effort can be if the judicial system repeatedly fails to incarcerate repeat offenders brought to it by law enforcement, for significant amounts of time. Major Driskill, left, and Sheriff Butler concurred that, not only law enforcement and the community, but the judicial system all need to partner in a community policing effort.

“We don’t control those aspects. Nobody is more outraged than us… It’s our job to get them to the dance,” Major Driskill noted of prosecutorial strategies and sentencing of those convicted after law enforcement turns cases over to the judicial system. He promised conversations with the current County Commonwealth Attorney and staff on such matters as the CCPC program progresses, which it did with the board’s later approval of a “Resolution of Participation and Statement of Support” of the WCSO’s participation in the CCPC program.

The program’s goal statement reads: “To publicly recognize and certify localities that have implemented a defined set of community safety strategies as part of a comprehensive community safety/crime prevention effort.” Partnering agencies listed include “Neighborhood Watch”, the “Community Advisory Council”, the “Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services”, and “Business Watch”. Recertification occurs every three years.

Bring that broadband project on

The board seem fairly impressed with the overall model presented by “All Points Broadband’s” Jimmy Carr in a detailed, lengthy power point presentation. And that two nearby counties generally viewed as more pro-actively forward looking – Frederick and Clarke – were cited, among others in the region, having already bought into what “All Points Broadband” is selling as to a group approach to cost-effective and efficient broadband expansion may have played into approval of buying into at least Phase 1 of the internet service access proposal.

Carr noted that his group had attracted $51 million in grants to co-invest in participating communities efforts. The “All Points Broadband” representative lauded Virginia’s state governmental structure and a new state model announced recently by the governor to oversee broadband expansion, presenting opportunities “not previously possible” in achieving wider access across the Commonwealth.

‘All Points Broadband’s’ Jimmy Carr made a detailed, and apparently compelling case for Warren County to join others, including Frederick and Clarke Counties, in taking advantage of new opportunities for broadband expansion made possible by gubernatorial and state initiatives.

In response to a question, Carr explained that while his company’s expansion plan provides the opportunity for all residents of impacted service areas to tie into the expanded broadband network, participation was not mandatory. But the option to join later is available. And were a property opting out put up for sale, the availability of tying into broadband would likely impact a sales price in a positive direction.

See detailed power point presentations by “All Points Broadband’s” Jimmy Carr and Warren County Sheriff’s Office Major Jeff Driskill, with subsequent board question and answer periods, including Sheriff Mark Butler, at the outset of the linked July 20 County work session/meeting video.

Other Business

Out of a half-hour Closed Session, County Administrator Ed Daley was re-appointed to his seat on the Lord Fairfax Community College Board. No other announcements were made from the Closed Session, which included discussion of a prospective business or industry’s location or expansion in the county.

County Administrator Ed Daley, at table far right, was re-appointed to the Lord Fairfax Community College Board following a closed session convened to by the full board at 6:35 p.m.

The regular meeting’s seven Public Hearings all on Conditional Use Permit (CUP) requests, saw only one speaker, Marlow-Silek Investments, LLC representative and engineer Scott Stickley. Stickley rose to explain a dynamic in the second of three CUP requests on the Marlow-Silek group’s commercial storage facility plan in the Route 340/522 North Corridor, directly north of the Target-anchored Crooked Run Shopping Center. The Marlow-Silek CUP requests in succession, were for an “Enclosed Storage Facility”; the “Storage of cars, boats and recreational vehicles”; and for “a Building in excess of 50,000 square feet. The staff summary noted a two-phased project, the first phase comprised of a 21,000 s.f. building “footprint” with three stories totaling 63,000 s.f., and a second phase building with the same 21,000 s.f. footprint, this time of two stories totaling 42,000 s.f.

With no other speakers, all CUP requests were approved by the board by 4-0 votes, with Happy Creek’s Tony Carter absent after the closed session. Carter was present for the work session and the convening of the Closed Session.

In addition to the three Marlow-Silek Investments, LLC storage facility requests, the board approved three CUP requests for “Non-Commercial, Private Use Camping” in the Mandalay Subdivision off Burma Road, one each from Chad and Charleen Backstrom; Shawn Tsanganelias; and James Humphrey. The final approved CUP was also for “non-Commercial, Private Use Camping” in the Shenandoah Farms Subdivision Riverview Section, to Randall Lewis and Monica Stover.

The supervisors also approved by a 4-0 vote, a Resolution of Support to be submitted to the State Board of Elections for a waiver of the mandate to consolidate split electoral districts within a certain timeframe, for the coming November elections. The involved split districts are: 0101 Fork Town, split between House Districts 15 and 29; 0201 Happy Creek, a Town-County split; 0402 Town West Shenandoah, Town-County split; and 0501 South River, House Districts 15 and 18 and a Town-County split.

These discussions and votes are available for viewing on the linked post Closed Session, County work session/meeting video.

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EDA in Focus

Financial Scandal Era Audits near completion as EDA ponders Budget Adjustments

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Friday evening, July 23rd, through the office of Administrative Assistant Gretchen Henderson, the Warren County Economic Development Authority (EDA) released a summary of action items on the agenda of the EDA Board of Directors regular monthly meeting held that morning. Prominent on that agenda were matters related to the completion of the contracted audits of the EDA’s Fiscal Year 2018 and 2019 budgets. Those were the final two full years of leadership under past board member and former Executive Director Jennifer McDonald.

The audits are expected to shed some light on how and under what rationales EDA assets were moved or committed to projects during the final two years of what related civil suits against McDonald and alleged co-conspirators assert was a conspiracy to defraud the EDA and move its assets to the personal benefit of McDonald and others. The EDA civil actions seeking recovery of those allegedly misappropriated assets cite activities believed to have been occurring at least between 2014 and 2018. Brown Edwards, the contracted auditing firm doing those audits, is not the same company that did the EDA audits annually during the alleged financial scandal. Discussion of potential liability of that previous auditor for not recognizing/alerting the EDA to unusual money movement has been broached, if not pursued at this point. The total amount of allegedly embezzled assets has fluctuated between $26 million and a recent jump to $62 million related to McDonald’s Chapter 7 Bankruptcy filing.

See related story on recent rulings in McDonald’s Bankruptcy Court filing and the EDA’s civil litigation against alleged embezzlement-misappropriation of EDA funds co-defendant ITFederal

EDA and McDonald agree to $9-million exemption to her bankruptcy claim

EDA crunches operational budget numbers, moves scandal year audits forward

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Downtown dwelling conversions dominate Town Planning agenda

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The Front Royal Planning Commission met on July 21st for its regular monthly meeting. With a relatively brief agenda of only two items, the commission was able to quickly get down to business. Prior to wrestling with yet another staff draft of Town Council-proposed changes to downtown zoning regulations, the commission first considered a Special Use Permit (SUP) request from Philip Vaught for a bed and breakfast operation at his property “Bon Air” at 174 Luray Avenue. The property is zoned Residential multifamily (R-3). Interim Planning Director Chris Brock detailed the application and the planning staff’s recommendation for the commission.

The applicant is proposing a permit for a traditional Bed & Breakfast, in which the owner occupies the property and manages the operation, as opposed to an Air B&B, in which the property is normally not owner-occupied and may be managed by a third party. Although no members of the public had any comment, once the public hearing was closed, several commissioners had some questions for the applicant.

Soon-to-be innkeeper Philip Vaught addresses the Town Planning Commission to answer questions about his application to open a Bed & Breakfast on Luray Avenue. Photos by Stephen Sill

Vice-Chairman Connie Marshner asked the applicant to clarify the parking situation for the B&B on the plot map, and Commissioner Darryl Merchant verified that the Town ordinances did not preclude permitting a traditional Bed & Breakfast. He also identified a disparity between the applicant’s request, which was for a 5-bedroom plan, while the Planning Department’s staff recommendation was for a maximum of three bedrooms because the lot size is less than 1.5 acres.


Interim Director Brock confirmed that their recommendation was based on the Bed & Breakfast ordinance. The Commission then voted on a recommendation to approve the permit with a maximum of 3 bedrooms and not making the applicant reapply with a revised proposal. The vote was unanimous, and the permit application will now go to the Town Council for the action on the commission’s recommendation. Asked after the meeting for his reaction to the downsized approval, Mr. Vaught was philosophical. “I’m glad for the approval, and we can always go back and revisit it.”

About those downtown zoning changes

The Chairman then turned to the Zoning Ordinance change that was requested by a resolution of the Town Council in February that directed the planning department to prepare an ordinance amendment for a public hearing and a Planning Commission recommendation for approval by the Town Council.

In this meeting, the commissioners were presented with a third revised version of the ordinance text change. Previous versions extended to 8 pages, whereas this one is less than three. Based on questions raised at a June 30th commission work session, it includes clarifying language that defines “conversion” as a “physical, structural, or design change or transformation of a building and/or structure from one state or condition to another, especially to effect a change in use. A conversion of a structure shall not be considered new construction, nor include new construction,” the draft clarifies.

As in previous versions, the amendments also include a limit on the total number of residential dwelling units to eight total, existing and new. However, as discussed in-depth at that June 30 work session the 8-unit limitation will NOT, thanks to a new provision suggested by the council in the proposed ordinance, apply to properties fronting East Main Street from Royal Avenue to Commerce Avenue along Happy Creek; Chester Street from East Main Street to East 2nd Street, and East Jackson Street from South Royal Avenue to Church Street.

The added language also includes a prohibition of residential uses on the first floor of buildings in those specific areas. During the June 30th discussion, the commissioners had noted that traditionally in the Historic Downtown Business District, residential apartments have existed in spaces above commercial businesses. Earlier last month, the commission became aware of a rezoning proposal for a 60-unit residential structure at the old Murphy Building property at the intersection of East Main and Church Streets, from applicant Bill Barnett.

Also based on concerns expressed on June 30, the proposed ordinance to be forwarded to Town Council will define the minimum dwelling unit size at 300-square feet.

Commissioner Merchant commended the planning staff for their hard work in putting together the revised ordinance and expressed hope that it much more clearly expressed the Town’s policy about development in the downtown business district.

Zoning Administrator Chris Brock, left, reviewed details of a Bed & Breakfast Special Use Permit application and responded to questions about the most recent draft of council-proposed changes to downtown zoning regulations, as he approaches the end of his term as Interim Planning Director.

Town Manager Steven Hicks announced that a new Planning Director has been selected and will start work on August 3rd. In the same period, a new Director of Human Resources and an Assistant Town Manager will be joining the town staff. Chairman Jones recommended an early meeting with the new planning director to discuss the draft ordinance proposal before a joint council-commission public hearing on the ordinance proposal, scheduled for August 23, is held.

It is interesting to consider what effect this ordinance, if approved by the Town Council, will have on development in the downtown district.

 

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Councilman Lloyd asserts Valley Health COVID vaccine mandate is the ‘emergency’

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In an email response to Royal Examiner’s July 19 inquiry on what he considers the emergency nature of his ordinance proposal to prevent private-sector employers, among others, from reassigning or terminating employees who refuse the COVID-19 Coronavirus vaccine, Front Royal Town Councilman Scott Lloyd referenced Valley Health’s July 19 announcement of a vaccine mandate for all its employees and health care workers. Valley Health’s public relations department has been contacted for a response to Lloyd’s assertions and claim that he has been contacted by a significant number of their employees, including medical professionals, about concerns about being mandated to receive the vaccine. We will publish their response when received.

Lloyd also compared being mandated to receive the vaccine outside traditional, non-emergency drug approval standards to past abusive governmental medical practices, including “Tuskegee experiments” and “forced involuntary sterilization of the ‘unfit’.

Royal Examiner Photos by Roger Bianchini

“The emergency: The code defines emergency measure as ‘an ordinance or resolution to provide for immediate preservation of the public peace, property, health or safety’,” Lloyd began, adding, “In Tuskegee experiments and programs of forced involuntary sterilization of the ‘unfit,’ (even, or perhaps especially, here in Virginia), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services convened Commission to study the conditions under which testing might occur on human subjects,” Lloyd wrote, referencing a resultant “Belmont Report”.*


In addition to worrying over the speed with which COVID vaccines have been approved for “emergency” mass distribution without traditional approval processes, Lloyd’s references to testing, Tuskegee and forced sterilizations are telling in his perception of urgency in bringing his self-termed “Medical Freedom” or “Anti-Coercion” ordinance against mandated Coronavirus vaccinations forward on July 26, rather than August 2. More on that urgency below, but first some historical background on the councilman’s federal sterilization and Tuskegee program references leading to the Belmont Report. The writer apologizes for the length of this article, but believes context and detail are crucial to approaching council’s scheduled July 26 action on Councilman Lloyd’s “Medical Freedom” ordinance proposal. – So, get the popcorn kids.

Learning from the past?

According to an ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) link provided by Lloyd in his email: “One of the less well-known episodes in Virginia history is its practice of forced sterilization begun during the heyday of the eugenics movement in the early 20th century – a Virginia-based movement that sought to protect the ‘purity of the American Race’.  Virginia’s legal sterilization program was enacted into law in 1924 – the same year the legislature adopted the Racial Integrity Act that prohibited interracial marriages.

“Virginia’s Eugenical Sterilization Act of 1924 became the model for the nation after it survived constitutional review by the U.S. Supreme Court in Buck v. Bell (1927). The high court ruled that the state’s law allowing forced sterilization of ‘any patient afflicted with hereditary forms of insanity, imbecility …’ for the greater welfare of society did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantees of due process and equal protection under the law … Tragically, it is estimated that between 7,200 and 8,300 people were sterilized in Virginia from 1927-1979 because they were deemed by society at the time to be unworthy or unfit to procreate. In most cases, the individuals were ‘patients’ at state mental institutions …”

WOW, but that’s not all.

A little online research revealed that the “Tuskegee Experiment” was a 40-year study (1932-1972) of “syphilis-infected Negro males” overseen by the U.S. Public Health Service and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is considered a U.S. governmental study unethical in nature in that it essentially used its subjects as lab rats, who were lied to about the nature of the study and from whom effective treatment of the disease with penicillin when it was discovered in the mid-1940s to be a cure, was withheld.

The study ended in 1972 after being outed by a report on it by the Associated Press.

Wikipedia observes: “The purpose of this study was to observe the natural history of untreated syphilis. Although the African-American men who participated in the study were told that they were receiving free health care from the federal government of the United States, they were not.”

In 2021, the CDC website traces the study, its timeline, and its consequences:

“The study initially involved 600 Black men – 399 with syphilis, 201 who did not have the disease. Participants’ informed consent was not collected. Researchers told the men they were being treated for ‘bad blood,’ a local term used to describe several ailments, including syphilis, anemia, and fatigue. In exchange for taking part in the study, the men received free medical exams, free meals, and burial insurance.

A doctor injects patient in the Tuskegee Experiment – Wikipedia Public Domain/Source, National Archives

“In 1972, an Associated Press story about the study was published. As a result, the Assistant Secretary for Health and Scientific Affairs appointed an Ad Hoc Advisory Panel to review the study. The advisory panel concluded that the study was “ethically unjustified”; that is, the “results [were] disproportionately meager compared with known risks to human subjects involved,” the CDC summary continues, adding, “In October 1972, the panel advised stopping the study. A month later, the Assistant Secretary for Health and Scientific Affairs announced the end of the study. In March 1973, the panel also advised the Secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) (now known as the Department of Health and Human Services) to instruct the USPHS to provide all necessary medical care for the survivors of the study. The Tuskegee Health Benefit Program (THBP) was established to provide these services. In 1975, participants’ wives, widows and children were added to the program. In 1995, the program was expanded to include health, as well as medical, benefits. The last study participant died in January 2004. The last widow receiving THBP benefits died in January 2009. Participants’ children (10 at present) continue to receive medical and health benefits.”

In 1973, a class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of the study participants and their families, resulting in a $10 million, out-of-court settlement in 1974.

On May 16, 1997, President Bill Clinton issued a formal Presidential Apology for the study. With a number of aging survivors and their family members present at the White House, President Clinton apologized for their experience of the Tuskegee Experiment:

“The people who ran the study at Tuskegee diminished the stature of man by abandoning the most basic ethical precepts. They forgot their pledge to heal and repair. They had the power to heal the survivors and all the others and they did not. Today, all we can do is apologize.”

Back to the Present

Back in Front Royal, Virginia, in July 2021, Councilman Lloyd believes the above histories have lessons for today. Of the Belmont Report grown out of the Tuskegee Experiment experience, Lloyd wrote Royal Examiner: “The Belmont Report states: ‘An agreement to participate in research constitutes a valid consent only if voluntarily given. This element of informed consent requires conditions free of coercion or undue influence’ …

“What Valley Health is doing clearly fits the definition of ‘coercion’, above,” Lloyd’s email of July 20 states, continuing, “Some people who would not take this vaccine are deciding to take it not because they want it, but because they are afraid of losing their job. Every one of these cases is an emergency, as is the fact that the major health provider in our town is engaged in a systemwide campaign of coercion and undue influence with regard to its employees.

Royal Examiner File Photo at ribbon cutting of Valley Health’s new Warren Memorial Hospital. According to Councilman Lloyd, a number of Valley Health employees, including medical professionals, have contacted him concerned about the new COVID-19 employee vaccination mandate by the regional health provider.

“Like I said, I have heard directly from dozens (two dozen just today) of Valley Health employees who feel they are being put in the impossible situation of having to choose between their livelihood (some of them have been health professionals for decades) and a vaccine they do not want. The widespread distress that this causes in our community is an emergency,” Lloyd asserts. “The people I am talking to will experience real harm without protection, and that economic distress will cause real pain in our community. Some of the people I am talking to are pregnant or have newborn children, some are carrying the insurance for their family, for some, Valley Health is the household’s only source of income. Many, I believe most, of these will be ‘subject to suspension or termination’ before our next regular meeting in August, so emergency action is necessary in July.”

We contacted Lloyd by email for elaboration on his apparent assertion that distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations might qualify as “medical experimentation” as opposed to distribution of adequately, if more speedily tested vaccines for a pandemic credited with taking nearly 4.1-million lives worldwide, over 611,000 nationally, including 61 in Warren County in about 18 months. It is a public health emergency considered to still be in progress, with a Fourth Wave surge being reported in many areas, particularly among unvaccinated populations.

The FDA perspective

Prior to receiving Lloyd’s Tuesday afternoon emailed response to our questions, we went to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) website to see that federal approval agency’s take on the COVID-19 vaccination distribution under a public health “emergency” declaration. The site asserts:

“The FDA has regulatory processes in place to facilitate the development of COVID-19 vaccines that meet the FDA’s rigorous scientific standards,” the FDA states. They elaborate that “The HHS (Health and Human Services) Secretary declared that circumstances exist justifying the authorization of emergency use of drugs and biological products during the COVID-19 pandemic, pursuant to section 564 of the FD&C Act, effective March 27, 2020.”

Of the necessity of speeding up the testing and distribution process for what is considered by medical professionals around the world to be a public health emergency and worldwide viral pandemic, the FDA site adds: “FDA recognizes the gravity of the current public health emergency and the importance of facilitating availability, as soon as possible, of vaccines to prevent COVID-19 – vaccines that the public will trust and have confidence in receiving.”

Of course, if you believe the same, or same type, of people are running FDA, HHS, CDC or other federal agencies cited in medically obtrusive and immoral activities, some racist in nature, conducted in the early to mid-late 20th century, such assurances may sound hollow.

Lloyd’s perspective

Of his perspective on the testing and approval status of COVID-19 vaccinations, Lloyd wrote Royal Examiner later Tuesday afternoon:

“I think that formally we remain in the trial phase for all available vaccines so I think the Belmont Report speaks directly to this situation. I think I would describe it as the ‘research’ or ‘trial’ phase; I doubt I would use the term ‘experimentation.’ I would probably describe the mRNA vaccines as ‘experimental,’ as they’ve never been tried in humans and it is not possible to know if there are any long-term effects from using them, which would be the type of potential harm that concerns me the most with that particular category.”

Links on the CDC website about mRNA vaccines development related to COVID-19

According to the CDC and other medical and news source websites, mRNA (messenger RNA) vaccines were among the first authorized for use against COVID-19 in the U.S., including the Moderna and Pfizer, the latter of which this reporter received his second dose of from Valley Health on February 3, fortunately with no side effects from either dose to this point. According to the CDC website, the mRNA vaccines “do not interact with human DNA in any way” and “do not introduce the live COVID virus” into the recipient’s body or cell nucleus. They have been researched for decades in the treatment of various health ailments including rabies, the flu and ZIKA, among other infectious diseases, the CDC notes.

Of the process by which they do work, the CDC writes of mRNA: “To trigger an immune response, many vaccines put a weakened or inactivated germ into our bodies. NOT (emphasis added) mRNA vaccines. Instead, they teach our cells how to make a protein – or even just a piece of a protein – that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.”

It would seem that this process, avoiding some more cellularly intrusive methods of many traditional vaccines and with several decades of infectious disease research behind it, is why mRNA vaccines were among the first to be approved for use under public health “emergency” standards. But is that enough to allay the fears of some vaccine skeptics?

“The attitude of some is that, because of the large number of people who have received it, it is almost like they are not in trials anymore, (I have heard some doctors make this argument),” Lloyd wrote the Examiner, continuing, “I think these sorts of formalities matter, especially when dealing with a new drug.

“That said, I think that the Belmont Report* is a touchstone for matters of informed consent outside of clinical trials and ‘human research’ because it defines what is impermissibly coercive in the context of informed consent. In other words, when the trials end, I do not think that the behavior that falls under ‘coercion’ as defined in the report becomes ‘not-coercion’ because there is no more trial.”

Information or Opinion?

Perhaps the operative word in Lloyd’s analysis is “informed”.

First, one would ask: Is the federal public health apparatus and medical establishment “informed” enough to make an “emergency” judgement the vaccines distributed are safe for general human use?

And on the other side, the question is: Are those fearful of taking those “emergency” authorized vaccines “informed” enough on what methods the vaccines utilize in offering immunity against the COVID-19 Coronavirus, and what testing as been done to assure that the human health risk is minimal, and that, that risk is concentrated on those with specific pre-existing medical conditions?

For in the space between the answer to those two questions would seem to lie the legal justification for either a public or private-sector mandate that employees or members who have contact with other employees, members or customers must be vaccinated; versus as Councilman Lloyd and the constituent base he seeks to represent believe, such a mandate presents an immediate and dangerous health risk to them that municipal governments should legislate against, regardless of previous state or federal legal precedents concerning public health emergencies.

On the topic of “informed consent”, Councilman Lloyd wrote: “I have looked into AMA (American Medical Association) and other definitions of ‘informed consent’ and they mention freedom from coercion without defining ‘coercion’. I think the definition in the Belmont Report rings true and I would be surprised to find a definition anywhere that deviates widely from it.”

As to the question of the “informed” basis for his concerns, based on the health concerns of those he has heard from reluctant to be vaccinated, Lloyd claims a largely informed constituency:

“You asked about the validity of the medical objections, which I think I can answer quickly: I have not been looking very closely at the research at all. I see things mentioned here and there and some of them seem concerning, but my interest is not whether it is right. If a person does not want a vaccine because he thinks there are aliens in it; I would think he is wrong and I would also defend his right to decline the vaccine. I will say, though, that these are medical professionals: nurses, nurse practitioners, and doctors who are contacting me. I am not a medical professional; I would say they are in a better position to evaluate the various medical claims, and their perspectives are highly sophisticated, backed up with real stories of what is occurring ‘on the ground’ as they say.”

Decisions, decisions

So, remaining and fundamental questions facing town council July 26, appear to be: Are Lloyd and those he is hearing from operating from documentable facts concerning alleged medical dangers from receiving COVID-19 vaccines okayed for circulation by the FDA of 2020-21, or are their fears a result of susceptibility to alarmist conspiracy theories in wide circulation in an “alternate fact” social media universe?

As noted, Lloyd asserts many who have contacted him are medical professionals and Valley Health employees in a position to know “what’s going on, on the ground” regarding COVID vaccinations, or at least they claim to be. Perhaps some will show up July 26, to identify themselves, their credentials, and state the basis for their concerns about being vaccinated – perhaps.

How will Lloyd’s colleagues react to his introduction of his COVID vaccine-related ordinance as an ‘emergency’ measure designed to counteract Valley Health’s new mandate all its employees be vaccinated? – We’ll find out on Monday evening, at the WCGC.

Otherwise, Lloyd’s colleagues on the Front Royal Town Council will be asked to accept on faith that there is a pending employment emergency based on a legitimate and grounded-in-fact medical concern about the safety of the available COVID-19 vaccinations that somehow Valley Health and other involved agencies have failed to identify, or perhaps can’t be trusted to tell us the truth about if you accept a corrupt federal and medical agency lineage dating to 1924 to 1972. And if jumping that hurdle, council will then face a vote on a perhaps legally unsupportable ordinance proposal based on an assertion made by an anonymous group of alleged medical professionals, and their council sponsor who admits he has “not been looking very closely at the research at all”.

Lloyd did include in his communications with Royal Examiner that he will support public comments on his ordinance initiative during the general Public Concerns portion of council’s July 26 meeting. That sounds like an invitation to his concerned constituents to stand up and be heard, along with those who disagree that the Town has reason or jurisdiction to swim into murky factual and legal waters.


(*Writer’s note: The lengthy Belmont Report developed over 4 years in the wake of the public revelation of Tuskegee Experiment can be found online, one link leading to summaries and the full report is: The Belmont Report | HHS.gov)


Valley Health CEO responds to criticism of its COVID vaccine mandate

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Local Government

Front Royal names Assistant Town Manager

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Kathleen Leidich has been selected as Front Royal’s Assistant Town Manager. Ms. Leidich will lead strategic operations for Planning and Building Inspection, and the infrastructure divisions of Public Works, Water Management, Construction Management, Capital Projects, Solid Waste, and Energy Services.

Kathleen Leidich, Assistant Town Manager

“Throughout the competitive recruitment process for Assistant Town Manager, Ms. Leidich demonstrated strong leadership, professionalism, and dedication to community service,” said Steven Hicks, Front Royal Town Manager. “Her 25 years of experience in local government and being a former Town Manager are essential in continuing to build and sustain a high performing team that will forward Front Royal’s commitment to providing quality service to citizens, business, and visitors.”

Ms. Leidich’s priorities will include overseeing the development of the newly created Building Codes and Environmental Division, a “one-stop” department providing services that help citizens and businesses easily navigate and complete governmental procedures and processes. She will lead the team in developing a new Comprehensive Plan and the Capital Improvement Program to maximize opportunities for quality development and economic and tourism growth.


“I look forward to becoming a member of the progressive Front Royal management team,” said Leidich. “My executive leadership responsibilities in local government have given me the hands-on experience needed to help advance Town services that improve quality of life and create an inviting environment for all.”

Leidich previously served as Town Manager in Occoquan, Virginia, Assistant to the Town Manager in Leesburg, Assistant Director of Transportation Planning and Operations in Loudoun County, Transit Projects Manager for the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, and Planning Director in Marysville, Ohio.

“We are glad Ms. Leidich is joining the Front Royal team,” said Mayor Chris Holloway. “Her extensive knowledge and experience in local government will enable her to work well with the Town Manager and departments in supporting the goals of Council, the community, and regional partners.

Ms. Leidich earned master’s degrees in City and Regional Planning and Public Administration at Ohio State University. She graduated from Whittenberg University with a B.A. degree in political science and psychology.

She is certified by the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP), a graduate of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) Senior Executive Institute (SEI), and the ICMA Mid-Career Managers Institute.

Leidich will begin working for Front Royal on Monday, August 2.

(Town of Front Royal Press Release)

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Local Government

No Public Hearing prior to July 26 Council ‘action’ on Lloyd’s COVID Vaccination Code Proposal

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On Monday, July 19, town staff verified a change in the originally announced August 2nd date for Front Royal Town Council public consideration of Councilman Scott Lloyd’s initiative to bring a town ordinance proposal forward that would remove private-sector authority to implement consequences, including termination or perceived negative reassignment, for employees declining to receive the COVID-19 Coronavirus vaccination. That matter was a topic of pointed discussion at a July 12 work session as reported in the Royal Examiner story – “Thompson challenges Lloyd’s reasons for moving anti-vaccination choice consequences proposal forward – public hearing, vote slated for August 2

Councilman Lloyd, at left notes in hand, found himself at odds with Councilwoman Thompson, across the table, during July 12 work session discussion of his COVID vaccine ordinance initiative. His other colleagues were largely silent as Lloyd first butted heads with Thompson, and then took on the town attorney’s research of the legality of his proposal. Royal Examiner File Photos by Roger Bianchini

Having been informed by Lloyd over the weekend of the date change to council’s regularly scheduled monthly meeting of July 26 at the Warren County Government Center, this reporter contacted Council Clerk and Town Manager Administrative Assistant Tina Pressley by email Monday for verification. While Pressley did reply that there was now no Special Meeting scheduled for August 2 and that Lloyd’s vaccination-related ordinance proposal would be on council’s Monday, July 26 agenda for “action”, she added, “There are no public hearings scheduled for this item on the 26th or August 2nd.”

Uh oh, “action” on a proposed town code change with potentially sweeping private-sector and legal ramifications without a public hearing?!? It had originally been thought the necessary time to prepare and publish public notice of a public hearing and vote would require the scheduling of an August 2 special meeting to facilitate Lloyd’s desire for council action on his COVID-19 vaccine-related proposal as soon as possible.


Believing that such legislative action as code changes require public hearings, we decided to follow up with the council clerk by phone. Noting she was still working on the language for the Lloyd initiative’s inclusion in the July 26 agenda packet, Pressley verified the language in her email – Yes, there would be “action” scheduled; but no, there would not be a public hearing.

With that information in tow, we first emailed, then called Lloyd Monday afternoon seeking further explanation on how his ordinance proposal was being brought forward. We then called Town Attorney Doug Napier seeking clarity.

‘Do what?’ Town Attorney Napier, far left, may have been thinking as Councilman Lloyd suggested expansion of his research of legal precedents in support or opposition to his vaccination-related proposal.

Napier explained that Lloyd was bringing his ordinance proposal to legislate against private-sector implementation of consequences on employees for a refusal to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 Coronavirus as an Emergency Ordinance. If a council majority accepts the proposal as of an emergency nature in town, the necessity of a public hearing is negated, the town attorney explained. As of July 19, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic is credited with over 4.09-million deaths worldwide, nearly 615,000 nationwide, 11,477 statewide, with the deaths of 61 people in Warren County over the past year and a half.

However, from its nature Lloyd’s ordinance proposal is not being presented as a local public health emergency, but rather as a citizen rights emergency to prevent what Lloyd terms employer “coercion” to be vaccinated against the pandemic to maintain one’s job status.

In an irony that would fit a Hollywood drama script, say for the medical show “House”, verification of the changed date and nature of town council consideration of Lloyd’s proposal as an Emergency Ordinance came the same day that regional medical provider Valley Health issued a press release announcing a new policy mandating that all its employees be vaccinated against the COVID-19 Coronavirus. Valley Health Announces New Safety Standard: All Employees and Medical Staff to Receive COVID-19 Vaccine

Ironically, on Monday as we learned of changes in the presentation of Lloyd’s so-called ‘Medical Freedom’ or ‘anti-coercion’ ordinance proposal, Valley Health announced it will now require all employees and medical staff to be COVID-19 vaccinated. Will Lloyd’s colleagues accept his ordinance proposal as a ‘citizens’ rights emergency’ not requiring public hearing next week? – Stay tuned.

Attempts to reach Valley Health officials for comment on the implications for their operations in a community from such a municipal ordinance as is now on the table in Front Royal where they just opened a new hospital/office complex were unsuccessful prior to publication. A phone message left for Lloyd inquiring on what he perceives to be the emergency in presenting his ordinance, was also unreturned by publication.

Stay tuned for more on this developing story as it develops over the coming week leading up to council’s meeting next Monday, July 26. Meetings begin at 7 p.m. Where on the meeting agenda Lloyd’s proposal is placed should be known by Thursday, July 22, when the agendas are targeted for release by the Council Clerk’s Office.

With the general “Public Concerns” portion of meetings devoted to non-agenda items, and Lloyd’s proposal under consideration as an emergency ordinance without a public hearing, were council to accept that designation, it would seem the public might have no opportunity to address the matter prior to council action. We called Town Attorney Napier back on that possibility. He said it would be at council and the mayor’s discretion whether to allow public comments at the meeting’s outset to include an agenda item with no public hearing.

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