Monday’s regular meeting of the Front Royal Town Council got off to an unexpected start when Valley Health employee Jacob Meza emotionally read a prepared statement resigning his seat, effective immediately, into the meeting record. Meza then exited stage right of the Warren County Government Center main meeting room to an affectionate farewell from his colleagues and rousing applause from a full house this reporter estimated at 150 people, there, for the most part, to comment on Councilman Scott Lloyd’s Emergency civil rights ordinance proposal to prevent Valley Health, and other private-sector employers within the town limits, from mandating employees to receive the COVID-19 Coronavirus vaccination at threat of termination.
Things turned ugly at the open meeting’s adjournment approaching 11 p.m. when a number of citizens verbally and loudly expressed their displeasure with the 3-2 vote of denial, Lloyd and Joe McFadden, the latter by remote hookup, dissenting.
Scattered boos and a loud “Evil Triumphs” was heard, along with “We won’t forget this” among other negative comments aimed at the council majority of Letasha Thompson, Gary Gillespie and
Vice-Mayor Lori Cockrell. That majority had prefaced their votes with explanations that legal research by the Town Attorney’s Office had indicated the Town has no legal authority to make such a legislative mandate in response to private-sector vaccine mandates, particularly in a Dillon Rule state like Virginia, where municipal authority cannot exceed what is authorized to it by the state government.
And as Town Attorney Doug Napier had explained during the work session discussion, the state is authorized legally by code and/or its Constitution to mandate vaccines during a public health crisis. That legally hamstrings municipal governments from attempting to counter public health emergency vaccine mandates.
After the two-phased public comments on the Lloyd proposal lasting 3-hours-and-2 minutes – broken into two sections to facilitate council taking care of other business including two public hearings – Mayor Chris Holloway called for a motion. After an extended silence and a second call for a motion, Lloyd made the motion to approve his ordinance proposal. It was seconded by McFadden, whose father Tom was the second of 49 speakers in favor of the ordinance proposal.
Gillespie observed that he felt the Lloyd initiative countered the conservative Republican principle of limited government he, and other Republican conservatives espouse.
Speaking first following Lloyd’s motion to approve his emergency ordinance proposal, reading from a prepared statement Thompson told the audience that, not only did council not have the legal authority to pass such legislation, but that passing it would not protect the Valley Health employees who spoke in favor of Lloyd’s proposal, including doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners, from termination by their employer. While stating she personally believed in choice on medical decisions, as her vote with council in not mandating town employees to be vaccinated indicated, she observed that “Freedom goes in both directions”. She elaborated that in Virginia as a “Right to Work” state limiting union influence, employees anywhere can be fired for virtually any reason an employer might cite.
Thompson said that with the facts before them, she did not believe voting to approve the ordinance “to make everyone in the room happy” was “the right thing to do.”
In fact, Thompson cited Lloyd’s insistence in bringing his legislative initiative to a vote despite the lack of legal grounds for it as “political theater” geared toward the councilman’s personal agenda, which she had confronted him about at the July 12 work session perhaps being beyond the boundaries of the Town of Front Royal. As has been previously reported, Lloyd has past national political exposure, serving as the Trump Administration’s Director of Refugee Resettlement during a particularly controversial period at the southern border when refugee/immigrant children were being incarcerated separately from their parents or guardians who had entered the country illegally as administration policies delayed legal entry at prescribed border crossings for weeks.
Lloyd has noted he did not create the child-separation policy and was simply in the administrative position to implement it. He has also publicly noted he is far from a “zero-tolerance” stance on immigration.
A minority of two
However, one of the two people speaking against Lloyd’s anti-vaccine-mandate ordinance, Stevie Hubbard, ended her comments by loudly saying that whatever Lloyd did to protect personal liberties as a councilman, “Won’t make up for what you did to those kids at the border.”
When Hubbard cited COVID-19 case-fatality statistics found at the Virginia Health Department website to counter some of the pro-ordinance statistics presented by the anti-vaccine mandate majority, a number of people laughed derisively at her source.
Many of the pro-ordinance speakers reflected skepticism of, not only government information on the Coronavirus pandemic, but media coverage of it, as well as any legal roadblocks to the approval of Lloyd’s effort to counter the Valley Health COVID-19 vaccine mandate or others.
In addition to Hubbard, speaking against Lloyd’s proposal was Gene Kilby, whose family was at the center of fighting the local “massive resistance” effort to prevent the racial integration of Warren County Public Schools in the late 1950s, early ‘60s. In fact, Kilby observed, “This community has a history of going against the grain. It’s almost reminiscent of back in the day with the massive resistance problem.
“The State mandated that the schools be integrated. But because of groups like this (the county) built massive resistance, which was totally illegal,” he reminded council of the eventual legal outcome, adding that while he agreed people “should have their choice” that a final legislative decision must be grounded “in the rule of law – and you must act in the best interest of the general public,” Kilby concluded to a smattering of applause.
A majority of 49
John Lundberg opened the public comments on the Lloyd ordinance first citing an oft-revisited assertion that available COVID-19 vaccines were “experimental drugs” not yet approved by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) due to the public health emergency pace at which the vaccines were made available to the public.
Some speakers claimed there were more traditional options “safer than Ibuprofen” available as an alternative to the vaccines. Others said that masking and social distancing were more effective barriers against COVID-19 contagion than the vaccine has proven to be.
A number of speakers raised religious belief as grounds not to accept a vaccine mandate. Others were critical of the religious exemption form Valley Health uses to determine if employees qualify for such exemption. “What’s next,” another asked, “are they going to go after our churches and tell us we can’t worship God?!?”
Manuel Vincente called the approaching vote on Lloyd’s proposal “a choice between liberty and fascism”. As for legal precedents against passage, Vincente said the U.S. Supreme Court had “decided in favor of genocide over and over again” in legalizing abortion.
One speaker called COVID-19 “the Communist Chinese Virus”, while Matt Morrazzo referred to it as “the Wuhan-Fauci virus”. Gene McGirk later playfully criticized that reference “for giving Wuhan top billing”.
Morrazzo also wondered if the next step beyond vaccine mandates wouldn’t be “vaccine passports” you will need to go anywhere or do anything – “The infantry will be coming for all our rights,” he worried if the Coronavirus mandate trend continued.
Recently appointed Warren County School Board member Melanie Salins cited a COVID-19 vaccine packaging warning not to take it if allergic to any of its ingredients, observing that the vaccine package insert did not list the ingredients – “You can’t give informed consent if you’re not informed,” Salins said to applause. She compared Valley Health’s vaccine mandate to a legal definition of “assault” as “physical contact that happens without your explicit and voluntary consent”, drawing more applause. She concluded by asserting that the vaccine mandate violated “the Nuremberg Code” on medical ethics established after World War II in reaction to Nazi medical experiments conducted on imprisoned Germans or conquered populations.
Many Valley Health employees became emotional pondering the choice they were being given to accept the vaccine or face termination. Many wondered how frontline workers such as themselves had gone from being “heroes” for their efforts against the pandemic to targets for termination for their belief the vaccines are dangerous, not adequately tested, immorally developed, or in violation of their religious beliefs.
In arguing for his proposal, policy attorney Lloyd echoed some public comments in support of the emergency ordinance proposal, saying just because something had been ruled illegal in the courts, didn’t make it right or unchallengeable. While admitting the Town did not yet know whether its Virginia Municipal League municipal liability insurance would cover such a legal challenge of state authority on the matter, he offered to represent the Town in any subsequent legal challenge of his ordinance, if passed Monday night, and VML insurance paid attorneys ended up not being available to the Town.
Following the roll call vote and 3-2 defeat of Lloyd’s ordinance proposal by the now-five member council, as the angry and disappointed crowd disbursed, one man yelled at Councilwoman Letasha Thompson, who yelled back “watch your mouth” telling him not to “disrespect” her from the floor of Government Center meeting room. That only led to an escalating exchange leading to the man’s escort from the building by the Front Royal Police. Involved officers said the man was not arrested as he was compliant and settled down after their arrival.
See all the action, explanations, opinions, concerns on this important matter to the community, along with other business including the tabling of action on changes to the Town’s Special Events Code to further work session discussion, in the linked Town video.
Two downtown businessmen, Royal Cinemas Rick Novak and C&C Frozen Treats William Huck addressed the draft Special Events code, urging council to take more care in formulating a final draft regarding issues raised about a rating-approval matrix system seemingly geared toward larger, tourism and revenue-generating events at the perceived expense of smaller, community events.
Celebrate smart, safe & sober this July 4 holiday weekend
Independence Day traditions include backyard barbecues, festivals, family gatherings and fireworks. To keep all those living, working, visiting and traveling through Virginia safe during the extended holiday weekend, the Virginia State Police is encouraging Virginians to play it smart and plan ahead to ensure everyone on the road is safe and sober.
“Summer days are filled with celebrations, vacations, outdoor festivals and backyard cookouts, but no matter where your plans take you, please make safety your priority,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “With fatal traffic crashes on pace this year to mimic last year’s record number, I urge all Virginians to buckle up, eliminate distractions and never drive buzzed, drunk or under the influence. Together we can make this Independence Day the safest on record!”
If planning to drink alcohol at a July 4 function, plan ahead and arrange a designated driver, use a rideshare service or taxi, or utilize public transportation to be certain you get home safely. Party hosts are encouraged to serve non-alcoholic beverage options, and to help prevent any guests from drinking and driving home from their event.
As part of its ongoing efforts to increase safety and reduce traffic fatalities on Virginia’s highways during the coming holiday weekend, Virginia State Police will increase patrols from 12:01 a.m. Friday (July 1, 2022) through midnight Monday (July 4, 2022) as part of the Operation Crash Awareness Reduction Effort (C.A.R.E.). Operation C.A.R.E. is a state-sponsored, national program intended to reduce crashes, fatalities and injuries due to impaired driving, speed and failing to wear a seat belt.
During last year’s four-day Independence Day Operation C.A.R.E initiative, there were 12 traffic deaths on Virginia highways. Virginia troopers arrested 61 drivers operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs, cited 4,025 speeders and 1,434 reckless drivers, and issued 510 citations to individuals for failing to obey the law and buckle up. Troopers also assisted 1,550 disabled/stranded motorists.
With increased holiday patrols, Virginia State Police also reminds drivers of Virginia’s “Move Over” law, which requires motorists to move over when approaching an emergency vehicle stopped alongside the road. If unable to move over, then drivers are required to cautiously pass the emergency vehicle. The law also applies to workers in vehicles equipped with amber lights.
Stephens City Lions Club Installation of Officers and Awards Banquet
Stephens City Lions Club, established in 1946, held their 2021-2022 Installation of Officers and Awards Banquet on June 28 at the West Oaks Farm Market Reception Hall in Winchester.
The Awards Banquet was highlighted by 28 year club member William Dickie Clark receiving the Melvin Jones Award. This Fellowship Award is the Lion’s highest form of recognition and is given to members who continuously provide dedicated humanitarian services.
Sherando High School faculty member Garland Williams received the Outstanding Service Award for Leo Club Advisor. Garland implemented an on-going student leadership program, motivated Leo club members to be service-minded and fostered strong communication between the Leo’s and the Stephens City Lions club.
Sherando High School Leo club seniors Lea Blevins and Ashleigh Morgan received $1,000 Outstanding Service scholarships. Lea and Morgan will be attending the University of Virginia and Mary Baldwin University respectively.
Lion Dudley Rinker received President’s Award.
Betty Wymer and Tootie Rinker received Citizen of the Year Award.
Bill Miller received Lion of the Year Award.
Lion president Angel Huyett presented Bruce Ryker the gavel as the new president of the club for 2022-2023.
Note: Stephens City Lions Club makes great effort to maintain an ongoing relationship with Sherando High School to foster an effective Leo (Leadership, Experience, Opportunity) club. Michael Morrison acts as the Lion’s liaison, communicating activities and requirements to Leo Advisor and faculty member Garland Williams. Williams supervises the Leo students community service work which includes assisting raising money for cancer research, mentoring grade school children, adopting a needy family for Christmas, volunteering at church and civic organization events and various Lion’s club fundraiser’s.
Laurel Ridge Medical Laboratory Technology program receives national accreditation
Laurel Ridge Community College’s medical laboratory technology (MLT) program is now nationally accredited. The program received accreditation for five years – the maximum possible – from the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website notes that 70 percent of medical decisions rely on lab test results, and 14 billion lab tests are ordered every year.
“While the pandemic hasn’t made the work MLTs do more important, it has brought it more to light,” said Kate Gochenour, Laurel Ridge’s MLT program director. “We are 100 percent behind the scenes, so the general public doesn’t think about the lab all that often. Almost every doctor’s visit involves some sort of lab test, whether that is urinalysis, a blood draw, or a throat swab.”
Standards that accredited MLT programs must meet include faculty requirements regarding certifications and professional development, the proper sequencing of courses to allow students to develop entry-level competency in each core area, and having an advisory committee comprised of individuals knowledgeable about clinical laboratory science education to ensure the program remains relevant, according to Gochenour.
The accreditation also means students are eligible for the American Society for Clinical Pathology Board of Certification exam, passage of which most employers require within six months to a year of being hired.
In addition to classes such as anatomy and physiology, chemistry, phlebotomy, immunology and serology, psychology, and ethics, MLT students have clinicals in blood bank, clinical chemistry, clinical hematology, and clinical microbiology. Because MLT is a field that is in high demand, students may qualify for G3 funding, which covers any remaining tuition not paid with financial aid.
Laurel Ridge’s first MLT class graduated with their associate of applied science degrees in May 2021. The program has had a 100-percent employment rate, with the majority of students offered a job while still in externships.
The median salary for MLTs and clinical laboratory technologists is $56,817, according to Career Coach powered by Lightcast. Learn more about the program at laurelridge.edu/mlt.
Shenandoah University announces over 1,200 graduates
Shenandoah University is pleased to announce the 1,204 graduates who received their degrees or certificates during the 2021-22 academic year. These included 236 August 2021 graduates, 332 December 2021 graduates, and 636 May 2022 graduates. Shenandoah’s 2022 University Commencement took place on May 21.
The following local students were among those who graduated from Shenandoah during the 2021-22 academic year:
Hanna Brzezinski, of Front Royal, VA, with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a Bachelor of Science in Sociology.
Sarah Downs, of Front Royal, VA, with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a Bachelor of Science in Public Health.
Daniel Guizar, of Front Royal, VA, with a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology, an undergraduate certificate in Health and Physical Education, and an undergraduate certificate in Kinesiology.
Kathryn Simpson, of Front Royal, VA, with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology.
Andrea Zanelotti, of Front Royal, VA, with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.
Jenna King, of Linden, VA, with a doctorate in Physical Therapy.
Kadie Madison, of Front Royal, VA, with a doctorate in Nursing Practice.
Jeeson Park, of Lake Frederick, VA, with a Master of Science in Nursing.
Robert Presley, of Front Royal, VA, with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.
Sarah Solomon, of Front Royal, VA, with a master’s degree in Music Education.
Elizabeth Woodward, of Front Royal, VA, with a Master of Business Administration and a graduate certificate in Health Systems/Care Management.
Ciarra Berry, of Front Royal, VA, with a Bachelor of Arts in Media and Communication.
Kevin Alexander Clark, of Front Royal, VA, with a Bachelor of Music in Performance.
Anthony Crescienzi, of Front Royal, VA, with a Master of Science in Athletic Training.
K C Jaques, of Linden, VA, with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.
Mary Kuehl, of Linden, VA, with a Master of Science in Education.
Sam Martin, of Front Royal, VA, with a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology.
Bridgett Murphy, of Front Royal, VA, with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
Mackenzie Oakes, of Front Royal, VA, with a doctorate in Pharmacy and a Master of Science in Pharmacogenomics and Personalized Medicine.
Marian Rogers, of Front Royal, VA, with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology.
Helen Snyder, of Front Royal, VA, with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
Ashton Steele, of Front Royal, VA, with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology.
About Shenandoah University
Shenandoah University was established in 1875 and is headquartered in Winchester, Virginia, with additional educational sites in Clarke, Fairfax, and Loudoun counties. Shenandoah is a private, nationally recognized university that blends professional career experiences with liberal education. With approximately 4,000 students in more than 200 areas of study in six different schools, Shenandoah promotes a close-knit community rich in creative energy and intellectual challenge. Shenandoah students collaborate with accomplished professors who provide focused, individual attention, all the while leading several programs to be highly nationally ranked. Through innovative partnerships and programs at both the local and global level, there are exceptional opportunities for students to learn in and out of the classroom. Shenandoah empowers its students to improve the human condition and to be principled professionals and leaders wherever they go. For more information, visit su.edu.
Jennifer McDonald’s case deemed ‘complex’, criminal trial pushed back to May 2023
Former Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority Executive Director Jennifer Rae McDonald’s criminal trial will not commence on Oct. 11, as previously scheduled.
A U.S. District Court in the Western District of Virginia judge has put off Jennifer R. McDonald’s trial on fraud, money laundering, and identity theft charges until May 2023.
McDonald is accused of embezzling money from the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority while serving as its executive director and using the money to buy real estate and conduct other personal business.
The federal trial was scheduled to begin October 11, which had been pushed from an earlier date after McDonald’s defense attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender Andrea Harris, requested more time given the voluminous amount of evidence she received from the prosecutor’s office as well as the additional electronic discovery that includes forensic examinations of multiple key electronic devices.
A June 23 motion filed in federal court by Harris stated that the “additional discovery is contained on a hard drive and takes up 356 gigabytes of space. One of the devices alone contains more than 45,000 emails and almost 10,000 documents.
“These particular electronic devices are likely to be critically important to further investigation of this case, and there will likely be the need for additional independent forensic analysis of one or more of these devices.”
Harris and U.S. Attorney Christopher Cavanaugh on June 21 filed a joint motion asking the court to designate the case as complex, to exclude time from the speedy trial requirements, and the defendant’s unopposed motion to put off the trial date. U.S. District Judge Elizabeth K. Dillon granted the motions on Monday, June 27.
Dillon rescheduled the trial to begin in mid-May 2023 and designated the case as complex under federal rules and ordered that the court exclude the time period of June 21, 2022-May 15, 2023, from the Speedy Trial Act deadline calculation.
Per law, a defendant’s trial date must begin within 70 days of the indictment filing date or the defendant’s initial court appearance. A judge can set a new date without violating a person’s rights under the act if failing to grant such a request would deny either party time needed to prepare their cases.
On August 25, 2021, a Grand Jury returned an indictment charging McDonald with 34 counts of bank fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and aggravated identity theft, with some allegations dating back to 2014.
The indictment came following a complex and lengthy state and federal investigation conducted by a state special grand jury and the Federal Bureau of Investigations. (FBI) The investigation began in 2018, continued through Ms. McDonald’s indictment almost three years later, and continues today.
The motion states that the Federal Defender’s Office currently has two attorneys, an investigator, and two paralegals working on the case due to the volume of discovery and number of witnesses.
McDonald made her first appearance in the court on Aug. 31, 2021, with private counsel. The court then appointed a federal defender to represent McDonald. She was arraigned on September 3 and initially scheduled a one-day trial for November 3.
The defense filed a motion to continue on October 26, which the court granted; a six-week trial was scheduled to begin October 11, 2022.
A civil lawsuit filed in the Warren County Circuit Court by the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority claims defendants including McDonald participated in schemes using EDA money without permission to conduct real estate transactions and other personal business. McDonald and several co-defendants have since been dismissed as parties to the lawsuit through partial summary judgments.
The civil trials in the case are scheduled to begin in early July and will likely lead to further investigation Harris said and would involve overlapping issues and witnesses and are also relevant to effective preparation in McDonald’s criminal trial.
With over one million pages of discovery documents and the judge declaring the criminal case a complex one, it’s anyone’s guess when we’ll see McDonald in the courtroom.
Rotary Club of Warren County donates baskets to help homeless transition into independent living
The Rotary Club of Warren County is pleased to award a $500 service project grant to the House of Hope – Front Royal, VA, for 5 graduation baskets. These baskets will include air beds, sheets, pillows and several inspirational cards ready for the gentleman in hopes to make the transition into independent living a little easier.
The inspirational cards will have gift certificates/gifts enclosed from a variety of local businesses including: 1 free scoop of ice cream from C & C Frozen Treats, 2 movie passes from Royal Cinemas, 1 free cup of coffee from Main Street Daily Grind CAFÉ, 1 bracelet “We’re In This Together” from Project: Space/What Matters, 1 free haircut from Mattie the Barber/Blake & Co Hair Spa, 1 Golden Ticket from I Want Candy (for the lucky basket), 1 Pass for in-town cab fare with Front Royal Taxi.
We are hoping these small gifts might help brighten a man’s day once they are on their own! Thank you SO much to this amazing community who has stepped forward to cheer on the men!