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OPINION: A new low in Front Royal politics

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Wow – hard to explain the new low in Front Royal politics. One only need review the video of Monday night’s Town Council Working Session to witness true unprofessionalism at its best (or worse depending on how you look at it). The Town of Front Royal deserves so much more, and the Town Council should hang their collective heads in shame.

I should be disappointed in myself for not believing this group of elected thugs, and a hand-picked failure of a Town Manager, could take us even deeper into governmental despair. Shame on me for having faith.

Let’s look at this. It included an extremely large, standing room only crowd of concerned citizens of Front Royal, a surprisingly still ill-prepared Interim Town Manager who demonstrated without any doubt that he knows little about leadership or how to manage staff, and a truly unprofessional Town Council.

One could see on Mr. Tederick’s face from the onset of the meeting that he was extremely nervous and likely had not slept for a couple nights. Tough to sleep soundly when you know the gallows await and you know your story can not stand up to any real questioning.

As I said in my most recent article, the Town Council had found their stooge in Mr. Tederick; but while letting him do their dirty work and now rush through its rationale, the impulse not to lose center stage in front of so large an audience was too great to resist.

Mr. Meza should be nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of a man interested in what was best for the citizens of Front Royal and his self-imposed look of regal importance of learning at the feet of his mentor Mr. Tederick.

Jacob Meza, left, at Monday’s heavily attended Front Royal Town Council Work Session discussion of an apparently council-endorsed budget plan eliminating some crucial Town staff and departmental functions to reduce town government operational costs. Letasha Thompson listens at right. Royal Examiner Photos by Roger Bianchini

Give a supporting Oscar to Mr. Holloway for his portrayal of an insane middle-aged man. Remember the movie “The Shining” starring Jack Nicholson and the famous phrase – “Here’s Johnny” – or in this case “Here’s Crazy Chris”? Rather than act like a mature adult, Mr. Holloway decided to reduce council’s debate with its mayor to the level of a developing school-yard brawl. – “That’s a downright lie” may not be the proper response to the mayor’s assertion he had only heard of the budget/staff termination plan the previous week. Of course, little Jacob Meza had set the table for Crazy Chris with his accusation that Mayor Tewalt was “playing to the large crowd” by expressing opposition to their and Mr. Tederick’s preferred course of outsourcing now-cut staff functions, apparently that outsourcing largely taking place around July 1 when the new fiscal year begins.

How do these men find new ways to show how unimpressive they really are? Well, that could apply to most of the Council. Are you listening Ms. Thompson, Ms. Cockrell, Mr. Sealock and Mr. Gillespie?

First let’s cover the citizens of Front Royal. It was evident from the start these individuals wanted to voice their concerns while at the same time listen to the “potential” words of wisdom from the Interim Town Manager and Town Council who had created this situation. I will have to admit, within reason, they were well behaved.

Only during the above-referenced school-yard brawl with their mayor and the section when Mr. Tederick started to show his apparent lack of understanding of tourism and his explanation of why he let people go prior to his recommendations being approved and implemented – allegedly due to compassion – did the audience let out a few catcalls, etc. Overall, they appeared to, perhaps surprisingly, hold themselves in check.

As a crowd reaching about 50 gathers, council and staff chat prior to meeting/work session’s convening.

They were without a doubt more adult than several members of the Town Council who should apologize to the citizens for their bad behavior. Only once did the Mayor have to remind the onlookers that they need to respect those at the table. Too bad, he did not remind the Council members that they also need to show respect to all those at the table.

Mr. Tederick’s words on “Compassion” for those he had removed, followed by noting that if Council disagreed with his recommendations those same individuals could reapply for their jobs, rang so hollow. What 5th grade class on leadership did Mr. Tederick learn this skill from? Never in my career have I heard such bad judgement on hiring or firing. If this was supported by any decent attorney, I would have to say they never managed a staff as well.

I had to think, not long, on why someone in the position of Mr. Tederick could think this made any sense. It then dawned on me. It is apparent, he has never really managed a large, multi-departmental staff, and the rest of his career has been on managing financial portfolios and not leading people. Rather simple, he does not think as a leader or a manager. He only thinks of money. The same can be said for Chris “You’re the liar” Holloway and Jacob “The Lessor” Meza.

Reapply for their jobs? The only reapplying for jobs will be with these same Council members asking town citizens to re-elect them in coming elections, the first less nine months away.
I also started to think about what real revenue comes into this County and Front Royal. A fact that Mr. Tederick did not really cover. We could assume, tourism is a major factor. So, I decided to do my research. It did not take long to find the following website: Vatc.org and click on top right research tab.

Unlike every other chart Matt displayed, this is the only one that shows growth every year. Amazing that the only thing that shows steady growth is the one he condemns and suggests it be giving to a privately held company that perhaps magically showed up in his office the day after he announced the removal of the Tourism Director. Something like the Attorney Bro’s we now have working in Town Hall and their relationship with his 1839 Capitol adventure.

Also, his statement of doing a one-year contract makes absolutely no sense. One with any management background would realize that this position requires stability in dealing with the various organizations that comprise the tourism landscape. But Mr. Tederick, this DOES NOT grant you permission to now issue a five-year contract to any friends who have appeared like a gift from heaven at your doorstep.

Chris Holloway, left, and Matt Tederick take break with colleagues prior to closed session being convened at end of Monday’s quickly adjourned special meeting and budget work session.

One last comment before I put away my keyboard for the night. I am not certain what was said behind closed doors by the Mayor regarding tourism and what actions should be taken. However, one with any decorum – for Mr. Holloway that means: behavior in keeping with good taste and propriety – if so compelled, would have called Mr. Tewalt a liar behind closed doors and not in front of the citizens they represent.

Never lower yourself to prove a point.

Poor play of the week goes to Mr. Holloway, with an assist to Mr. Meza. I would not be surprise if he has won that award before on several occasions. I would expect, but we will not get, a public apology from him for his unprofessionalism. Apparently building housing units does not require such skills.

I can only hope this council, at least the other four members, hear the citizens of this town.

Simon Mays
Front Royal

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Opinion

Process in Local Government

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So, a fellow Councilmen is interested in exploring the option of naming a road after our 45th President. Oh boy! POLITICAL SUICIDE!!! The local newspaper is not thrilled (to say the least).

And now our Mayor has published a Press Release denouncing it as well. A press release that was sent to me at 4:55 PM and posted to Facebook a mere hour later without any responses to the discussion generated by the Councilmen being thrown under the Presser (pronounced “Bus”).

When Councilmen Lloyd asked me if I would help him bring this to the Agenda, I said yes. And why would I do that? Well, staying clear of any and all political agendas, I said yes because this was a topic that he wanted to bring to the work session. And you need two councilmen to agree to it. If I want to bring a topic onto the Agenda, I hope that he will second those in the future.

During the Work Session, this past Monday, you can see the thoughtful discussion that Council was having regarding the topic. It was a third item raised by Councilmen Lloyd during our open discussion session of the meeting. Considering the Pros and Cons of a topic is what thoughtful representatives of the people are supposed to do, no? Councilmen Lloyds’ point regarding the fact that 67% of Warren County did actually vote for the 45th President of the UNITIED STATES OF AMERICA was valid. And those voters do feel upset and disenfranchised. On the Cons side, we have to consider costs. Where does it lead? How will the public feel about it?

I had a discussion with Councilmen Lloyd on the topic the other day when he asked if I would be willing to second it, just so it could make it on the Agenda in a WORK SESSION. He wasn’t asking me to bring it to a vote or even if I would vote for it. Just to help him bring something to a work session to discuss. I expressed to Councilmen Lloyd that I did not believe that this would ever get through to a vote. I told him that he could consider trying to raise private funds to cut public costs. I reminded him that we’d need to learn about president (SIC) regarding renaming of roads. I suggested that he try to find a single-home owner street that would be in favor or a business in a similar situation as the one Councilmen Meza raised during the work session – CBM Mortgage got their lane renamed “Hometown” so they could use it in marketing materials.

Now let’s go to the Press Release issued tonight – It felt to me like “cancel culture” on full display, in the form of a Press Release from our own Mayor?

Wow.

Are we not able to discuss issues or even bring them to the table for discussion without them being cancelled beforehand?

I get it. If you don’t think it is a good idea – don’t vote for it. If you think it is an issue, express that in the work session. It’s good government. And in a County where 67% of the population voted for #45 – I’m not sure you need to go on the offensive against bad press on this one.

We already have enough other things deserving of actual Press Releases at this time, don’t we?

Joseph McFadden
Front Royal, Virginia

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Opinion

Submitted Commentary: Is information free in Front Royal?

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From: Front Royal Town Councilman Joseph McFadden

During a presentation on FOIA by Town Attorney Doug Napier, which is available on the Town Website if you wish to watch the entire presentation, I was given a lot to think about.

During the presentation, I wrote down questions. Some were answered at the time I asked them (at the completion of the presentation) and others were to be answered with information either provided to me or that I would have to dig up (which I was willing to do). It was emailed to me in a spreadsheet the following day thanks to a competent staff able to generate a report for me.

I’ll present some facts and figures here and the subsequent answers I learned by reviewing the spreadsheet I was given.

In the presentation, I was told that in the Calendar Year 2021 (Jan 1- Jan 19, 2021) there had already been 91 FOIA requests submitted to the Town of Front Royal. I was told that if that rate continued, we would face 1700-1800 FOIA requests in this year alone. Considering the issues we’ve already faced (Old: EDA Lawsuit, Afton Inn and Happy Creek project. NEW: Article 47 Lawsuit, Sexual Harassment, and Firing of former employee Lawsuit), I thought the number believable.

According to the document: There were 7.

I followed that statement up with a question regarding how many did we get in 2020 so that I could look at the trends and see if it was high, or normal for a month-to-month statistical comparison. I like processes and I like tracking trends.

According to the document: There were 87.

It would be a 2,011% jump in the number of FOIAs if we were to hit 1700-1800 predicted (I used 1750, splitting 1700 and 1800, as my number and 87 as the originating number to determine that percentage). That’s quite a jump.

Trying to wrap my mind around how there could be such a discrepancy in these numbers, I thought back on hearing in the presentation about FOIA requests that had 15,000 or even 80,000 pages in the request. But again those numbers don’t match up.

I heard that many of the requests take a lot of time to review because “Some laws are not easy to decipher.” Well, I’ll just leave that there. Shouldn’t we have a staff member that is an expert on this to field the massive volume of FOIA requests? That was my thought at the time.

I was told that we billed the staff hours used to fulfill the requests. Later, I asked to clarify if the staff was paid hourly as a contractor or yearly salary as an employee and if these FOIA requests were only being completed during overtime hours? They are salaried employees, and the searches are completed during normal business hours. And in fact, the searches are often farmed out to department heads to complete.

Specifically, I asked that if it is in the scope of work of a staff member and not done outside of normal business hours, how can we then bill the requestor?

And my follow-on question is that if the FOIA is for my emails, couldn’t I simply pull them at no cost to the citizen?

Based on section 6 of the VA FOIA Advisory Commission’s Guide that I took the time to read before the meeting – Section 2.2.3704.1: “6 – A public body may make reasonable charges not to exceed its actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for the requested records. No public body shall impose any extraneous, intermediary, or surplus fees or expenses to recoup the general costs associated with creating or maintaining records or transacting the general business of the public body. Any duplicating fee charged by a public body shall not exceed the actual cost of duplication. All charges for the supplying of requested records shall be estimated in advance at the request of the citizen as set forth in subsection F of 2.2-3704 of the Code of Virginia.”

That doesn’t seem to talk about charging for salaried employees to do what is part of their job duties, such as pulling emails when there is a FOIA request. We have search features in Microsoft Outlook that makes searching super fast and easy. And indexing on a server is also pretty fast. I should know, I once advised a DOD agency looking for a way to archive all their historical records being pulled from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq onto closed secret computers so that they could be searched by historians and journalists. And I got very familiar with how quickly indexing of documents and emails happens and can be accessed real-time.

I learned that some FOIA requests are “fishing expeditions” or submitted “to harass.” I also learned that it is charged this way to “be fair to everyone.”

However, upon review of the data provided to me, I saw that there were a few repeat requestors (out of the total 94 in the spreadsheet) but that not everyone got a bill. I found my dad’s name on the list. I followed up with him. He was not billed. If everyone is billed and treated fairly, why wasn’t he?

I learned that we have never been fined for not completing an FOIA request.

I am now awaiting the answers to several questions about the obvious discrepancies I saw between what I was told in the work session and what was delivered in the form of reportable and quantifiable data.

But I am also waiting to find out 2 key things:
1. If we collect money from an FOIA request for salaried time, where does that money go once collected?
2. How much money did we collect from FOIA requests in 2020?

Stay tuned if you are as interested in this as I am.

Remember, until only a few weeks ago, I was just a citizen like you!

(Originally posted on the councilman’s social media site)

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We can agree to disagree, but never to the point of being narrow-minded

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On January 21, a group of concerned citizens went to a BOS meeting to declare Warren County a “Constitutional Sanctuary County” against the COVID-19 pandemic.

First, I believe we need to stop with the fearmongering from our state health officials and governor! We have lived with this pandemic for over a year now, which we have learned a great deal and can, by all means, use our God-given brain to make health decisions for ourselves!

Second, if you are sick or have come in contact with an infected person, do the right thing, get tested, stay at home for 7 to 10 days and get on with life!

All along we were told by CDC, NIH, even our general M.D.’s to use the 3 things that help stop the spread: Hand cleaning, mask-wearing, (when out in crowds), the social distancing of 6ft., which by the way should always be the case with stopping illnesses.

But no, some in our government want to take away our rights and freedoms and call it for the good of the nation.

Really? Then how come some elected officials get to carry on their lives any way they want, but we can’t?

I call that “a narrative” to power over the rights and freedoms of our Constitutional laws!

To the email writer, calling those residents “selfish patriots” was uncalled-for. Name-calling never did settle things, it just keeps the solutions from being talked about in a manner which all can come together.

We can agree to disagree, but never to the point of being narrow-minded.

Let’s take this issue of being restricted to conduct our lives and businesses seriously. We were not made to live in a bubble, our bodies will either adapt and fight or die. Either way, all flesh will die, that’s a given.

Fear will kill far worse more than any pandemic or war!

Tenia Smith
Front Royal, Virginia

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Opinion

Odors and Town Processes – a theoretical seminar

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Recent newspaper accounts report Front Royal work crews were out trying to find out where a strange odor was coming from. – All they had to do is open the door to the Town Council meeting. The work crews had to suspend their search due to a broken water main. I think they should notify Mr. Tederick. He is great with redundant water pipes.

Let’s explore that thread briefly before we talk about morals, ethics and legalities. In a page straight out of Machiavelli’s “The Prince” or maybe from the Sopranos, Tederick’s meteoric rise through the political hierarchy.

How did he get here? Well, he was appointed to a Grand Jury. Due to his leadership capabilities he became Chairman of the panel. Using his investigative skills, he signed the indictment for Hollis Tharpe – the charge? Frequenting a bawdy house. Long, goofy story short: Hollis had to resign as mayor but later all charges dropped.

“We have no mayor!” Was the cry that went out. The Gentle Knight Tederick stepped up and said, “Send Me!”, or something like that. Thus, without public input, Ta Da, he became mayor.

But one of his driving passions was to put in a redundant water line up the Route 340 North Corridor. Why? Well, just like the excuse for the destruction of Happy Creek, it was “well we had never done it, so we had better do it”. Really? How about “The Power Plant wants it”. Really? If they want it, why won’t they pay for it?

Or could it have been because he allegedly had a relative working for the developer that wanted to put in 800/600/200 units for senior citizens and low-income housing. Well, it all fell apart when it was pointed out that:

  1. There was no water. We were in the midst of a drought at the time. So Matthew had the Town Manager do a water consumption study – Damn, it came back – no water (and eventually doomed the guy).
  2. There was no capacity at the Waste-Water Treatment Plant.
  3. Traffic. Damn, the Sheriff said that they didn’t support the development.

Matthew was stumped. What to do?

First, get rid of that troublesome Town Manager. So, according to various staff members, he began to bully the guy, to such an extent he had enough and quit.

“We have no Town Manager!” Was the cry that went out. Once again, the Gentle Knight to the rescue.

So now, plans are underway for the pipe. The engineering firm selected was the same one that botched the Happy Creek destruction. We must save money! So Matthew fired the Town Tourism Board. Why? Well to save money, he said, oh by the way, allegedly to get rid of the head of it. So the solution? Pay a contractor $600,000 dollars to do it; evaluate themselves on their efficiency with a set of criteria nobody knows but them; and do it all “behind the famous closed door”.

Well, he rolled through the destruction of Happy Creek making that beautiful. Issues regarding that fiasco are continuing.

CARES money. After throwing a temper tantrum with those County Supervisors who had the temerity to ask for the required paperwork, Mr. Tederick went to the Chamber of Commerce and had them distribute the money! Legal? Well, the lawyer said it was okay. Questionable?  Because you are asking a non-government entity to do the government’s job. He could have asked the EDA to do it but, well, we have seen how the Town deals with them. But why the Chamber of Commerce, have they ever done anything like this before? No. Could it be an example of rumored “friendly backscratching” circling Magic Matt. Nah! That would be unethical.

Wasn’t there a video on the Royal Examiner showing Matthew standing in the wreckage of Afton Inn telling a reporter that “we finally have a plan to move forward”. No he didn’t, the Town still doesn’t.

Then there was a Taj Mahal of police stations built with cafeteria etc. All based on Town Council input. There they were at the Grand Opening, Tederick, Holloway, and their pal Meza, grinning away. Off to the side was the new head of the EDA. How would he know that the Town would have no “moral, ethical or legal” requirement to pay for it. Yep, one morning the hirsute wanna-be Jacob Meza allegedly was driving down the street and Shazam (thanks to Gomer), there was a police station sitting there! How did that get there? What a surprise, surprise, surprise it must have been to find that there.

Gomer Pyle – Public Domain Photo

Well life goes on here in Mayberry: Meza was caught off guard when confronted with his conflict of interest (Recuse is defined as to withdraw from the decision-making process because of personal interest or unfairness). His personal interest? Other than his position on the Valley Health staff and his bosses staring him down and the purported big bonus. Really, no problem here folks. Why? Because a lawyer who just so happened to own nearby land said so. Moral? No way. Ethical? But legal?

But that’s okay. He was reborn as a Town Council person after it was found that Town Council members don’t fall under Council “jurisdiction”.

Once, on the Titanic a lawyer saw the iceberg looming dead ahead. Should he notify the captain and save people’s lives? No, because he had recently bought ice cube rights for that glacier and he might be held responsible. After all, there were no laws that said he had to say anything. Later, he was one of the first in the lifeboat. When questioned, he said “The law was changed to women, children and lawyers first”.

And that’s why it’s legal. So class, we have learned that morals and ethics are subject to vast interpretation. Tony Soprano once said, “If I do it, it’s ethical and if the lawyers say it, it’s legal”.

Fred Schwartz
Warren County, Virginia

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Opinion

Fraudulent Elections

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historically speaking

It was a dark day on Jan. 6 as Congress planned to confirm the Electoral College vote for the next president. Around 1 p.m. a group of pro-Trump protesters pushed their way into the Capitol building, disrupting the official count as Congress was forced into lock down. The issue at hand was the President’s claims of voter fraud and a stolen election.

This was by no means the first contested election in the U.S. The 1800 and 1824 elections were both decided in Congress. The 1876 and 2000 elections were both decided in the courts. Let’s also not forget the South seceded from the nation in 1860 because of Lincoln’s election. In fact, in 2001, 2005 and 2017 some Democrats protested the final confirmation vote the same way some Republicans did this year. In these cases, the Vice Presidents acted like Mike Pence this year and did their duty and confirmed the vote even with political pressure not to do so.

The differences between this current election and the past ones were that the controversies did not involve a sitting president. They were always between two new candidates. 1800 did have an incumbent president in the race, but the controversy was between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. Trump is the first sitting president to contest his defeat. The other more important difference was those election controversies were all handled peacefully, except 1860. Yes, there have been many protests over elections, but trying to take the Capitol to obstruct the vote is unprecedented.

There have been other elections with fraud claims, most recently, the 2016 election that Democrats claimed foul because of Russian influence. Yet, the one I think is important because of the behavior of the candidates is not remembered today as controversial but at the time was called out by many as fraudulent.

Today, when discussing the 1960 election, most think of the young charismatic John F. Kennedy manhandling and crushing the much older Richard Nixon in the first televised debates. I would argue this is a false memory. For one, Nixon was only four years older than Kennedy and, two, this was one of the closest elections in history. The closeness of the election meant that several states were swing states and just one or two of them going the other way meant a difference in the president.

Two of the states that could have gone either direction were Texas and Illinois. Both ultimately voted for JFK, but not without some controversy. In Texas it was claimed that JFK’s V.P., Lyndon Johnson, used undue influence and fraud to guarantee a Democratic win. Yet it was Illinois that captured the nation’s attention, especially the mayor of Chicago, Richard Daley. Daley is one of the men credited with the quote, “Vote early and vote often.” On election night, he called JFK to tell him basically that, with a little luck and some help from some friends, he would win the state. Daley was a mayor either loved or despised, depending on your political leaning, but no one questioned his power over the city and even the state. Daley was rumored to be involved in ballot stuffing, especially in Cook County, that turned the state towards Kennedy.

The cries of corruption were minimal on election night and ultimately JFK was the victor. It was after the election that the rumors began to build. The man more than any other who began to beat the drum of fraud was a reporter and friend of Nixon, Earl Mazo. He began to investigate the rumors and wrote a series of articles detailing his evidence. He had found graveyards in Chicago where all the permanent residences had voted. The story that most stuck out was the 56 voters whose residences all turned out to be the same abandoned house. Yet as interesting as these stories were, most were never published at the insistence of Nixon.

Nixon asked his friend to stop running the stories. His request was not because he felt they were untrue. In fact, Nixon, for the rest of his life, privately insisted the election was stolen from him, and many from his administration insisted they had evidence of fraud. What Nixon believed, however, was that in the midst of the Cold War his nation could not afford a challenge to democracy. Recounts were requested, but after a couple of legal challenges failed, Nixon did what was best for the nation and stepped aside. It was Nixon’s job as sitting Vice President to confirm the votes for Kennedy in the same ceremony that was interrupted Jan. 6 with Pence. Nixon did what Trump could not. Whether or not there was fraud, Nixon believed there was. But he put his ego aside for the good of the nation and did not resist.

While all of Trump’s court challenges were completely legal, almost all of them were found by several courts to be without merit. We have seen similar actions in many elections. Where Trump will be remembered with infamy was his refusal to accept the outcome even after the courts rejected him. The difference may be this: eight years later Nixon ran a second time and won. However, after Jan. 6, even Trump’s staunchest supporters turned on him, making any effort for a second run obsolete.


Dr. James Finck is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha. He is Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. Follow Historically Speaking at www.Historicallyspeaking.blog

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Long-time Meza ‘fan’ perspective on council appointment

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There are those who have no problem expressing their opinion. I happen to be one of those people. So I thought I would now express my opinion on the appointment of Jake Meza to Town Council.

Since this was a pre-planned appointment, Mr. Meza did not have to spend a penny on a campaign for the November election.

Now, my opinion: EGO, ARROGANCE, POWER HUNGRY, VOTING POWER, BEHIND CLOSED DOORS DIRTY POLITICS, MANIPULATED TOWN ATTORNEY, PUPPETEER AND PUPPETS, RULE BREAKING REPUBLICAN PARTY/COMMITTEE.

Paul Gabbert
Front Royal, Virginia

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