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McDonald default judgement penalty arguments continued to future date

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A potential default judgment liability showdown between Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority attorneys and former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald’s counsel did not happen during a virtually conducted Warren County Circuit Court hearing on Friday, May 8. Present in the Warren County Courtroom for the 2:30 p.m. EDA civil motions hearing was Judge Bruce D. Albertson, the court clerk, bailiff, and two media representatives (move down another seat, Josh). All involved attorneys – no defendants were acknowledged during the hearing – were linked in by phone connection.

Court files showed that Judge Albertson removed arguments on damages from a January 10 default judgment against McDonald on April 23 in the wake of receipt of a letter from McDonald’s attorney objecting to the planned May hearing date.

In an April 15 letter to the court filed April 20, McDonald attorney Peter Greenspun noted his “strenuous objection to any action being taken or order entered” on May 8. Greenspun indicated he felt he had been left out of previous communications between the court clerk’s office and “all other parties”, including other EDA civil case defendant counsel.

Greenspun referenced a suggestion the May 8 motions hearing for multiple defendants would last one hour, countering that his estimate was his client’s hearing on default judgment damages would last “two to three days”.

Jennifer McDonald at the time of one of her arrests on related criminal charges. Thirty-four criminal indictments against her have been dropped largely to prevent speedy trial statute violations from kicking in. However, the EDA civil litigation against McDonald and alleged co-conspirators proceeds as the new criminal case prosecutor bides his time on potential refiling of criminal charges. Royal Examiner File Photos

At issue here is what judgment against McDonald will be ordered by the court for a failure to respond to civil court orders for information on her two real estate companies, DaBoyz and MoveOn8, which are also listed defendants in the EDA civil litigation. That failure to respond to court orders for information on her real estate companies came during a time of legal flux for the former EDA executive director around whom all the other defendant allegations seem to revolve.

Her initial civil case attorney Lee Berlik and his Berlik Law firm had withdrawn from her civil defense during the period of the court order to provide information on her real estate companies to the court and plaintiff counsel.

Prior to the Berlik firm withdrawing from the case, questions had been raised in court about the method by which McDonald had paid Berlik law, including the alleged use of $10,000 of EDA funds through the Afton Inn Renovation Project. Also, evidence introduced by Berlik Law on their client’s behalf in one hearing also had been alleged by plaintiff witnesses, including former County-EDA attorney Dan Whitten, to have been forged. Courtroom discussion indicated a belief the forgery did not originate with her counsel, but rather by McDonald in presenting documentation in support of her case to her counsel.

While there was little courtroom discussion during the January 10 hearing regarding potential damages from the default judgment, the involvement of information on her two real estate companies alleged to have been used to misdirect EDA assets could conceivably bring portions of those companies’ real estate holdings into play in the default judgment ruling.

McDonald was fined $350 on the January 10 civil contempt judgment against her. That was all plaintiff counsel was seeking regarding McDonald’s attempt to move a piece of property previously frozen as a case-related asset by Judge Clifford L. Athey Jr. before leaving the case for a seat on the Virginia Appeals Court.

Having just taken on McDonald’s civil case assignment after the withdrawal of her original counsel, Greenspun argued that his client’s attempt to move the parcel through her sister Gail Addison was a simple mistake made while attempting to raise revenue for her legal expenses. It was a mistake rectified voluntarily once discovered by her new attorney, Greenspun told the court in January.

Greenspun was present at the outset of the May 8th hearing with other defense counsel and plaintiff attorneys. However, he alerted the court he would soon have to leave for another appointment.

So, Greenspun was not present when the date of June 18, on the 9 a.m. docket was agreed to by the court and other defense counsel involved in Friday’s hearing.

Jennifer McDonald and counsel will be back in court for default judgment penalty arguments, it is just not clear exactly when; or whether in person or by remote pandemic emergency management precautionary connection. Other EDA civil defendants are slated for motions hearings on the morning docket of June 18.

The primary arguments made by plaintiff and defense counsel on May 8 were whether there were substantive grounds in the EDA’s amended civil suit to charge McDonald’s former Administrative Assistant Michelle “Missy” Henry with intentional acts rising to the level of conspiracy or breach of fiduciary duty, with which she is charged civilly.

See our related story on those arguments on Michelle Henry’s civil liability.

Henry civil case attorney argues insufficient evidence to proceed against her

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Town looks to expand, revisit success of weekend downtown ‘walking mall’

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Early in its May 26th, post-Memorial Day, Tuesday evening meeting, the Front Royal Town Council got a glowingly positive report on the Memorial Day weekend downtown business re-opening event marked by the closure of a portion of East Main and Chester Streets to vehicular traffic.

Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick began the discussion by lauding the involvement of C&C Frozen Treats proprietor and Family Funday sponsor William Huck for his proactive involvement, including pulling the festival permit to allow the street closings.

C&C Frozen Treats William and Nina Huck, above, were acknowledged for their proactive involvement in making the Memorial Day weekend downtown reopening a big success. And below, East Main was blocked off all the way down to Blue Ridge Ave. at the Main St. Mill. Royal Examiner File Photos/Roger Bianchini

“I think it was a wild success, frankly,” Tederick told council, adding, “I’ve gotten numerous text messages and phone calls from folks, businesses, restaurants sold out of food on Monday. I think it was just a really good event – a lot of citizens seemed to appreciate it.”

Tederick then urged town businesses outside the Historic Downtown area to contact the town manager’s office if they had ideas for “creative outdoor planning” in their areas to help resurrect the local business community from two months of COVID-19 pandemic mandated public health safety shutdowns.

“We’re being as flexible as we legally can be and we’re following the code, we’re following the laws but we’re doing everything we can to assist our local businesses, restaurants, as well as brick and mortar businesses,” Tederick enthused in the wake of the Saturday through Memorial Day Monday downtown event.

See Royal Examiner’s two-pronged photographic report on Saturday’s opening and Monday’s stirring, if brief, Memorial Day event at the Courthouse grounds.

From Saturday, above, as Mountain Trails joins in the East Main St. fun – that tent-covered air mattress looks pretty comfortable; to Monday when Memorial Day ceremonies helped kick off the day’s celebration of sacrifice and our collective survival, Front Royal’s Phase One reopening launch was deemed a popular success.

Tederick then acknowledged an expected new executive order from Governor Ralph Northam’s office requiring the wearing of masks inside the re-opened business and government buildings. Virginia is in the process of moving from the Democratic governor’s Phase One reopening that kicked in Friday to Phase Two expected to launch June 10.

“My opinion, that’s going to come with a whole lot of cost, as well as preparation; and there’s going to be a whole lot of questions as well,” Front Royal’s interim town manager and longtime County Republican Committee officer and operative said, without elaboration on how those “lot of” costs and preparations would be generated from an anticipated mask-wearing order.

Noting his time downtown at about four hours on both Saturday and Monday, Mayor Gene Tewalt said, “The biggest question that I’ve been asked from people that ran their businesses is, are we going to keep doing this on a weekly basis. And I told them I wasn’t sure – that I’d get back with you and the council to see which way you guys want to handle this … It went very well, at least that’s what everybody told me and it was a great event.”

Mayor Tewalt and Interim Town Manage Tederick and families crossed paths while checking out the Saturday kickoff of Front Royal’s Memorial Day weekend pandemic business re-launch.

Gary Gillespie, Lori Cockrell, Chris Holloway, and Letasha Thompson added their positive reviews, and/or the positive reviews of those they had spoken to about the event as council pondered the potential of a regular weekend closing of a portion of the downtown business district to vehicular traffic to facilitate additional customer foot traffic in a walking mall-style downtown.

Vice Mayor Bill Sealock asked about the hours at the Finance Department’s Town Hall drive-thru payment window on Fridays, which would be blocked by the traditional closing of East Main at Royal Avenue. Told by Finance Director B. J. Wilson the window closed at 4:30 p.m., council pondered the possibility of adding Friday evenings to the walking mall concept beginning around 5 p.m.

Town Hall was decorated and wrapped up in a red, while & blue bow this Memorial Day weekend. What colors might it take on if weekend walking mall initiatives continue?

“If the consensus of the council is let’s do it again this weekend, I think the staff and I are prepared to launch if that’s something you’d like to see be done,” Tederick told the council.

Council’s comments appeared to indicate that the positive feedback wasn’t only from the restaurants the outdoor street seating the street closures were designed to help facilitate with social distancing regulations. So, if that feedback is, in fact, broad-based and ongoing, it appears the Town is poised to move forward with a continued weekend, late Friday afternoon to Sunday evening downtown closings. – Get ready to pull some more permits, Huck.

And that with a call out to businesses in other areas of town for some “creative outdoor planning” to jump on the marketing of Front Royal’s Phase One business reopening bandwagon. – But don’t forget your masks and social distancing safeguards as we are likely to have increased visitation from residents from more highly contaminated areas to our east and south.

Also, on Tuesday’s agenda were two items that drew some discussion on the first readings of the two required for final approval. One was an ordinance amendment lowering water and sewer tap-in fees to developers; the other on approval of financial appropriations for the Fiscal Year 2021 Town Budget.

See all these discussions and votes in the linked Royal Examiner virtual meeting recording; and more detail on the two ordinance amendment proposals in forthcoming Royal Examiner stories.

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Governor Northam announces face covering requirement and workplace safety regulations

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~ Face coverings required in public settings starting Friday, May 29 ~

Governor Ralph Northam today, May 26, 2020, signed Executive Order Sixty-Three, requiring Virginians to wear face coverings in public indoor settings to help contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. The Governor also directed the Department of Labor and Industry to develop emergency temporary standards to prevent workplace exposure to COVID-19.

Governor Northam also signed an amended Executive Order Fifty-One, extending Virginia’s state of emergency declaration.

The new executive order supports previous actions the Governor has taken to respond to COVID-19 in Virginia and ensures workers and consumers are protected as the Commonwealth gradually eases public health restrictions. The Governor’s statewide requirement for wearing face coverings is grounded in science and data, including recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that individuals should wear face coverings in public settings. Face coverings do not take the place of public health guidelines to maintain six feet of physical distancing, increase cleaning and sanitation, and wash hands regularly.

“We are making progress to contain the spread of the COVID-19 and now is not the time for Virginians to get complacent,” said Governor Northam. “Science shows that face coverings are an effective way to prevent transmission of the virus, but wearing them is also a sign of respect. This is about doing the right thing to protect the people around us and keep everyone safe, especially as we continue to slowly lift public health restrictions in our Commonwealth.”

A face covering includes anything that covers your nose and mouth, such as a mask, scarf, or bandana. Medical-grade masks and personal protective equipment should be reserved for health care professionals. Under the Governor’s executive order, any person age ten and older must wear a mask or face covering at all times while entering, exiting, traveling through, and spending time in the following public settings:

• Personal care and grooming businesses

• Essential and non-essential brick and mortar retailers including grocery stores and pharmacies

• Food and beverage establishments

• Entertainment or public amusement establishments when permitted to open

• Train stations, bus stations, and on intrastate public transportation, including in waiting or congregating areas

• State and local government buildings and areas where the public accesses services

• Any indoor space shared by groups of people who may congregate within six feet of one another or who are in close proximity to each other for more than ten minutes

Exemptions to these guidelines include while eating and drinking at a food and beverage establishment; individuals who are exercising; children under the age of two; a person seeking to communicate with a hearing-impaired person, for which the mouth needs to be visible; and anyone with a health condition that keeps them from wearing a face covering. Children over the age of two are strongly encouraged to wear a face-covering to the extent possible.

The Governor is also directing the Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry to develop emergency temporary standards for occupational safety that will protect employees from the spread of COVID-19 in their workplaces. These occupational safety standards will require the approval by vote of the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board and must address personal protective equipment, sanitation, record-keeping of incidents, and hazard communication. Upon approval, the Department of Labor and Industry will be able to enforce the standards through civil penalties and business closures.

The full text of Executive Order Sixty-Three and Order of Public Health Emergency Five is available here.

The text of amended Executive Order Fifty-One is available here.

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LFK Graduates 101 5th graders

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On May 26, 2020, students from LFK Elementary School in Front Royal held their graduation ceremony, drive-in style. Lines of cars started to form about 1:30 pm on the street in front of the school. With the Warren County Sheriff’s Office leading the way, the graduation ceremony began at 2 pm.

Ginger Newton, a 5th-grade teacher at LFK spoke with our publisher Mike McCool about the event.

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Governor Northam COVID-19 update briefing – May 26, 2020; face masks required starting Friday

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Governor Northam joins the Virginia Emergency Support Team to share the latest updates on the COVID-19 response. Here are the highlights:

Starting Friday, May 29, people will be required to wear masks inside retail shops, restaurants, personal care, and grooming establishments, places people congregate, government buildings, and public transportation.

Exceptions will be allowed, including while eating or drinking, exercising, those with trouble breathing or health issues, and children under age 10. The governor stated enforcement would be done through the Virginia Department of Health, not by local Sheriff or Police.

Here’s the latest briefing:

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Kiwanis Club of Front Royal donates $1,000 to local Salvation Army

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On Wednesday, May 20, Kiwanis Club of Front Royal President Terry Leckie presented Lt. Matthew Tidman of the Front Royal Salvation Army with a check for $1,000. Due to the Novel Coronavirus pandemic, the local Salvation Army had to cancel its annual dinner fundraiser. The Kiwanis Club of Front Royal has been a long-time supporter of The Salvation Army and regularly attends this event. The donation was made to make up for this unfortunate circumstance during these difficult and trying times.

The Salvation Army is continuing to offer food assistance to area families and accept donations at their Family Store but has suspended pick-ups. “At this time of unprecedented uncertainty, The Salvation Army is committed to helping our neighbors for as long as it is possible,” said Lt. Tidman. “We are in need of donations to help meet the increased need due to COVID-19.”

Lt. Tidman on left with Kiwanis of Front Royal President Terry Leckie

“Monetary donations like this are appreciated because they help us to keep the doors open and give us the flexibility to buy items that are needed for core social services programs such as our food bank,” Added Lt. Tidman. “We also appreciate donations of cleaning supplies and paper goods as these are currently in short supply and are desperately needed by our clients. We appreciate the Kiwanis Club of Front Royal for your support during this time. We know that together we can withstand this storm and support our community no matter what happens. May God bless you and grant you his protection.”

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Local harpist and inventor, John Kovac, is using quarantine time to create interesting gadgets

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Front Royal resident and harpist John Kovac has been making the most of his time indoors by using his free time to embrace his clever creative nature. He’s developed a prototype for a qwerty piano keyboard he’s calling a “Tunietype.” He’s also expanded his crafty solar-powered mechanical art collection to include perpetual motion and anti-gravity devices.

In this video, he’ll share several of his unique creations and Beth will test out the ease of his keyboard invention by attempting to play “We are the World” for the first time. His mini and full-sized qwerty keyboards attach to piano keyboards and allow users to type the notes computer-style.

It enables anyone who knows the alphabet to successfully play without any knowledge of musical notes. The entertaining gadget allows aspiring piano players to hunt, peck, and play a tune as if they are typing on a computer.

John has been well-known in Warren County for decades and (pre-COVID) was seen playing at local restaurants weekly and performing at festivals. He’s constructed over 200 harps, has lectured about harp building at the Library of Congress, performed at three international harp conferences, authored articles in harp journals, and has written several books.

Visit www.johnkovac.com to learn more and check out the prior WHAT MATTERS Warren video from 2018 featuring John’s harp-making talent.

He’s available for bookings to provide either solo harp music or a string band for weddings, corporate or special events. Other videos about his Tunietype and solar-powered devices are found on his YouTube channel.

WHAT MATTERS INITIATIVE

Are you or your group in need of a free video that could be created to help market your cause or event? Beth’s WHAT MATTERS Warren videos post on Facebook and YouTube.

Learn more Beth’s nonprofit, WHAT MATTERS, a 501 (c) (3), at www.whatmattersw2.com – check out the “Community” section to request a TOWN TIP or WHAT MATTERS WARREN BETHvid or contact her at 540-671-6145 or beth@whatmattersw2.com.


About WHAT MATTERS:

WHAT MATTERS is a 501(c)(3) that focuses on local and global outreach to help spread the word, support and raise funds for causes that matter (primarily through Facebook). WHAT MATTERS has ZERO overhead as 100% of the expenses are funded by Beth’s real estate business thanks to her clients and supporters. Every cent raised goes to the cause she’s promoting and most are matched by Beth. If you’d like to get involved, or travel to Africa with her on a future trip to work with the children of Light up Life Foundations, please visit www.whatmattersw2.com.

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