Local News
Winchester attorney dead from apparent suicide
March 14, 2018

GREAT CACAPON, W VA – A Winchester attorney was found dead Tuesday evening in a vehicle in a remote area of Great Cacapon, W.Va., in Morgan County. Morgan County Sheriff K.C. Bohrer said Wednesday the man had been identified as Christian J. Griffin, 58.

Bohrer said sheriff’s deputies responded to investigate a call regarding a deceased male found in an SUV Tuesday night off W.Va. 9 under the bridge where the Cacapon River empties into the Potomac River.

Bohrer said Griffin died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The witness who discovered the body told police that he first had saw the vehicle Monday evening and then saw it again on Tuesday morning. It was only after taking a closer look at the vehicle that the man saw the body inside the SUV and alerted authorities, Bohrer said.

A Morgan County medical examiner investigated the scene and police have no reason to believe that a suspect is at large in connection with the death, Bohrer stated.

Griffin’s license to practice law was active and in good standing on Wednesday, according to the Virginia State Bar. Griffin’s license was issued on April 28, 1988.

Legislative Update
Warner, Kaine push V-A to fix problems endangering Veterans at D.C. Medical Center
March 14, 2018

WASHINGTON – On March 14th, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-Va.) pushed the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) to take immediate action regarding critical failures at the Washington D.C. VA Medical Center (DCVAMC) highlighted in an Inspector General report released last week that showed patients were put at risk due to supply, equipment, and inventory issues. Last year, Sens. Warner and Kaine wrote to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin to express serious concerns over initial findings found by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) that detailed similar deficiencies at the facility. Following last week’s OIG report, Secretary Shulkin announced an overhaul of the senior leadership overseeing almost two dozen troubled hospitals across the country.

“While we are disturbed by the numerous breakdowns in essential functions at the DCVAMC that are documented by the OIG, we are particularly troubled by the massive leadership failures at multiple levels of the VA despite consistent warnings,” wrote the Senators.

In particular, the Senators raised concerns regarding leadership failures that endangered the health and safety of veterans at the facility and called for more stringent oversight measures given the lack of direct response following last year’s interim report. In their letter, Sens. Warner and Kaine requested an update on the progress made in implementing corrective actions at the DC-based medical facility and any measures the VA is planning to take to increase accountability. Finally, the Senators requested the agency to identify potential legislative actions that Congress can take to help fix problems at DCVAMC.

“The Washington D.C. VA Medical Center serves thousands of Virginians each year. Failure to execute basic hospital functions at the VA’s flagship medical facility erodes the trust our veterans have in the VA. We can and must do more to guarantee the health and safety of our veterans in your care,” concluded the Senators.  

Full text of the letter follows. A PDF can be found here.

The Honorable David Shulkin
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20240

Dear Secretary Shulkin,

We write to you to express our concern regarding the recent Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) report that outlines critical deficiencies at the Washington D.C. VA Medical Center (DCVAMC). While we are disturbed by the numerous breakdowns in essential functions at the DCVAMC that are documented by the OIG, we are particularly troubled by the massive leadership failures at multiple levels of the VA despite consistent warnings.

In April 2017, we asked you to take immediate action to improve management at the DCVAMC following the release of the OIG Interim Status Report that first brought to light many of these serious problems. The final report expands upon the OIG’s initial findings and details significant inadequacies in executing basic hospital functions, including an inability to maintain an appropriate inventory of medical supplies and sanitary storage facilities, which resulted in an increased risk of harm to veterans at the facility. Thankfully, the OIG found that the efforts of DCVAMC health care professionals prevented patients from suffering adverse medical outcomes as a result of the identified deficiencies. We applaud those health care professionals for their herculean efforts in the face of such adversity, but their outstanding dedication to veterans should not minimize the egregious management problems at the DCVAMC, including historically high vacancy rates in logistics and sterile processing positions dating back to 2014.

We found the most troubling aspect of the OIG’s Report to be the massive failures in leadership that occurred throughout multiple levels of the VA. Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) 5, and Veterans Health Administration Central Office (VHACO) staff all filed and received reports from 2013 to 2017 that outlined many of the supply, equipment, and inventory issues that were later outlined in the final OIG Report. However, despite repeated recommendations for action, these DCVAMC leaders failed to take appropriate steps to address these issues. This failure in leadership endangered the health and safety of veterans at the facility. The lack of leadership identified by the OIG highlights the need for more stringent oversight measures that would prevent these breakdowns from occurring at other VAMCs.

We are pleased that you already addressed some of the failings of the DCVAMC documented in the April 2017 OIG Interim Status Report, including personnel changes and the implementation of new supply and cleanliness processes. In addition, we applaud your initiative to implement measures that would help prevent similar failures in leadership at VAMCs across the nation, such as increasing accountability at the VA Central Office.

While progress has been made since the release of last year’s report, fundamental problems still exist at the Medical Center. We request that you provide a comprehensive update on the progress made in implementing corrective actions at the DCVAMC and a full description of the VA-wide measures you are planning to enact that would increase accountability throughout the organization. Finally, we ask that you identify any legislative action that is required to carry out remedial measures.

The Washington D.C. VA Medical Center serves thousands of Virginians each year. Failure to execute basic hospital functions at the VA’s flagship medical facility erodes the trust our veterans have in the VA. We can and must do more to guarantee the health and safety of our veterans in your care. We look forward to working with you to correct the persistent problems at the DCVAMC and prevent similar deficiencies from occurring elsewhere within the VA.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We look forward to your prompt response.

Local Government
Hannigan resigns as Town Public Works Director as hearing date looms
March 14, 2018

Above, Jimmy Hannigan, foreground, on the job at the March 5 town council work session; below, what’s in a name – public works, environmental services? The Town website lists Hannigan’s department as Public Works. By whatever name it includes trash and recycling collection, street and vehicle maintenance, water and wastewater treatment, horticulture, and construction and design project review. Photos/Roger Bianchini

FRONT ROYAL – Front Royal Town Manager Joe Waltz confirmed Wednesday morning, March 14 that Director of Environmental Services Carl James “Jimmy” Hannigan has tendered his resignation effective April 7.

Hannigan will remain on the job as head of the department more popularly known as Public Works (including on the Town website) through April 6 as the town administration seeks a replacement.  Hannigan has been with the Town since October 2004, and has been director of the department since February 7, 2012.

His resignation takes effect four days after a scheduled preliminary hearing in Warren County General District Court on three felony forgery counts filed against him by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.  The charges relate to Hannigan’s sale of a car that was a disputed property during his September 2017 divorce from his third wife, Danielle.

Hannigan was arrested and charged on the three forgery-related counts surrounding the vehicle on January 8, 2018.  In the criminal complaint the date of the offense is listed as “on or about September 7, 2017.”  Following the first of two brief hearings held thus far that have seen the matter continued on the court docket, Hannigan’s attorney Eric Wiseley presented his client’s side of the case.

“Mr. Hannigan went through a nasty divorce last year, and his wife was not happy with the Court’s decision regarding an automobile that belonged to my client.  Not happy with the Court’s decision, she filed criminal charges that are a bit overblown,” Wiseley told Royal Examiner on January 24.

Danielle Hannigan disputes that account.  She contends she paid for the 1998 Honda C-RV that both she and her ex-husband used during their marriage; a marriage in which she noted they had four cars between them.  She admits both their names were on the title as a joint marital property, an idea she thought a “neat” one before the marriage soured.

“It’s not that I am coming after him, I just want him held responsible for his actions, Danielle Hannigan told us, adding, “I don’t want to see him go to jail for it – I would just like to see the situation involving the car put right.”

Attempts to reach Hannigan or his attorney were unsuccessful prior to publication.  Any subsequent response will be added to this story as available.

As we pointed out following the February 27 hearing at which a continuation was requested by the defense, Danielle Hannigan is not the complainant listed on the three criminal warrants against her ex-husband. Rather, DMV Special Agent R. A. Brooks is.  The language used by Brooks to justify the felony “Forged Title” and “Forge and/or Utter” criminal complaints states that, “Carl James Hannigan, Jr. reassigned a title (title #) in the name and signature of Danielle Hannigan without the knowledge or consent of Danielle Hannigan and transacted said title to Avery Burroughs.”

The Town’s Employee Handbook indicates conviction on a felony charge would likely result in termination from town employment.

Local Government
One lone voice speaks at public hearing on tax increase
March 14, 2018

Only one person, Joe Andrews, addressed council during the public hearing on the proposal. Andrews opposed any tax increase, calling any budget shortfall he cited at an estimated $80,000, a product of “frivolous spending” rather than an issue of revenue shortfall.

Read the story here.

Local Government
School Board approves a budget with a $1.8-million local funding hike
March 14, 2018

The WC School Board presented its FY19 budget recommendation on March 7, one day after the county supervisors worked with a flat public school budget number from last year. Royal Examiner File Photo


FRONT ROYAL – The Warren County School Board has approved a budget request with a nearly $2-million increase in local funding from Warren County. The number presented prior to a unanimous March 7 vote of approval on a motion by James Wells, seconded by Doug Rosen, show a local appropriation request of $25,329,914. That amount is $1,848,750 above the school budget appropriation number of $23,481,164 the County had plugged into its revenue/expenditure estimates at a Board of Supervisors work session the previous day, March 6.

And while it appeared that $23.48-million estimate had a $60,000 hike above the current fiscal year’s $23,421,164 local appropriation to public schools, school system  explained, and County Finance Director Andre Fletcher verified, that $60,000 was included in the FY2018 school budget for rental space tied to the CSA program but had been included as a separate line item last year. So actually the number used by county staff on March 6 was flat from the current fiscal year.

The actual School Board request will not be happy news for a county board already wrestling with an estimated $1.2-million revenue deficit with the numbers it was using on March 6, the day before the School Board recommended a budget tacking another $2-million onto that projected County revenue deficit. A board majority appears to favor approving a budget with no tax increase this year after last year’s 3-cent hike approved by a divided board to fund operations at the new middle school.

And as Royal Examiner reported in coverage of the supervisors March 6 budget work session, the General Fund balance has already fallen below the recommended 15% of the annual budget mark. That projected $13-million general fund balance is just 12.37% of the FY 2018 $105.6-million county budget. Utilizing the general fund to balance an even higher county budget by further raiding reserves could push that fund balance precariously close to single digits. Such a trend would negatively impact the County’s past favorable bond rating, leading to higher future interest rates on any future bond issues for capital improvements.

Major increases (over $40,000) on the table in the recommended public school budget, include:

– a 2% salary increase for all full-time contracted employees ($763,323);

– a STEP increase for all eligible employees ($505,351) – it was noted during discussion that it has been a decade since the last STEP increase;

– a 10% increase for supplemental activities like coaching ($46,127) – like the STEP increase, a decade or more since the last raise here;

– a $78,500 increase in the school bus repair and maintenance budget;

– a $100,000 increase in contracted facilities maintenance service budgets;

– and a total of $1,123,321 in health insurance increases – of that number, $784,699 is a 20% hike to employer costs, and $338,622 is the school system picking up 15% of the employee’s 20% cost increase.

The total of all those increases is $2,438,122. Other smaller increases raise the total additions to the School Board budget to $2,780,695. The bright side may be the fact that the school board is only asking for an increase of $1,848,750 in local appropriations, apparently finding either other revenue sources or expenditure cuts elsewhere in the budget to cover $931,945 of the total increase sought.

The justification for all the employee-related increases is the ongoing issue of presenting a competitive salary and benefit package to retain staff, particularly an experienced and highly competent teaching staff, to populate all the system’s new and renovated school buildings. As one sage observer said after last year’s split 3-2 vote (Fox, Sayre dissenting) approving a County budget with a tax hike to fund the new middle school’s operational budget, “State-of-the-art schools don’t make much sense without state-of-the-art education going on inside them.”

Factoring in all the recommended increases, the public school system’s total budget request from all revenue sources – local, federal and state, the latter based on the governor’s proposal – is now $56,771,798.

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a new take on an Irish favorite
March 14, 2018

The origins of the Reuben sandwich are widely contested, but it is certain that many a palate has savored the rich deli taste of the corned beef, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut-laden stack.

One story related to famed chef Craig Claiborne, by Patricia Taylor, contends that her father, Arnold Reuben, made the first Reuben sandwich in 1927 or 1928 in his New York deli. It was actually rye, ham, and Swiss cheese with a topping of cole slaw and Russian dressing.

Reuben Kulakofsky, a wholesale grocer and restaurateur in Omaha, made the sandwich for his poker buddies and it later appeared on the menu of the Blackstone Hotel.

While the Reuben sandwich could be Jewish or Nebraska homegrown in origin, corned beef is an Irish staple for celebrating St. Patrick’s Day.

Irish Reuben Casserole
3 cups toasted pumpernickel bread cut into one-inch cubes
1 pound corned beef deli slices or slices from a boiled slab
12 slices Swiss deli cheese
1 cup sauerkraut
1 bottle Thousand Island dressing for garnish or condiment

Layer the bottom of a large rectangular glass baking dish with half the cubes of toasted Pumpernickel.

Layer six slices of the Swiss cheese on top. Next, add a layer of the corned beef and another layer of Swiss cheese.

Spread the sauerkraut evenly over the top of the Swiss cheese layer and spread the remaining toasted cubes of bread on the top. Bake at 350 degrees until the top layer of bread becomes firm and crusty.

Drizzle the dressing lightly across the top and place a bowl of it on the table as a condiment. Green Goddess dressing can be substituted as the drizzle for a St. Paddy’s Day touch.

Local News
Kiwanis Club of Front Royal helps celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday at Samuels Library
March 13, 2018

Dr. Seuss’s birthday was recently celebrated at Samuels Public Library. Portraying the famous cat was volunteer Nathanael Jacob. / Courtesy photos.

FRONT ROYAL – The Youth Services Department of Samuels Public Library  recently celebrated the children’s success during Winter Reading Club. Over 350 children and teens participated, reading almost 10,000 books.

The Kiwanis Club of Front Royal joined in the celebration of Winter Reading Club and Dr. Seuss’s birthday with breakfast for all during a special family story time. Kiwanis members were readers during the story time and Samuels Library volunteer Nathanael Jacob portrayed the Cat in the Hat.

“We are grateful for all of the support that we receive from the Kiwanis Club of Front Royal,” noted Michal Ashby, Youth Services Supervisor at Samuels Library. “They have been serving the children of our community through their service and donations to the library for years. Today they not only donated the food for the breakfast, but they brought volunteers to be a part of this event, which was a huge success.”

Kiwanis is a global organization of volunteers dedicated to changing the world one child and one community at a time. Kiwanis members help shelter the homeless, feed the hungry, mentor the disadvantaged, and care for the sick. They develop youth as leaders, build playgrounds, raise funds for pediatric research, and much more. Locally, they also offer college scholarships to graduates of Warren County High School and Skyline High School.

Samuels Public Library is a community resource which enhances the quality of life for residents of Warren County/Front Royal by fulfilling their personal, occupational and recreational needs through services, programs, and a collection of materials that is current, balanced and responsive to those needs. The Library strives to stimulate and broaden community interests in literature, reading and learning, and has been doing so for more than two centuries.

Further information about Samuels Library is available here or by calling (540) 635-3153.


Arrest Logs
POLICE: 7 Day FRPD Arrest Report 3/12/2018
March 13, 2018

State News
Governor Northam calls April 11 Special Session for General Assembly to complete work on state budget
March 13, 2018

RICHMOND – Governor Ralph Northam on March 13th, signed a proclamation calling the members of the Virginia General Assembly into special session on April 11th to complete their work on the Commonwealth’s budget after they adjourned last week without passing a biennial spending plan for Virginia.

The Governor released the following statement on the forthcoming special session:

“After a legislative session that was marked by bipartisan progress on issues that matter to people’s lives, I remain disappointed that the General Assembly was unable to extend that spirit of cooperation to its work on the budget.

“Virginians sent us to Richmond to work together to make life better for every family, no matter who they are or where they live. We can live up to that responsibility by passing a budget that expands health care to hundreds of thousands of Virginians who need it. Expanding coverage will also generate savings that we can invest in education, workforce training, efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, and a healthy cash balance to prepare for fiscal downturns.

“Thanks to the political courage of many leaders in both parties and both chambers, we have made significant progress on this issue over the past several months. In the coming weeks, I intend to work with the General Assembly to ensure that we pass a budget that expands coverage as quickly as possible once this special session convenes. I have also directed Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne to work with the members and staff of the General Assembly money committees to ensure that work on the budget continues in the period between the regular session and the special session.

“It is my hope that people from across the Commonwealth will continue to speak to their legislators about the need to bring our tax dollars home to benefit our families, our economy, and our budget. We shouldn’t have to wait any longer for a budget that reflects the priorities of the Virginians who sent us here to serve.”

Below is the proclamation Governor Northam signed calling the General Assembly into special session on April 11:


In accordance with the provisions of Article IV, Section 6, and Article V, Section 5, of the Constitution of Virginia and the powers thereby vested in the Governor to call a Special Session of the General Assembly;

I, Ralph S. Northam, Governor of Virginia, do hereby summon the members of the Senate and the House of Delegates, constituting the General Assembly of Virginia, to meet in Special Session in their respective chambers in the Capitol at Richmond, commencing the eleventh day of April, two thousand eighteen, for the purpose of adopting budgets for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Given under my hand as Governor of Virginia, and under the Lesser Seal of the Commonwealth, at Richmond, this thirteenth day of March, two thousand and eighteen, and in the two hundred and forty-second year of the Commonwealth.

Ralph S. Northam
Governor of Virginia

Community Events Jenspiration
Jubilee coming in April to raise awareness for child abuse and prevention
March 13, 2018


This year we will be hosting the first ever, Every Child Matters – Child Abuse Awareness & Prevention Jubilee in Warren County.  There were over 800 children who were subjects of child abuse or neglect investigations in Warren County this past year.  The jubilee is intended to help promote awareness and hopefully spark prevention moving forward.  There will be over 800 blue pinwheels displayed on the Health and Human Services Complex during the event to recognize these children who need our support and help.

In order to make this a fun event for all (with free food, bounce house, petting zoo and more), sponsorship is needed.  If you are a business or an individual and are interested in making a donation, please contact Michelle Smeltzer for more details at 540-892-6108.

Event: Every Child Matters – Child Abuse Awareness & Prevention Jubilee

When: April 14, 2018 |

Where: Health and Human Services Complex

Announcement by DeAnna Cheatham, (Social Services Director) and Michelle Smeltzer (Community Liaison).

Video by Jenspiration, LLC