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

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Wednesday saw a crowded second floor lobby at the Warren County Courthouse as EDA civil case motions and special grand jury testimony coincided. Royal Examiner File Photos/Roger Bianchini

It was a who’s who of the controversy swirling around the audit and investigation into EDA finances and its aftermath on Wednesday morning, May 22, on the second floor of the Warren County Courthouse.

A motions hearing on the EDA civil litigation filed on March 26 was slated for the 9 a.m. Circuit Court docket before Judge Clifford L. Athey Jr., while the Special Grand Jury empanelled by Athey on March 27 to investigate potential criminality tied to the EDA financial investigation and civil litigation was beginning three days of witness testimony across the hall.

It appeared that all people named as civil defendants, save Truc “Curt” Tran who was represented by counsel, were present along with relatives, attorneys, former EDA co-workers and Front Royal Police investigators who worked the EDA office break-in case. The interesting mix created a standing room only crowd in the second-floor hallway, as well as some confusion as to which circuit courtroom was whose ultimate destination.

Sheriff, ITFed principal Tran, Donnie Poe named with McDonald in EDA civil suit

While there was large and varied crowd at the courthouse Wednesday morning, neither of these players, Tom Sayre left, and ‘Curt’ Tran, was a part of it. Sayre is engaged in dueling defamation lawsuits with Jennifer McDonald; Tran and his ITFederal LLC are two of nine EDA civil suit defendants

In opening the motions hearing Judge Athey noted that he would be leaving the circuit court bench in September for a seat on the Virginia Court of Appeals, so would not be the judge who would ultimately hear this civil case. He surmised the 26th District’s Chief Judge would assume that role.

But it was Athey who would hear and rule on a bevy of motions before him on Wednesday.

The judge agreed with defense attorney calls for more detail in the six-counts tied to the EDA civil complaints seeking a minimum total of $17.6 million from nine defendants, five people and four Limited Liability Corporations (LLC’s) tied to those five people – Jennifer McDonald, Donald Poe, Justin Appleton, Truc “Curt” Tran and Daniel McEathron.

Defendant attorneys cite vagaries, legal conflicts in EDA civil suit

Attorneys for the Sands-Anderson law firm that filed the suit on the EDA’s behalf have drawn heavy defense counsel criticism for listing all defendants together in one lawsuit seeking a lump-sum amount from all – “implausible conspiracies” was the term used by Jennifer McDonald attorney Lee Berlik in his motions filing.

And while there is a great deal of specificity as to acts and amounts of money in the 160 paragraphs preceding the 39-paragraphs comprising the six counts, such detail is absent in the listing of those counts of: 1/ Fraud and Fraud in the Inducement; 2/ Conversion; 3/ Conspiracy; 4/ Unjust Enrichment; 5/ Breach of Fiduciary Duty of Loyalty; and 6/ Ultra Vires (improper) Transactions and Agreements.

Tran defense motions echo earlier filings, cite vague summary of allegations

While not an attorney, for this long-time court observer it is surprising that the EDA civil action wasn’t broken into separate suits involving the various acts, entities and amounts of money cited in the first 160 paragraphs of the civil complaint. And while I would have asked Sands-Anderson and EDA civil case attorney Cullen Seltzer about that strategy, he was not speaking on the record following the approximate half-hour hearing.

Athey gave defense attorneys 21 days to file memos in support of their Demurrers and Motions for Bills of Particulars on the cases against their clients; and the plaintiff counsel 21 days to file Briefs in opposition to the defense assertions; and an additional seven days for defense responses to the plaintiff Briefs.

Those defense and plaintiff filings will be argued at the end of the Motions Day of July 17.

As to a motion to Quash the complaint against Earth Right Energy and its principals Donald Poe and Justin Appleton, Athey set a hearing for next Wednesday, May 29, at 9 a.m.

There was an interesting revelation by plaintiff attorneys in the wake of Jennifer McDonald’s co-attorney Jay McDannell’s request for the now seven-month, three-quarters of million dollar “forensic audit” of EDA finances the County has fronted the EDA money for. McDannell sought that detail so as to better understand and prepare a defense for his client on the financial misappropriation allegations against the former EDA executive director.

Noting the EDA and County retention of the accounting firm of Cherry Bekaert, out of its Richmond office, Seltzer said there could be a problem with the 10-day time period Athey ordered for provision of the McDonald attorney-requested audit materials.

“We’ve been hearing this for six months – it’s time to put up or shut up,” Athey told the plaintiff attorney.

Seltzer then appeared to indicate that Cherry Bekaert had not done a “forensic audit” as it has previously been referenced in County and EDA discussion, but rather what was later termed an intrinsic fact-finding. He also said a “final audit gap complaint” was not yet prepared or available for submission to discovery motions. Previously EDA officials have indicated that after the EDA board and staff have reviewed the most recent draft of the Cherry Bekaert financial investigation in closed session, the hard copy has been shredded.

“Whatever they’ve prepared – file it,” the judge instructed plaintiff counsel.

‘Forensic audit’ – what forensic audit?!? It is an ‘intrinsic fact-finding’ mission.

McDonald attorney McDannell also addressed the potential of criminal prosecutions against his client from the Special Grand Jury investigation going on across the hall on Wednesday. McDonald’s counsel, as well as other case defense attorneys, have pointed to the potential of Fifth Amendment assurances (the right not to self-incriminate) from testimony in the civil case were criminal indictments handed down by the special grand jury’s related investigation into their client’s actions.

Athey noted that no indictments have yet been filed and observed that similar arguments were put forth “in every divorce case where adultery is alleged”. The judge appeared to side with the plaintiff in this argument, noting that the issue could be revisited were criminal indictments, in fact, handed down against defendants in the civil case.

McDonald’s counsel also argued to quash a portion of plaintiff subpoenas on his client’s finances related to her legal representation. In explaining the request Seltzer noted that the former EDA chief executive is accused of “defrauding a significant amount of money from the EDA” and wondered if some of that money was being used to fund her defense.

“Is she using stolen money to pay her attorneys,” Seltzer asked.

However, Athey granted the defense motion to quash that portion of the plaintiff subpoena for financial records.

The specter of criminal charges stemming from the EDA financial investigation – by whatever name placed on it – hung over Wednesday’s EDA civil case motions hearing.

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Town press release says it was working on FRPD financing when EDA suit filed

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In a press release issued at 3:15 p.m., Friday afternoon, from the office of Town of Front Royal Information Technology and Communications Director Todd Jones, Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick responds with astonishment, and some astonishing news, in reaction to the EDA filing of a lawsuit Thursday to recover the nearly $9 million cost of the new FRPD headquarters.

That news is that the Town was in the process of acquiring bank financing to pay the principal amount, if not interest, on the new town police headquarters this week.

As previously reported, at Monday’s Front Royal Town Council meeting Councilman and mayoral candidate Chris Holloway read a three-page prepared statement into the record on the Town’s stance on its lack of obligation “legal, moral or otherwise … to repay these unlawful debts” to cover what was termed “a fraudulent, unauthorized loan” acquired by the EDA to finance the FRPD headquarters construction project for the Town.

Chris Holloway reading the Town’s stance on FRPD financing into the council meeting record Monday, September 14. Royal Examiner Photos by Roger Bianchini

Holloway confirmed that the statement was prepared by the Town’s contracted Damiani & Damiani law firm that is handling its $20-million-plus lawsuit against the EDA, in response to his inquiry on the matter.

The statement also states that the Town “has explored other means of resolving the issue” and “is willing to make payments to the EDA for the Police Department Headquarters that are equal to the payments that Town Council authorized, which include the entire principal debt at the authorized interest rate.”

It would seem somewhere along the negotiating lines between the Town, County, and EDA, there has been a failure to communicate essential information.

Here is the Town press release and Tederick’s statement in its entirety:

The EDA Sues the Town of Front Royal on the Verge of Obtaining a Loan

24 Hours After the Town Receiving Bank Term Sheet, EDA Sues. Coincidence?

The Town of Front Royal filed a $20,226,153 lawsuit against the Warren County Economic Development Authority (EDA) in an effort to recover money fraudulently obtained by the ex-Executive Director, Jennifer McDonald, and perhaps others under the failed oversight of the Economic Development Board of Directors.

Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick commented, “This lawsuit is really bizarre, less than twenty-four hours after I received a formal Term Sheet from a lending institution to pay the principle balance which the County, the EDA, and the Town do not dispute, the EDA calls a Special Meeting, one day before it’s normal meeting date, and decides to file a Complaint and Writ of Mandamus against the Town, effectively preventing the Town from obtaining the very financing being demanded. Coincidence?

Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick revealed some astonishing news late Friday afternoon, in reaction to the EDA civil suit over FRPD headquarters financing.

“Just yesterday I received a call from Ed Daley, Interim County Administrator, who asked me if the EDA’s Finance Director could meet with the Town’s Finance Director to reconcile Leach Run Parkway accounting. Of course, I eagerly and happily agreed. Then, 24 hours later, the EDA sues the Town. Coincidence?

“As much as I would personally like to litigate this matter in the court of public opinion, as the EDA has done, I will not. This much I will say, the EDA has caused great harm to the citizens of the Town of Front Royal, and yet, no one has been brought to justice and the EDA continually claims to be the victim. The EDA is responsible for the negative consequences flowing from the actions of its ex Executive Director. The Town is trying to assist in dealing with the economic fallout, but ultimate responsibility remains with the EDA. The Town intends to continue its efforts to finance the Police Department Headquarters.”

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No more Mr. Nice Guy – EDA files suit to recover FRPD costs from Town

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Following a 50-minute Special Meeting closed session on Thursday morning, September 17, the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority Board of Directors unanimously authorized attorney Rosalie Fessier of the Timberlake-Smith law firm to file suit against the Town of Front Royal to recover the current approximate $9-million cost of construction of the new Front Royal Police headquarters.

Fessier is Staunton-based Timberlake-Smith’s lead counsel representing the EDA in the Town of Front Royal’s $20-million-plus civil litigation against the half-century-old Town-County EDA.

The motion, made by Tom Pattison, seconded by Greg Harold, passed by a 6-0 vote with all board members virtually present. Chairman Ed Daley’s seat remains vacant in the wake of his appointment as Warren County’s interim county administrator. The plan is for him to return to his EDA board seat following the hiring of a permanent successor to Doug Stanley.

In Daley’s absence, Vice-Chairman Jeff Browne chaired the virtually conducted ZOOM meeting from the EDA’s Kendrick Lane headquarters. In the wake of the 8:55 a.m. adjournment of the special meeting this reporter met Browne at the EDA office complex about a half block from the police station.

Above, the new FRPD headquarters is visible through the EDA office complex fence at Monroe Ave. In October EDA/County payments on the police station debt service will stop. Below, Jeff Browne and EDA attorney Rosalie Fessier go over paperwork before filing of the EDA suit to recover $9 million it spent on the town police station construction project. Royal Examiner Photos by Roger Bianchini

When we arrived, Browne was still going over paperwork on the civil litigation with Fessier. Following her departure, Browne said the attorney was going to the Warren County Courthouse to file the lawsuit, after which copies would be made available to the media.

Browne explained that the suit is for principal and interest at the rate of the actual United Bank loan, initially 4% then adjusted to the current 3% rate, for a total of just under $9 million dollars. He elaborated that the suit is for money due to the EDA that is in no way impacted by the alleged embezzlements, misdirection of assets or other financial misdeeds attributed to former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald.

“There isn’t any question about that,” Browne said flatly. “And I’ll say this, on anything that we’re asking the Town payment for, we would not ever include anything that was not a legitimate bill. We’re not trying to get them to pay for illegal activities we believe other people did, it’s not going to happen.”

In addition to the EDA-Town legal fireworks inside the EDA office, there was a flurry of activity out back as work on a disputed drainage system was being done at ITFederal expense on its property as an occupancy permit deadline approaches next week.

We asked the acting EDA chairman what led to this decision.

“Well, I think the EDA and the County have paid on the Town’s obligation for over a year. And the goal there was to give the Town time to get the financing that it needed and to do the right thing. And they kept promising this in meetings that we had with them.

“So, in good faith we went ahead and did that even though there’s no obligations to pay anything on the police station. So, between just the lack of forward progress on the negotiations, and more recently what came out of town council this week suggested that the timing was something that we had to do to get them to focus on this,” Browne said.

His “this week” reference was to the Town’s EDA civil litigation contract attorney-prepared statement on the Town’s legal stance on the FRPD financial situation read into the record by Councilman and mayoral candidate Chris Holloway on Monday, September 14.

Light agenda or groundwork for a community legal-economic EXPLOSION?

On September 14, Chris Holloway, right, read an attorney-drafted Town statement calling the EDA’s FRPD United Bank loan ‘fraudulent’ for having a higher than 1.5% interest rate attached to it. Consequently, the Town stance is it has no legal or moral obligation to assume that debt service. To Holloway’s right Jake Meza, who championed holding out for the NMTC 1.5% financing despite contrary recommendations from Town staff and the NMTC Program administrator, listens.

As previously reported, as of November 1 debt service payments on the FRPD project go from interest only in the $21,000 range to principal and interest to around $50,000 monthly.

“And we’re not going to be paying October either, neither is the County,” Browne said of the FRPD debt service coming due in two weeks that the EDA is no longer in a position to cover financially. “The County informed us, we’ve informed the Town that we’re not going to be paying any more on the police station.”

Truth or dare?

As to a timeline other than the litigation being immediately filed at the courthouse, Browne said, “We waived a jury trial, jury trials are going to take a long time given the COVID circumstances.” As a note, the Town is seeking a civil jury trial in its suit against the EDA.

“It’s a very clean case, when you read it, it describes: here’s the facts; they’re all very well documented; and here’s our arguments about why we should get the money,” Browne said of what was on its way to the Warren County Courthouse as we spoke.

Browne elaborated that the EDA case documentation is based in real documents, signed by town officials among others, as opposed to revolving around alleged verbal promises of the former EDA executive director that contradicted known, verified facts about FRPD project financing options. It was a none-to-subtle poke at the foundation of the Town civil action against the EDA.

“And to call them verbal promises even, is perhaps too much,” Browne said of the Town litigation, litigation justified in the above-mentioned attorney-prepared three-page statement read into the Front Royal Town Council meeting record four days earlier by Councilman Holloway.

The EDA hopes to have its civil litigation against Front Royal proceed at a more rapid pace than the Town’s suit against it has. At issue on the EDA side is whose responsibility is paying for the town police station, pictured below.

“When you say you anticipate one-and-a-half percent (interest), it’s like me going fishing and saying I anticipate I’ll catch fish – I sure hope to. But in this case the Town bet and lost. It thought it could get the one-and-a-half percent, was hoping it would get it but knew full well it wasn’t a guaranteed thing. And it turned out it wasn’t,” Browne commented of the underlying Town litigation logic.

Clean or not, the odds are short in “Vegas” that the EDA civil litigation against the Town will be heard within the next month when payments on the police station will stop being made if the Town does not pick them up.

And if they don’t, the Front Royal Town Council is perhaps staking an entire community’s ability to finance future projects on a new “gamble”. That gamble is that it will be judged legally and financially immune from the consequences of its own lack of due diligence, oversight or verification that the 30-year, 1.5% interest rate it hoped for based on verbal “promises” of a now-discredited EDA executive director was even available to it, much less a done deal.

Council listens as Holloway reads their collective legal position into the Sept. 14 town meeting record. Who wants to roll the dice on letting the FRPD debt service go into default next month? Below, Mayor Tewalt, here with Ed Daley and Jeff Browne in December 2019 after saying he would urge council away from litigation in favor of ‘good faith’ negotiations to resolve any financial situations between the Town and EDA. It didn’t work.

It seems a steep gamble in that those verbal promises flew in the face of what Browne says are signed documents, as well as information from the New Market Tax Credit program administrator, and information and recommendations from its own administrative and financial staff at the time.

If you want to see the consequence of those kinds of gambles, I have been told an exploration of the experience of the Virginia community of Buena Vista, also known colloquially as “Una-Vista”, went some 10 years ago when it declined to meet a financial moral obligation debt service. Spoiler alert – they have not been able to acquire public or private financing for anything since.

Now officials in two municipalities here are left to ponder whether that is a gamble worth taking on the strength their relative civil legal filings, directly or indirectly through their half-century old joint EDA.

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Town Planning Commission approves EDA rezoning request

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The Front Royal Planning Commission held its regular meeting September 16th at the Warren County Government Center. There were no public presentations, and the commission had only one item to consider and solicit public input for. The commission reviewed a proposed rezoning of approximately 62.7 acres at the end of Progress Drive, adjacent to the Happy Creek Technology Park. The proposed rezoning, from Residential (R-1) to Industrial Employment (I-2) is a preliminary step to potential future development. Any development would require permits and approvals separately from the rezoning request. The purpose of the EDA action is to improve the site status from Tier 1 to Tier 2 of the Virginia Business Ready Sites Program and possible future expansion of the adjacent Technology Park.

The proposal contained several proffers, or terms and conditions, that enhance the proposal’s value to the town. The proffers are:

  1. A 25-foot landscaping buffer for visual screening, to preserve existing woodland and add trees and shrubs along the border of the non-wooded areas.
  2. A By-Right land use will not be restricted, but business and professional offices, technology businesses including data centers, veterinary hospitals, pharmaceutical and/or medical schools, public facilities and special childcare services will be preferred.
  3. A dedicated Right-of-way of 60 ft for the continuation of Progress Drive will be provided to meet all town and Virginia Dept of transportation standards when a final site plan is developed for future use.
  4. A Traffic Impact analysis was estimated at a peak hourly rate of 124 trips, but a new analysis will be provided upon any development in the future.

Chairman Douglas Jones opened the floor for public comment, but there was none.

A motion to approve the proposal was made by Commissioner Merchant, Seconded by Vice Chairman McFadden. Brief discussion ensued regarding whether the acceptance of the proffers should be made part of the motion to approve. An Amended motion including the proffers was unanimously approved.

The Planning Department Staff announced the new Director of Community Development and Planning, Timothy Wilson. Commissioner Merchant asked if there was progress on recruiting new planning commission members. Director Wilson indicated that action was underway by Town Council.

There being no other business, the commission adjourned at 7:15.

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EDA releases statement on litigation over police station debt

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At a Special Board meeting this morning, the EDA Board of Directors unanimously approved a resolution to sue the Town of Front Royal for the recovery of $8,946,742 in principal and interest on the loans the EDA obtained on behalf of the Town to build the new Front Royal Police Station. Rosalie Fessier with the firm of Timberlake Smith was retained to represent the EDA in this matter.

The EDA initiated negotiations multiple times over the last year to get the Town Council to honor its obligations to pay for the Town’s Police Station. Despite promises to secure financing, the Town Council has not paid any principal or interest on the loan.

As a result of the Town’s failure to pay for its own building, the EDA and Warren County have been paying monthly construction loans to build the Police Station to give the Town Council time to secure its own loan. That will no longer continue. The Town Council needs to find its own funding on its Police Station.

We urge the Town Council to take immediate action to secure a loan to cover the costs it has incurred on the Police Station and other projects it has run through EDA. While litigation appears to be the only recourse for the EDA, litigation will only hurt Town taxpayers who must fund those costs.

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EDA authorizes litigation against Town of Front Royal

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The EDA Board of Directors met today for a Special board meeting. Following a 1-hour Closed meeting, the Directors passed a resolution approving a settlement with Crystel Smith and Sheri Yoder of Optimum Impact, LLC for a delinquent Rural Business Enterprise Loan (RBEL). The resolution also approved payment of fees to Daniel Pond of Pond Law Group, PC for assistance in negotiations and collection of funds.

The board also passed a resolution engaging Rosalie Pemberton Fessier of Timberlake Smith Attorneys at Law, and authorizing her to take legal action to collect monies due the EDA from the Town of Front Royal. The Directors issued a separate statement to address this decision:

EDA releases statement on litigation over police station debt

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Light agenda or groundwork for a community legal-economic EXPLOSION?

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At a fairly low-impact Monday, September 14th meeting the Front Royal Town Council held one public hearing without comment on an ordinance amendment facilitating ice cream truck operations on town streets – I thought the former mayor already operated one? I guess now everybody who’s not grandfathered in can; approved a budget amendment facilitating acceptance of a “Washington/Baltimore High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area” grant to fund 75% (about $39,000 of a $52,000 salary) of an additional Town Police administrative assistant salary, and a Contingency Funds budget transfer of $55,915 to facilitate “an attrition position” apparently lost in FRPD’s patrol division as further losses are anticipated; and passed a four-item consent agenda without discussion, the latter including a $23,000 consulting contract “not to exceed $28,750” with the Tidewater area “Strategic Solutions by Tricia LLC” company hired to assume interim Tourism marketing duties for the Town.

Prior to a vote on funding requests for new transformers, Electric Department Director David Jenkins explains the variety of issues, besides old age, that may cause power failures in the Town’s electrical system. Royal Examiner Photos by Roger Bianchini – Royal Examiner Video by Mark Williams

Also approved on the consent agenda following a statistical explanation of the causes of town power outages – from fried squirrels and birds to vehicle-pole collisions to overloads and equipment-protecting shutdowns to unknown – by Electric Department Director David Jenkins in response to a question from Councilwoman Cockrell, were two items related to funding replacement for aging transformers at Town substations – a total of $154,796 for seven backup transformers and $385,230 for Kendrick Lane substation replacements.

Sparks fly

And speaking of electricity, public comments offered by council candidate Bruce Rappaport chastising council for not living up to its moral obligation to assume the $10-million-plus debt service on its new, circa 2018, police station being paid thus far by the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority, did lead to what might be considered a somewhat high-voltage response from Councilman and mayoral candidate Chris Holloway.

Bruce Rappaport asks council why it can’t have the same sense of ‘moral obligation’ to pay a debt on its police station, as his mother Eleanor’s customers at downtown’s Boston Store did over its 31 years in business.

Holloway read into the record a press release he said was formulated in the wake of an inquiry by him to the outside contracted law firm of Damiani & Damiani. The Alexandria-based firm brought to council by Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick is handling the Town’s $20-million-plus civil litigation against the EDA.

Reading from a three-page prepared statement – a copy of which was provided to Royal Examiner after the open meeting’s adjournment by Holloway, thanks Chris – Holloway summarized the rationale from council and its contracted legal counsel’s perspective for, not only the Town’s refusal to accept financial responsibility for the $10-million-plus police station debt service including over $400,000 thus far paid by the EDA, but also the Town’s decision to file a $20-million-plus civil suit against the EDA.

The upshot of that statement echoes earlier claims by various councilmen, most prominently Jacob Meza, that former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald verbally promised the Town an extremely low-1.5% interest rate tied to New Market Tax Credit (NMTC) funding with a 9-year interest-free period at the front end of the FRPD construction loan. The fact that rate was not achieved – a 4% rate, now down to 3% was acquired – seems to be the basis for the Town believing as Holloway’s statement said, “The loan actually obtained by the EDA to build the Police Department is very different from the loan that the EDA promised and that the Town Council approved … since this loan was obtained without the authorization or consent of the Town Council, the Town has of course refused to make payments on the fraudulent loan …“The Town has no obligation, legal, moral or otherwise to repay these unlawful debts, but instead has a duty to the taxpayers of the Town to reject them.”

Chris Holloway replies in detail to Rappaport’s question with a contract attorney-prepared explanation of council’s stance on the FRPD debt service and its choice of litigation against the EDA over all the alleged financial improprieties, allegedly orchestrated by the former EDA executive director since 2014.

Ignored in the statement was information given to the Town between November 2016 and January 2017 by the administrator of the NMTC program, Brian Phipps of People Inc. That information included January 2, 2017, work session appearance at which Phipps told council and town staff they were “competing for a limited amount of NMTC funds with a number of municipalities”.

Phipps even echoed then-Town Manager Joe Waltz and Finance Director B. J. Wilson in suggesting council accept a bank-offered fixed 2.65% interest rate on the project’s anticipated 30-year debt service.

Phipps’ information and suggestion clearly contradicted McDonald’s alleged earlier verbal guarantees the 1.5% NMTC-based financing had or would be acquired for the police station construction project.

However, clinging to McDonald’s past verbal “promises” of an interest-rate Nirvana that the police headquarters project didn’t even qualify for in that it did not create new jobs as NMTC grant projects are mandated to do to stimulate local economic development in qualifying communities, the council ignored Phipps and its own administrative and financial staff’s advice on alternate financing.

On Jan. 2, 2017, NMTC Program Administrator Brian Phipps advises council to take other financing options than the one he oversaw. Despite the agreement of its then-town manager and finance director, council did not listen, choosing unverified ‘promises’ of a ‘better deal’ from Jennifer McDonald.

See no evil …

Holloway’s statement also repeats past contentions by councilmen that since the 2014 agreement by which the County took on 100% operational funding of the EDA as part of ongoing negotiations on double taxation of town citizens, as well as appointment authority of all EDA board members, the Town has had no oversight responsibility of the EDA. Thus, Holloway, council, and the town’s contracted attorneys contend any oversight failures leading to the alleged embezzlements, misdirection, or broken promises of the former EDA executive director lie solely with the EDA and the county government.

That the town government didn’t maintain an oversight interest in its own capital improvement projects through the EDA post-2014 seems counter-intuitive and is a notion that not only McDonald during her executive director’s tenure, as well as past council actions seem to contradict. One example would be council’s decision to offer a $10 million “bridge loan” to help the EDA secure a $10-million bank loan to finance the troubled ITFederal project at the Avtex/Royal Phoenix Business Park site in town.

McDonald came to the Town explaining that the involved bank was reluctant to finance the project without an indication that “the community” was behind it. That led to council’s authorization that $10 million be withdrawn from an interest-bearing Town bank account and deposited through the EDA on behalf of the ITFederal project brought here by former 6th District-R, U.S. Congressman Bob Goodlatte. The one-month loan was twice extended for additional months in late 2016, the last two without the Town collecting lost-interest covering payments before the EDA acquired the bank financing and the Town’s bridge loan was returned with one month replaced interest.

While McDonald didn’t publicly say why the bank was reluctant to make the ITFederal loan, as Royal Examiner has previously reported Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) material indicated that other than the $2-million value of the 30-acre Royal Phoenix parcel gifted to ITFederal by the EDA for one dollar, ostensibly “to get the Royal Phoenix development ball rolling”, the company’s financial disclosure statement indicated total assets of only about another $20,000. That was a far cry from the promised $40-million investment creating 600 high-paying tech jobs at the town site.

The $10 million, $30-year ITFederal loan with peripheral expenses added on is the largest single lost asset listed in the EDA’s civil litigation against its former executive director and 24 civil case co-defendants. So, did the Front Royal Town Council authorize that $10-million loan to prop up a project the media – thank you, Norma Jean Shaw and yours truly – and eventually one of its own members, Bebhinn Egger, were raising red flags about in late 2016 and early 2017, simply on the word of the EDA executive director, without any due diligence of its own?

And if so, whose fault is that – the EDA’s, Warren County’s, the Front Royal governmental apparatus, or perhaps some combination thereof?

I guess we’ll eventually find out what a judge thinks as the Town tries to move toward a jury trial to make its civil case of no liability for its financial decisions related to the EDA since 2014.

Above, between council’s open meeting and a closed session, Bruce Rappaport and Chris Holloway discuss their varying perspectives on the Town-EDA-FRPD headquarters situation. Below, notice the Royal Examiner camera pointed his way, Holloway may be suggesting we wait to snap that shot until he’s convinced council candidate Rappaport to see things from the incumbent council’s perspective.

But for now, watch Rappaport’s raising of the issue during public comments, and Holloway’s explanation of the Town legal and philosophical stance on its relationship with the half-century-old, joint Town-County EDA, as well as other business conducted Monday night in this Royal Examiner video:

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