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EDA in Focus

Jury gets EDA vs. Poe/Earthright Energy civil liability case at 1:10 p.m. Thursday afternoon



After over three hours of closing arguments summarizing the conflicting “roadmaps” or theories of the “Warren Economic Development Authority” (EDA, WC EDA, FR-WC EDA) versus Donald F. Poe and Earthright Energy Solar LLC civil liability case, a decision in that case was handed over to a seven-member Warren County Circuit Court jury. The jury was sent out to deliberations and lunch if they remembered the court’s suggestion they bring lunches with them at 1:10 p.m.

After a brief conference on their status with Judge Bruce D. Albertson at 6 p.m. they were sent back to the jury room with the promise of a dinner delivery to accompany their deliberations. The judge promised not to keep them too late, probably till 9 p.m. or so, if they needed more time to come to a unanimous verdict on the five plaintiff claims for the return of $945,000 from the defendants. Those claims are for Fraud, Unjust Enrichment, Conversion, Conspiracy, and Ultra Vires, the latter a legal term for someone exceeding their legal authority in a public or corporate position. The ultra vires claim relates to the allegation of former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald’s unilateral creation of solar installation contracts with Poe and ERE in the hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars.

How late will the EDA vs. Poe/Earthright Energy Solar LLC jury work tonight? They had been at it for just under 5 hours when dinner was sent out for them Thursday evening.

One thing the jury won’t take under consideration is the $27.3-million Poe/ERE counterclaim against the EDA related to an aborted contract to install solar panels throughout the Warren County Public School system’s nine schools. Late Wednesday, Judge Albertson granted the plaintiff EDA’s motion to strike the counterclaim based on undisputed trial testimony that the 2018 contract presented to ERE Solar for that project by Jennifer McDonald on behalf of the EDA was not a legally valid contract.

Two former board members, Greg Drescher and Ron Llewellyn, as well as former County and EDA attorney Dan Whitten, whose job lead plaintiff counsel Cullen Seltzer pointed out to the jury included review of all pending contracts, all testified they had never seen the contract at the time, and certainly never voted as a board on approval of it. Such board approval is required by state law for all EDA transactions over certain amounts, $10,000 in the Warren EDA’s case, involving public funds, EDA counsel pointed out during the trial.

What is at stake in the jury’s deliberations is the EDA’s effort to force Poe to pay back $945,037 he received in EDA funds from McDonald, sometimes co-signed by a single EDA board member, based on contracts the plaintiff argued were all illegal. Drescher explained his co-signature on one check as due to McDonald’s explanation it was just front money that would be reimbursed to the EDA when ERE financing was achieved.

Poe/ERE actually received about $1.2 million in EDA payments but paid back $334,000 of that when informed the Baugh Drive warehouse solar installation project would not go through. Defense attorney William Ashwell pointed to that reimbursement as a sign Poe and ERE were acting in good faith on contracts and proposals they believed to be legally achieved as presented to them by McDonald.

But as EDA counsel explained to the jury on Thursday, if they find Poe/ERE guilty on two of the five claims – fraud and conspiracy – they could also recommend punitive damages at a cap of three times the compensatory claim of $945,037, or less.

Thursday’s closing arguments presented the stark contrast in the plaintiff and defense “roadmaps” or theories of the circumstance of Poe and Earthright Energy’s dealings with McDonald as then-executive director of the EDA.

Point – Plaintiff ‘roadmap’
On the plaintiff side, EDA attorneys painted a dark picture of collusion and fraudulent intent between McDonald, Poe and ERE, to defraud the EDA out of, not only hundreds of thousands of dollars in a series of transactions, but as Seltzer alluded to in his closing summary “shoot for the moon” at $27.3 million with the alleged contract between the EDA and ERE for the public schools solar installation proposal. It was a proposal that while discussed in a preliminary fashion with EDA Board Chairman and Schools Superintendent Greg Drescher, was never even presented for a vote to either the School Board or County Board of Supervisors, owners of the property with the authority to enact such a contract.

Greg Drescher and Jennifer McDonald at an April 2017 EDA board meeting during approval of the purchase of property for a workforce housing project.

As to defense arguments that it was the EDA board itself and county officials who were negligent in preventing McDonald’s alleged financial misdeeds which in the end victimized Poe and his solar company in contracts they believed to be valid, Seltzer countered:

“They would have you believe Mr. Poe was ‘tricked too’. – But he knew things they EDA did not know,” Seltzer said directing the jury’s attention to Poe’s “funneling of money back to McDonald” and concealing the existence of the alleged EDA-ERE contract on the $27.3 million public schools project. It was a contract the EDA had no legal authority to make, Seltzer argued. Noting Drescher’s attempt to put brakes on the school proposal, Seltzer asserted that Poe had concealed the existence of the EDA-ERE contract for the $27.3 million job from Drescher during meetings between the two.

EDA counsel also pointed to Poe’s Earthright Energy Solar partner Justin Appleton, who signed the EDA-ERE school contract along with McDonald,’s communications as late as December of 2018 assuring that there would be “no cost to the EDA, the County, Public Schools, or county taxpayers in any way” related to the school installation proposal. EDA counsel asked “Where is he?” of Poe’s ERE Solar partner. “If he had anything good to say, he’d be here,” Seltzer theorized of Appleton’s absence as a defense witness. Originally named as a co-defendant in the EDA amended civil litigation, Appleton was eventually non-suited from the civil liability case according to EDA officials.

The escrow-financing claim led to a huge debate over a $5 million escrow deposit through a West Virginia law firm, by an ostensible financier of the project, New York City based Hutton Ventures. While Poe claimed to have visited the company in New York, securing a handshake agreement on financing the $27.3 million project, Seltzer countered that the escrow deposit had no direct indication it was made on behalf the Warren EDA or the county’s school system, and certainly never went to such use.

And of the defense placing of blame on the EDA for McDonald financial misdeeds, Seltzer said, “They say, ‘Boy, the EDA is dysfunctional.’ That is a ‘blame the victim’ tactic – But who lost money?”

Of a conviction and the potential of not only compensatory damages, but punitive damages assessed as well, Seltzer told the jury to look at that result as a deterrent to others who might hatch “similar scams” adding, “This is your community. It will be your decision.”

Counterpoint – defense roadmap
In contrast, defense attorney Ashwell pointed to payments made to Earthright, and work completed at the EDA’s Kendrick Lane office complex, and undertaken at various public school sites, for those payments. “They want you to ignore the facts,” Ashwell said of work accomplished at the EDA offices and preliminary work begun at public school sites in exchange for payments made to ERE. He presented invoices for and checks cut for $325,000, $482,000, and $334,851, the first two for work for LED light installation and solar panel installation at Kendrick Lane EDA offices – “Installed; job performed” Ashwell told the jury of the Kendrick Lane work. And the $334,851 appears to have been for the aborted Baugh Drive project, which ERE reimbursed to the EDA.

As to the plaintiff’s “funneling of money back to McDonald” theory in his purchase of a percentage of her MoveOn8 real estate company which had acquired a develop-able parcel off Happy Creek Road, defense counsel reminded the jury that as a real estate developer among his other construction-related businesses, “That is simply what he does – Mr. Poe invests in develop-able properties.”

File photo of defendant Donald F. Poe

Of the plaintiff’s introduction of myriad exhibits related to contracts, Ashwell told the jury, “This was straightforward. It was not Mr. Poe sneaking in dark back alleys – you’ve seen the contracts. This was the executive director of the Warren EDA who got statewide awards … Despite this they want you to believe Mr. Poe worked on these projects for some magical word – ‘tricked’. Why do that?” Ashwell asked the jury of the plaintiff’s theories, pointing toward a key defense point – “You heard it, all the dysfunction of the Warren EDA.”

Defense counsel also pointed out that the EDA board had become aggressively interested in solar development in the courting of a major and unnamed company to locate here. “The EDA was trying to entice a big company with solar … She is an arm of the EDA board – This is what an EDA is supposed to do,” Ashwell said of development of solar energy to attract investment in the community by a company with an interest in such community-wide development of alternative energy sources.

Defense counsel also noted that evidence indicated that Mr. Poe was connected to McDonald by an intermediary aware of the County’s sudden interest in solar, as well as LED lighting at an EDA facility, who knew Mr. Poe had a company doing such work.

Of the notion promises were made that ERE would do the Kendrick Lane work “absolutely free” Ashwell told the jury “that doesn’t make sense”.
And as of 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 14, the jury was still discussing these varying perspectives.

Stay tuned …

See: Civil Case Jury orders return of $945,000 to WC EDA by Donald Poe and Earthright Energy Solar

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Community Events

Front Royal-Warren County EDA gears up for its Open-Door Business Session: An opportunity to shape Warren County’s future



In an effort to foster regional economic growth, the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority (EDA) has announced its next Open-Door Business Session. The event is scheduled for Thursday, June 1, from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm at the Warren County Community Center, located at 538 Villa Ave, Front Royal, VA 22630. This event is a part of the EDA’s continuous initiative to strengthen Warren County’s workforce development and enhance the economic prosperity of the region.

The two-hour session will be packed with presentations, open discussions, and plenty of networking opportunities. The main focus of the event will be the exploration of Warren County’s workforce development prospects, overcoming related challenges, and celebrating its successes in economic development. Participants will have a chance to engage in meaningful discussions and network with key players influencing Warren County’s economic landscape.

While pre-registration for the session is not compulsory, the organizers have encouraged interested parties to RSVP by Tuesday, May 30, ensuring they don’t miss out on this influential meeting. Those interested can register via the provided link.

The Front Royal-Warren County EDA is known for its commitment to fostering an environment conducive to economic growth. Hosting these Open-Door Business Sessions, they provide a platform where individuals, businesses, and community members can discuss and strategize on various economic development issues, paving the way for a more prosperous Warren County.

Don’t miss this opportunity to engage with the local community, network with important stakeholders, and directly contribute to the future of Warren County’s economy.

For more information on the event and registration details, visit the REGISTRATION LINK.

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EDA in Focus

Front Royal-Warren County EDA holds productive monthly meeting with updates on financial statements and new business



The Front Royal Warren County Economic Development Authority held its monthly meeting on Friday, April 28, 2023, and all seven board members, legal counsel, and the County Director of Economic Development were present. Board Member Bruce Townshend participated remotely. The meeting started with committee reports, and Board Chair Scott Jenkins provided updates on recent meetings and the Avtex Conservancy Property progress.

The Treasurer, Jim Wolfe, and the Director of Economic Development, Joe Petty, gave an update on the EDA financial statements, and Mr. Wolfe provided a review of the recent kick-off meeting for the Small Business Loan Committee and proposed next steps for the committee. The next Open-Door Business Session, which is rescheduled to June 1, will focus on the workforce, with more details to come.

Under new business, Mr. Petty provided an update on the draft EDA & County MOU, which updates the existing fiscal agent agreement to include current and future operational support between the two organizations. The board then held a closed session to discuss the potential disposition of real property to business prospects and legal consultation on active litigation.

Following the closed session, the board approved two motions. The first granted permission for Laurel Ridge Community College to temporarily utilize the parking lot on Kendrick Lane for their CDL class from May 15 to June 30. The second motion asked the County to perform appraisals on EDA-owned properties at 1321 Happy Creek Road and Stephens Industrial Park.

The next regular monthly board meeting will be held on Friday, May 19, 2023, at 8:30 am, at the Warren County Government Center. The meeting was a productive one with important updates on committee reports, financial statements, and new business. The board’s approval of motions to grant permission for Laurel Ridge Community College and perform appraisals on EDA-owned properties demonstrate the board’s commitment to improving economic development in the area. The upcoming Open-Door Business Session in June will also provide opportunities for members of the community to learn about the board’s efforts to improve workforce development.

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EDA in Focus

Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority launches USDA Rural Development Loan Program to boost small business growth



On Tuesday, April 25, 2023, the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority’s Small Business Loan Committee held an informational work session at the Warren County Government Center Caucus Room. The meeting aimed to introduce committee members to each other and to provide an overview of the USDA Rural Development Loan Programs. These programs offer low-interest (1 percent) loans to local lenders who then re-lend to businesses in rural communities in order to improve economic conditions and create jobs. The Loan Committee discussed the next steps during the meeting, including applications, outreach, and review processes.

To qualify for the program, intermediary lenders can be nonprofit corporations, public agencies, cooperatives, and federally-recognized tribes, while individuals, public or private organizations, or other legal entities can apply for intermediary loans as “ultimate recipients” provided they meet certain criteria, such as being U.S. citizens or permanent residents, not owing a delinquent debt to the U.S. Government, and not being able to obtain affordable commercial financing elsewhere. The project must also be located in an eligible rural area, and the applicant must have no influence, legal or financial interest in the work of the intermediary lender.

The Front Royal-Warren County EDA will administer a Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) to provide financial incentives for the expansion of existing local industries or commercial business ventures and for the attraction of new industries or commercial business ventures to Warren County. The RLF will be utilized to ensure that a maximum number of jobs will be created and retained, the local and regional industrial base is broadened, and the Warren County property tax base is broadened. In reviewing the employment impact of the proposed loan, priority will be given to those projects which create (and in some cases retain) jobs that pay a minimum of 1.5 times the federal minimum wage.

Eligible activities include site purchases of industrial land, relocation costs incurred in construction and occupancy of the facility, new construction or rehabilitation of existing buildings, machinery and equipment acquisitions, start-up operating costs, and working capital (capped at 25 percent of total project cost). Eligible applicants are industrial or manufacturing firms where goods are assembled, re-assembled, modified, manufactured, or produced at the job site, wholesale and distribution enterprises, and commercial enterprises that establish new businesses, expand existing businesses, create new jobs or save existing jobs.

Local businesses can benefit from this program as it offers low-interest loans to intermediary lenders who then re-lend to businesses in rural communities. This can help to improve economic conditions and create jobs, while the RLF provides financial incentives for the expansion of existing local industries or commercial business ventures and for the attraction of new industries or commercial business ventures to Warren County.

Watch the meeting on the exclusive Royal Examiner video.

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EDA in Focus

Newly aligned County EDA Asset Committee views a path forward at Avtex site among other business recruitment options



The newly aligned County-overseen Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority Asset Committee sat down to establish an overview of the work ahead at a committee meeting officially convened at 3:10 p.m. Thursday afternoon, April 20. Present were the full committee lineup of Jori Martin and new board and committee members Hayden Ashworth and Rob McDougall, along with Warren County Director of Economic Development Joe Petty. Martin chaired the meeting.

The full WC EDA Asset Committee, with new member Hayden Ashworth to acting Chairman Jori Martin’s left. The committee’s other new member Rob McDougall is at near right, with County Director of Economic Development Joe Petty to McDougall’s right. Royal Examiner Photos Roger Bianchini

Following a 20-minute open meeting during which jump-starting the long-dormant development of the 148-acre Avtex/Royal Phoenix business park site, along with development of the larger Conservancy Park area between the business park and Shenandoah River, was a primary topic of conversation, the board adjourned to Closed/Executive Session. The motion into closed session indicated behind-closed-door: “Discussion of disposition of publicly held real property … at Stephens Industrial Park, 1321 Happy Creek Rd., and 400 Kendrick Lane … and legal advice related thereto …”

As it was a committee meeting without the full board, no action or announcements out of closed session were anticipated. However, with concerns expressed by former EDA board Chairman Jeff Browne and former Asset Committee Chairman Greg Harold concerning possible pressure from the board of supervisors in an election year to unload EDA properties to what might not be the best long-term prospects in order to show some immediate EDA revenue recovery, it will be interesting to see how this topic proceeds toward full EDA board consideration and potential action. Browne and Harold’s terms, which expired February 28, were not renewed by the supervisors despite both applying for reappointment.

Did not seeing eye to eye with supervisors on property sales priorities lead to replacement of two longest-tenured EDA board members?

Dynamics of the two-pronged Avtex properties redevelopment included the possible transfer of ownership of the Conservancy Park property inside the town limits to the County to enable Parks & Recreation Department maintenance and oversight. Having the Town on board with plans for the Conservancy Park area which will connect various in-town locations to foot and non-motorized transportation trails was cited. Also how that transfer of ownership would impact the County financially, and its Parks & Rec Department work and personnel-wise, was broached.

So, what are we working with on this end of town? – Two perspectives of the former federal Superfund/Avtex redevelopment site with the 240-acre Conservancy Park parcel to left between river and railroad tracks in above aerial photo, with planned 148-acre business park in upper right-center. The WC EDA is moving aggressively toward positive movement on both portions of the site. Below, graphic with color portion illustrating low-impact Conservancy Park development. Above that section is b&w rendering of potential development at the business park. Aerial Photos by Roger Bianchini Courtesy of CassAviation and Reggie Cassagnol

Martin also pointed out to her new colleagues that for the most part, related infrastructure at the Avtex site to support development was in place. “So, it would be being able to support these trade sectors that are listed, which is kind of right following the goals that we were looking at as we review the RFI (Request For Information),” Martin said regarding EDA marketing strategies moving forward. “I would suggest that we make it an agenda item for the main (EDA board) meeting, that we put it as a formal item on the agenda and focus on what’s been sent as the draft RFI. It has been reviewed by our attorney. And it has been reviewed by the prior EDA board. And what I’d look for from our next committee meeting that we could come out of that meeting and get a full board vote on support to move this RFI forward.

“And the process of that before it went out would be to get on the agenda for the Town and the County as well, so that they would review the RFI — they would have input into it as well. And  then at that point, once all parties weigh in, we would at that point hopefully by June or July, send that RFI out to prospective companies that may want to get a vision plan and development plan for the Avtex site. That’s kind of what I’ve been working on before, the committee had been working on before you came on the board. And that’s where we are,” Martin said in bringing her new colleagues up to date on development prospects, particularly at the long-floundering former federal Superfund and Avtex property redevelopment site.

Aerial photo, pre-ITFederal construction, of the Royal Phoenix Business Park section of the property.

In addition to the “Avtex Redevelopment Site Review”, topics broached in open Asset Committee meeting prior to the closed session included “GO Virginia Grant Opportunities” and a “FR-WC EDA Property Overview”. Martin cited the EDA’s eligibility for grant opportunities due to meeting certain criteria, calling it a “wonderful opportunity” for redevelopment funding assistance at the former Avtex property site, and the recruitment of new business to the community there or elsewhere.

The now fully-manned, seven-member EDA Board of Directors will have its regular monthly meeting this coming Friday morning, April 28, at 8 a.m. at the Warren County Government Center.

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EDA in Focus

Warren County Economic Development Authority’s regular meeting agenda revealed for April 28, 2023



The Warren County Government Center’s Caucus Room will be hosting a regular meeting of the Warren County Economic Development Authority on April 28, 2023, at 8:00 am. The meeting is set to commence with a call to order, followed by the adoption of the agenda and approval of the minutes from the previous meeting held on March 25, 2023.

The meeting will then proceed with reports from various committees, including the Executive Committee, Asset Committee, Finance Committee/Budget Update, Board Members Updates, and Warren County Director of Economic Development Update.

The meeting will also feature new business items that include an open-door business session for June, a County Payment Memo, and an EDA & County MOU. The closed session that will follow at 9:00 am will focus on four matters and two matters, where discussions will involve the disposition of publicly held real property and consultation with legal counsel pertaining to actual or probable litigation.

Any additional new business will be discussed before the meeting concludes with an adjournment at 10:00 am. Stay tuned for updates on the outcomes of the Warren County Economic Development Authority’s meeting.

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EDA in Focus

FR-WC Economic Development Authority Small Business Loan Committee to hold first meeting: Learn about USDA Rural Development Loan Programs



The Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority (FR-WC EDA) has announced that its Small Business Loan Committee will be holding its first meeting on Tuesday, April 25th, at 2:00 pm in the Warren County Government Center’s Caucus Room. The meeting will provide an opportunity for the committee to get acquainted with each other and learn about the USDA Rural Development Loan Programs. The agenda for the meeting and reference materials from previous years are available for those interested in attending online, and a Teams link will be provided for this purpose.

Some of the FR-WC EDA Board of Directors will also be present at the meeting, and they will be available for discussion and to answer any questions that attendees may have. This meeting is an excellent opportunity for small business owners in the Front Royal-Warren County area to learn about the available loan programs and how they can benefit from them.

The agenda for the meeting includes a call to order at 2:00 pm, followed by welcome and introductions. The committee will receive an overview of the existing loan program and hear from the USDA Rural Development at 2:30 pm. The meeting will then move on to discuss the next steps, including applications, outreach, and the review process. The meeting will conclude at 4:00 pm with a discussion of upcoming meetings.

Small businesses in the Front Royal-Warren County area are encouraged to attend the meeting, as it presents a unique opportunity to learn about the loan programs available to them. The FR-WC EDA is committed to promoting economic development in the area, and this meeting is just one way they are fulfilling that commitment.

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Thank You to our Local Business Participants:


Aders Insurance Agency, Inc (State Farm)

Aire Serv Heating and Air Conditioning

Apple Dumpling Learning Center

Apple House

Auto Care Clinic

Avery-Hess Realty, Marilyn King

Beaver Tree Services

Blake and Co. Hair Spa

Blue Mountain Creative Consulting

Blue Ridge Arts Council

Blue Ridge Education

BNI Shenandoah Valley

C&C's Ice Cream Shop

Card My Yard

CBM Mortgage, Michelle Napier

Christine Binnix - McEnearney Associates

Code Jamboree LLC

Code Ninjas Front Royal

Cool Techs Heating and Air

Down Home Comfort Bakery

Downtown Market

Dusty's Country Store

Edward Jones-Bret Hrbek

Explore Art & Clay

Family Preservation Services

First Baptist Church

Front Royal Independent Business Alliance

Front Royal/Warren County C-CAP

First Baptist Church

Front Royal Treatment Center

Front Royal Women's Resource Center

Front Royal-Warren County Chamber of Commerce

Fussell Florist

G&M Auto Sales Inc

Garcia & Gavino Family Bakery

Gourmet Delights Gifts & Framing

Green to Ground Electrical

Groups Recover Together

Habitat for Humanity

Groups Recover Together

House of Hope

I Want Candy

I'm Just Me Movement

Jean’s Jewelers

Jen Avery, REALTOR & Jenspiration, LLC

Key Move Properties, LLC

KW Solutions

Legal Services Plans of Northern Shenendoah

Main Street Travel

Makeover Marketing Systems

Marlow Automotive Group

Mary Carnahan Graphic Design

Merchants on Main Street

Mountain Trails

Mountain View Music

National Media Services

Natural Results Chiropractic Clinic

No Doubt Accounting

Northwestern Community Services Board

Ole Timers Antiques

Penny Lane Hair Co.

Philip Vaught Real Estate Management

Phoenix Project

Reaching Out Now

Rotary Club of Warren County

Royal Blends Nutrition

Royal Cinemas

Royal Examiner

Royal Family Bowling Center

Royal Oak Bookshop

Royal Oak Computers

Royal Oak Bookshop

Royal Spice

Ruby Yoga

Salvation Army

Samuels Public Library

SaVida Health

Skyline Insurance

Shenandoah Shores Management Group

St. Luke Community Clinic

Strites Doughnuts

Studio Verde

The Arc of Warren County

The Institute for Association & Nonprofit Research

The Studio-A Place for Learning

The Valley Today - The River 95.3

The Vine and Leaf

Valley Chorale

Warren Charge (Bennett's Chapel, Limeton, Asbury)

Warren Coalition

Warren County Democratic Committee

Warren County Department of Social Services

Warren County DSS Job Development

Warrior Psychotherapy Services, PLLC

WCPS Work-Based Learning

What Matters & Beth Medved Waller, Inc Real Estate

White Picket Fence

Woodward House on Manor Grade

King Cartoons

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