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Reader asks ‘What Heritage’

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You say it is your heritage, not hate.

But what is your heritage, if not hate? What do you call the rape, torture, kidnapping, murder, and pillaging of a people? Are you proud of stealing generations from their future? What does the history of the dixie heartland stand for if it doesn’t stand for hate rooted in blood-stained injustice? What good comes from staking a claim in a mountain built on the backs of other men, with a treasonous flag wavering overhead?

You say they were veterans and deserve our homage; as if we should so easily forget the very things they fought for, or rather, against. Protecting the institution of slavery, secession and mutiny are suddenly honorable values that we must exalt in statue form? Since when do the losers of a war get to have a stake in the statue arena – is it a participation trophy?

My mind, nor my heart, can fathom the pride you carry for your “heritage.” The ignorance of deeming all veterans heroes, while ignoring their true motivations, seems blasphemous in the eyes of the Constitution. I think it would be far more courageous to show compassion for the people we share the world with today.

To understand that the battles that they have faced, collectively and historically, far outweigh any contributions given to us by the short-lived Confederacy. To see past our privilege, to put ourselves in the shoes of a Black American who just wants to walk to the courthouse without having to be reminded of the effort put into keeping them 3/5 a human. That maybe, as white men and women, we listen with open hearts and sit this one out.

It seems to me, that every significant change for the better in the Town of Front Royal, whether it be the desegregation of schools, the building of new bridges, schools, and sidewalks has to be fought for to come to fruition. Front Royal refuses to come into the 21stcentury on her own, and instead prefers to be drug a few decades, kicking and screaming, until she begrudgingly accepts her new reality.

Is a symbol of our divisive past more important than a more inclusive and compassionate present and future? Royal Examiner File Photo

That is why I’m so disappointed in the board of supervisors’ cowardly decision to leave this ruling to a non-binding referendum. When you have the privilege and responsibility of a position of power, you use it for good. You use it to showcase your leadership skills and to stand up for the minority. If the south left it to a non-binding referendum, we’d still have slavery.

Sometimes the right thing isn’t what the majority demands. The law hasn’t been our best moral compass in history, time, and time again. You want a count of hands, regardless of the lack of representation for Black citizens. I urge you to instead consider the history and reputation of this town and vote with all constituents in mind, not just the white majority.

Caroline Nolazco
Front Royal, Virginia

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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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The Town Council appointment game analyzed

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Wait a minute! What’s that you say? Controversy in the Town Council? That’s hard to believe. Cronyism? Charging the Town Council with cronyism is like charging the Indy 500 with speeding. Who could it be? Mr. warmth and personality himself Jacob Meza. Foregoing the opinions of lawyers, why would they select Mr. Meza in a closed-door meeting (aren’t they all)?

His charisma – umm nope; style (GQ magazine has called and wants their “unshaven terrorist look” back); I know, maybe it’s his diligence in supporting Valley Health’s financial and policy interests. What’s that you say – Valley Health is his employer. No problem, he will just recuse himself from votes regarding his employer until that vote is needed. Oh, I see, well, I guess if you are having a baby and have to drive to Kalamazoo to have it, you could thank him.

Councilman and appointment under continued citizen scrutiny

Ahh Jacob Meza, Town Councilman for life. Here’s how the scam works; you don’t run for re-election, but you are appointed anyway. Then another Council member who has PO’ed town voters doesn’t want to bother with all that noisy campaigning – no problem, appoint him too. Well, at least we know Matthew Tederick will always have a job waiting.

Council members are NOT “under the jurisdiction of the council” states their own long-time town lawyer. Wow, I guess he is the same lawyer that gave half my boat to my ex-wife (I gave her the underwater half). So, I wonder who the council, or the town attorney for that matter, comes under the jurisdiction of?

What to do? Well, the lawyers could take it to court thus ensuring more legal fees for everyone. OR (and I say this with tongue in cheek), Mr. Meza could just honorably step down saving the Council from further stress or embarrassment.

Oh man, I crack myself up sometimes.

F. Schwartz
Warren County, Virginia


PS: since I wrote this letter prior to Monday’s first meeting with their appointed member, sure enough, this is headed to court.

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Commentary: Another perspective on election fraud claims and the Capitol riot

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For the past week, the nation has been absorbed by the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol housing one of the three branches of the federal government. The debate over what it meant and may continue to mean, has been joined.

What has led to this commentary is the rise of theories that what we saw on myriad news video footage isn’t really what we saw. That despite the “Stop the Steal” rally earlier that day addressed by President Trump, among others promoting the notion that Joe Biden’s 7-million popular vote and decisive 306-232 Electoral College, 74-vote margin of victory is a hoax perpetrated on the American public – that somehow the violence and anarchy displayed by the crowd urged to the Capitol by President Trump, wasn’t the work of Trump supporters and more radical elements of the “Stop the Steal” crowd.

Assertions have been made that the huge pro-Trump crowd was not one prone to violence and social media “rumors” and other Internet “theories” have been forwarded to shift blame to the political right’s boogeyman – ANTIFA (acronym for Anti-Fascist) infiltrators – as responsible for the violence and subversive invasion of the U.S. Capitol building leading to five deaths, including one Capitol Policeman reportedly beaten to death with a fire extinguisher.

Above lower right, mob attacks blockaded door where woman was killed by officer as she climbed onto door; below, a Capitol Police officer in distress as he is pinned between another doorway and barrier crowd was pushing against door. Still Photos from TV video new sources as identified – Roger Bianchini

Before I continue, let me say that from the extensive amount of video news footage I have watched over the past days, I believe there were good people in the crowd who descended on Capitol Hill on January 6. Associated Press (AP) footage of one of its cameramen being assaulted by a portion of the mob near the Capitol building showed one man outside the Capitol building porchway wall protecting the newsman from that mob after they had tossed him over the concrete wall. Others outside the Capitol building stairway also appeared to help move the AP photographer away from the rioters that had been roughing him up and initially began climbing over the wall to continue their assault. And let me add that I am not a fan of America’s two-party system. I believe it is too prone to corruption from either side, without the check of multiple viable parties to challenge for Congressional seats to keep clear majorities harder to come by.

Uh oh, graffiti on door inside Capitol says, ‘Murder the Media’.

That said, as with the repeated court rulings dismissing Trump state vote count challenges around the country as not supported by ANY factual evidence, including without dissent by the Trump multi-member-appointed and conservative-dominated U.S. Supreme Court, the idea that leftist radicals were somehow responsible for the violence and rioting at the U.S. Capitol appears to have NO basis in factual evidence. As noted above, the source of this idea is social media “rumors” or “articles on the Internet” making claims without fact-checking or editorial oversight.

But we have not heard specifics on the Internet sources of those rumors and articles. For if we had, one might wonder if they would have been from the same right-wing blogs that have been reported rallying neo-fascist, Q-Anon, and racist elements of the extreme American right-wing toward D.C. for the pro-Trump rally and move against the January 6th certification of the Electoral College count by Congress for weeks.

Above, a Dec. 19 Tweet before the president’s post-riot lifetime Twitter ban trumpets one of his enablers’ report, apparently without the factual basis to be used in court, and invites followers to D.C. Jan. 6, promising a ‘wild’ time. Below, well a little wild but – what, a new vice president to preside over the absent Senate?

And while the initial video seemed to show a disorderly mob entering the Capitol, some chasing an isolated Capitol Policeman upstairs, others occupying podiums, carrying them away, and relaxing in Nancy Pelosi’s office, feet on the desk, the overall mood while somewhat riotous, didn’t seem horribly malevolent.

However, that changed with the release of additional video, including security footage, several days later indicating a more aggressive and violent mob assault on the Legislative Branch of the U.S. government, perhaps explaining the immediate moving of Vice President Mike Pence, now labeled a traitor by some Trump supporters, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and numerous other Congressional members to undisclosed safe locations at the Capitol for their safety. The threat was taken so seriously that Capitol security shot and killed a woman as she attempted to breach a barricaded secure location with a window-smashing mob inside the Capitol.

Above, this shirt with an anti-Semitic coded, neo-Nazi message was reported being worn by some inside the Capitol Wednesday. 6MWE purportedly stands for ‘Six Million Weren’t Enough’, a reference to the 6 million Jews killed during Nazi control of Germany. Below, a fellow traveler with a ‘Camp Auschwitz’ shirt celebrating one of the Nazi concentration camps where Jews were held and executed.

Videos I have seen over the weekend have shown people with anti-Semitic and Nazi slogans emblazoned T-shirts and at least one with a string of plastic hand restraints used by police for large crowd control arrests roaming the halls of Congress. Security and news video, as well as self-posted social media images, have been used to identify people around the nation known to be right-wing supporters of President Trump, including a West Virginia Republican state assemblyman who resigned after being charged with criminal conduct at the Capitol. As of Sunday evening, 70 people had been reported arrested on charges related to their videotaped actions inside the U.S. Capitol.

None, to my knowledge, have been identified as ANTIFA or any other leftist group members.

But the Trump base continues to believe what it wants, regardless of the questionable nature of sources or any factual evidence to the contrary. Many in that base suggest an ongoing “establishment” and “media” conspiracy to unseat Donald Trump. The formation of committees to study the notion of election fraud already rejected as absent of ANY supporting factual evidence in, I believe the last count was 60 courts around the nation, are demanded by some. How much of their own and fellow citizens’ federal tax revenue do they want spent to overturn a “conspiracy” two of the three branches of the federal government, Legislative and Judicial, have determined exists only in an “alternate fact” universe of the Executive Branch’s creation?

Above, a guillotine noted for its use in executing the French nobility during the French Revolution, erected on the Capitol grounds. I have not heard whether it was functional or not. Below, House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi was not popular with the crowd.

Alternate explanation

Let me suggest an alternative election scenario which even conservative court after conservative state legislature has ruled is based in real-world facts, as opposed to one simply repeated over and over by a desperate, deposed would-be “president for life” and echoed back by his either horribly naïve or complicity corrupt, bigoted, anti-democratic cult-of-personality base:

Donald Trump was honestly and decisively defeated in the 2020 election because outside of his 35% hardcore base, it has been apparent to the majority of the American public that his has been a failed, inept and destructive to the American brand presidency. In the wake of the insurrectionist siege of the Capitol and apparent physical threat to the legislators inside, even former California Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has felt compelled to go online from his own website to call Trump “without competition” the worst president in American history, one who should be relegated to its dustbin as soon as possible.

Really, the Trump base may ask, “Arnie’s turned on us?!?”

Former California Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has placed the blame for the Jan. 6 attack on the Legislative Branch of government squarely on President Trump’s shoulders.

Yes, despite his success in several science-fiction epochal films, it seems Schwarzenegger has publicly thrown in with a decisive American majority who do believe in facts and scientific inquiry and do NOT believe in “alternate facts”. This is likely a non-evangelical majority that also believes in maintaining the separation of church and state, not permitting any religious group, even the nation’s dominant one, of dictating all Americans’ moral, sexual, or lifestyle choices. And I would suggest, it is a majority that doesn’t arbitrarily dismiss the history of a Trump presidency marked by a daily accumulation of documentable “false or misleading claims” now chronicled by “Fact Checker” on the Washington Post website at over 20,000, what some less kind might term, “lies” told by the president in office.

Above, one news source’s appraisal of rioters in possession of a large number of plastic hand restraints used by police in mass arrest situations, as well as rope. The man jumping the barrier is carrying a large number of them in his left hand. Below, plain clothed security personnel with guns drawn as mob tries to break into a secured area barricaded with furniture.

And the anti-Trump voters’ number may be buoyed by others who just believe the president has failed miserably to act proactively to deal with the most dangerous worldwide health crisis in decades, if not a century, directly leading to the death of over 350,000 Americans in one year – over 20% of the world’s Coronavirus pandemic deaths with 4% of the world’s population despite the resources available to the most advanced nation on the planet.

Not everyone in America believes COVID-19 is an international Q-Anon style hoax perpetrated to discredit Donald Trump. – Trust me, for those whose eyes aren’t “wide shut”, he doesn’t need the help.

Not everyone in America believes everything that comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth.

Not everyone in America believes even Republican state officials in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and elsewhere Joe Biden won the popular vote, are traitorous liars because their recounts maintained what their initial counts had shown – Donald Trump lost their state, not by fraud, but rather by a majority of those states’ voters’ awareness of the relentless failures of the Trump presidency. Internationally perhaps most tellingly, America’s distancing itself from the post-World War II Western alliance that has kept post-Soviet Russian expansionism into Europe in check.
I might suggest an alternate Commission or two be formed to those some suggest to chase the election fraud phantom: One to ascertain the psychological makeup of Americans who continue to believe something simply because Donald Trump says it’s true, despite overwhelming evidence reviewed by both Democrat and Republican legislators and judges, that it is not.

And a second to ascertain why the Capitol Police were not more prepared for the right-wing onslaught radical social media sites had been promoting for weeks; and why the necessary federal authority emanating from the Oval Office didn’t deploy D.C. National Guard immediately after the Capitol was breached by a mob disrupting the function of the Legislative Branch of the American government.

(The is the opinion of the writer.)

Above, the president and vice president at a March 2020 COVID conference before the falling out over certification of the election result. First image below, rioters on Wednesday attempted to replace an American flag flying on the Capitol with a Trump flag. Something tells me ANTIFA wouldn’t have risked their lives doing that. And finally, perhaps a hint as to why adequate security for Congress wasn’t in place or dispatched by the president. It was Vice-President Pence who eventually authorized D.C. National Guard’s deployment, which normally rests with the president since D.C. is not a state under gubernatorial authority.

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Attorney request Council’s consideration of memorandum regarding appointment of Jacob Meza

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MEMORANDUM OF LAW IN SUPPORT OF THE TOWN CHARTER

Issue:
Was the appointment of a former councilman, defined by the Town Charter as a municipal officer, four days after he held that same office, unlawful where the same charter prohibits the appointment or election of a member of council to an office under the jurisdiction of the council within one year?

Rule:
“No member of the council of the Town of Front Royal shall be appointed or elected to any office under the jurisdiction of the council while he is a member of the council, or for one year thereafter, except that the council may appoint one of the members of the council as town treasurer with all or any part of the duties, powers, obligations and responsibilities of the town treasurer provided by this act. ” Front Royal Town Charter § 47

Analysis:
Virginia statutory interpretation is governed by the following well-established principle:

If [a statute’s] language is clear and unambiguous, there is no need for construction by the court; the plain meaning and intent of the enactment will be given it. When an enactment is clear and unequivocal, general rules for construction of statutes of doubtful meaning do not apply. Therefore, when the language of an enactment is free from ambiguity, resort to legislative history and extrinsic facts is not permitted because we take the words as written to determine their meaning. And, when an enactment is unambiguous, extrinsic legislative history may not be used to create an ambiguity, and then remove it, where none otherwise exists. Brown v. Lukhard, 229 Va. 316, 321, 330 S.E.2d 84, 87 (1985)(citations omitted).

The phrase, “under the jurisdiction of the council”, in this context clearly and unambiguously refers to and modifies “any office” that the Town Council may appoint or elect.

Town Charter § 6(D) specifically grants the Town Council the jurisdiction to appoint councilman: “The council may fill any vacancy that occurs in the membership of the council for the unexpired term”, provided the appointment is not for one year thereafter holding his office.

In fact, § 9 of Town Charter specifically grants the jurisdiction to the Town Council to fill the vacancy created when a member of council is chosen to serve as mayor. “Should a member of the council be chosen to serve as mayor until the next municipal election such councilman shall be deemed to have surrendered his office as councilman forthwith upon his qualification as mayor and his office of councilman shall thereupon be vacant. The vacancy thereby created in the council shall be filled by the council as provided in § 6 hereof.” (emphasis added).

Section 11 of the Town Charter also makes it clear that the office of councilman is under the jurisdiction of the Town Council where it states, “If any member of the said council shall be voluntarily absent from three regular meetings of the council consecutively, his seat may be deemed vacant by resolution of the council and thereupon his unexpired term shall be filled according to the provisions of this act.” (emphasis added)

Furthermore, the Town Charter grants the Town Council jurisdiction over itself!

‘[E]xcept as prohibited by the Constitution of Virginia or restricted by this charter, the Town of Front Royal shall have and may exercise all municipal powers, functions, rights, privileges and immunities which are now, or may be hereafter, conferred upon or delegated to incorporated towns under the  constitution and laws of Virginia, as fully and completely as if herein enumerated in detail, and no enumeration of particular powers in this charter shall be held exclusive.”  Front Royal Town Charter § 1

The Town Charter specifically creates the Town and enables the Town Council the authority to create its own unique rules and laws that are granted to towns as a whole in Virginia.

Perhaps the most self-evident argument is that IF the appointment of the office of town councilman was NOT under the jurisdiction of the Town Council, we would not be having this discussion because the appointment by the Town Council of a councilman on January 4, 2021, would be null and void because the appointment would be ultra virus, or outside of the jurisdiction, for the Town Council to make such an appointment regardless of the one-year rule.

The only remaining question is whether the position of “town council” is an “office” in the context of Section 47 of the Town Charter. Not only does Section 9 of the Town Charter specifically refer to the “office” as councilman, the Charter defines the councilmen as “officers”:

“The municipal officers of said town shall, beginning with the effective date of this act and thereafter, consist of a mayor, four councilmen, a town manager, a town treasurer, and a town clerk, who shall also serve as the clerk of town council, and such other officers as may be designated by ordinance duly enacted from time to time. The town treasurer may additionally, by ordinance duly enacted, serve as the town’s finance director. Beginning July 1, 1994, and thereafter, the number of councilmen shall be six.” Front Royal Town Charter § 4

The press release of the Town Attorney claiming that Front Royal Town Charter § 47 does not apply to the appointment of councilman because it is found under the caption “Chapter 6 Town Officers” is misplaced. “Captions are intended as mere catchwords to indicate the contents of the subtitles”, Virginia Code § 1-244, Jones v. DCSE, 19 Va. App. 184, 450 S.E.2d 172 (1994). In Foster v. Commonwealth, the Virginia Court of Appeals rejected defendant’s argument that Virginia Code § 18.2-96 did not define “petit larceny” even though the caption to the Virginia Code section specifically stated, “Petit larceny defined ”. 44 Va.App. 574, 606 S.E.2d 518 (2004), affirmed 271 Va 235, 623 S.E.2d 902 (2006).

There is no ambiguity in the phrase, “or for one year thereafter” in the Town Charter. This is a period of time that councilmen are prohibited from appointment or election by the town council to an office under their jurisdiction. Four days is less than one year. The legislative intent, while unnecessary to interpret this section, is furthered by prohibiting a councilman’s appointment within one year of holding the office as councilman by minimizing nepotism and appearances of impropriety. The argument that the statute was only to avoid “double dipping” or a “conflict of interest” is misplaced since there would be no “double dipping” if the councilman is a former councilman. The “conflict of interest” remains applicable due to the recent appointment by his colleagues.

The Town Attorney’s reliance on Virginia Code § 15.2-1535 to assert that there is no time restriction on appointments is misplaced. Virginia Code § 15.2-1535(A) enables appointment to Town Council of a previous Town Council member. This is a correct, but incomplete, statement of law. The Virginia General Assembly permits “a member of a governing body may be named a member of such other boards, commissions, and bodies as may be permitted by general law”. Where the Town Charter precludes appointment for one year after serving as councilman, the Virginia Code does NOT permit appointment by general law. Consequently, the Town’s assertion the Code allows appointment “without any time restrictions” is contradicted by the statute which the Town relies upon.

Conclusion:

Where the appointment of council members is under the jurisdiction of the Front Royal Town Council and the Town Charter specifically precludes appointment or election of a council member to an office under the jurisdiction of the Town Council for one year, except for the office of Town Treasurer, any appointment by the Town Council of a councilman having held the office of  councilman within one year of his appointment would be an ultra virus act, specifically prohibited under the Town Charter, unlawful and null and void. The remedy would be to so find and vacate the appointment by proclamation of the Town Council unless Mr. Meza should decline the appointment. This clear meaning of Section 47 was also followed by former Town Attorneys when former Mayor James Eastham was found ineligible for appointment to the EDA (2009), when Councilman Bret Hrbek was found ineligible for appointment for committee appointment (2011), and when the current Town Attorney distinguished the interim Town Mayor as not a member of Town Council to enable him to serve in the office of interim town manager (2019) within one year after their respective terms of office.

David A. Downes, Esquire
Front Royal, Virginia

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