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Sayre responds to previous ‘Letter to the Editor’ about his running for Supervisor

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Letter to the Editor:

Hammack and Lundberg sound like Lee Berlik, Jennifer McDonald’s attorney, taunting me in court about my “tough questions”.  Then later Berlik and McDonald sued me for $600,000 for going around “town” wherein “Sayre proclaimed to anyone who would listen” spreading McDonald’s crimes. If that case had gone to trial, I sure wish Hammack and Lundberg were on the jury, because they don’t think that I have done a thing even when presented with evidence.

Respectfully yours,

Thomas Sayre
Candidate for Warren County Supervisor, Shenandoah District

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21 years late, 21 million dollars short

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Does history matter? I think it does. And when it comes to the EDA, history can matter very much indeed.

Back in 1998, a local Warren County paper carried my letter criticizing new “secrecy provisions” that the county’s Economic Development Authority had recently adopted. “The EDA’s bunker mentality flies in the face of every tenet of open, honest, and responsible government,” I wrote. “It champions the image of wheeling-and-dealing, behind closed doors, using the public purse and authority to pursue unwritten and often private goals rife with unintended consequences. What are they trying to hide?”

A few days later I received a typewritten, unsigned letter: “Why don’t you mind your own business?” it read – period.

Then our driveway and mailbox were vandalized.

The sheriff’s deputy asked, “Do you have any enemies?”

“How much time do you have,” I laughed (I’ve been in politics for a long time).

Stephen Heavener, the EDA director at the time, sent me a four-page handwritten tirade. “I recommend that you educate yourself on the reality of competitive economic development,” he wrote. Well, I had taught graduate-level courses on the subject, but I was always willing to learn.

So I asked more questions.

What was Mr. Heavener’s bottom line? “Secrecy.” Where was the public oversight the taxpayers were demanding? “We welcome scrutiny,” he wrote. (Really? One provision of the EDA’s new policy went so far as to prohibit the disclosure of “any information not required to be disclosed by the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.” Some “scrutiny”!)

Well, he had private meetings with individual supervisors, he told me.

But secrecy limits scrutiny, so I asked Mr. Heavener about the EDA’s understanding of ethics, as articulated perhaps in its employee handbook. “I have no idea about what you mention concerning ‘the ethical dimensions of the development process,’” he wrote. But he did mention ethics when I suggested that the EDA recruit businesses that might find northern Virginia to be too expensive and lacking in Warren County’s amenities. No way. Our EDA Director considered it “unethical” to recruit from a “nearby community.”

He called that “competitive.”

Fast forward twenty-one years. Mr. Heavener had “no idea” about ethics. Did Jennifer McDonald do any better? And if these two were clueless about the subject, where were our elected officials with fiduciary responsibility over the EDA for 21 years? Did they have “private meetings” with EDA’s directors? Did they ever inquire, publicly or privately, about the “ethical dimensions” of the EDA’s “secret” conduct of its business?

The question is timely. Consider the comments of Board of Supervisors Chairman Daniel Murray regarding the public outrage over the scandal that has made Warren County a national laughing-stock. According to a report by a local NBC affiliate, Murray criticized “the disgraceful behavior of the people in Warren County — false accusations, things that they don’t understand.”

“False accusations”? Well, Mr. Chairman, what accusations are true? And if we don’t “understand things,” do you – and your fellow board members – understand them?

Next: if the Board did “understand things,” why didn’t you take appropriate action instead of, yes, “stonewalling” citizens who demanded you do so?

And if the Board didn’t “understand things,” why didn’t you resign?

Chairman Murray and his colleagues can’t have it both ways. They can’t plead ignorance and still insist that they are competent and should stay in office.

Our Supervisors have proven their incompetence beyond a reasonable doubt. Not only that, the entire Board and its senior staff have signaled truly stunning arrogance in demanding that the taxpayers pay their legal bills, raising future taxes even higher.

What to do now? Clearly the secrecy precedent set by Mr. Heavener and continued by McDonald and the EDA board was accepted as policy by the current and former Supervisors. That policy has allowed what one new EDA board member now calls a “catastrophic failure.”

It’s time for a change. The EDA should be closed down. And whatever entity – if any – takes its place, our elected officials must make sure that it isn’t too secret, too complicated, too sophisticated, or too cumbersome to prevent our elected officials from “understanding things.”

And the Board of Supervisors?

The people of Warren County deserve a government they can trust. And today more than ever, we need one.

We don’t trust this one.

Christopher Manion
Warren County, Virginia

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Pending Front Royal Town Council vote on Crooked Run: Do words matter?

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Timing is everything – it is the same with Tuesday night’s (Nov. 12) anticipated Front Royal Town Council vote on the proposed Crooked Run West development proposal.

This battle has been front page news for several months with no clear resolution by the Council. Indeed, every meeting seems to end up in “let’s push it to next meeting”. That pushing appears to have ended with the November 4th council work session majority consensus being achieved that we “are not interested” in providing water to a primarily residential development outside the town limits.

However, despite no legal or procedural necessity that a vote be taken, a consensus to proceed to a vote for the public record was agreed upon.

The comment to many of his council colleagues made by Mayor-elect Gene Tewalt that “you have not considered the Town water policy” on out of town North Corridor central utility extension; “or the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Warren County on utilities and annexation issues that must be addressed”; let alone the water-sewer utility study that Council has sanctioned that will produce a report in January 2020; or the fact the County hasn’t yet approved the rezoning to facilitate the residential development was well taken.

As one citizen recently said to council on these issues, “Why wait for real information when you can vote based on ignorance of any real facts?”

Front Royal’s then Interim Mayor, now Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick appeared to provide the initial impetus for approval of the Crooked Run West request with his “past Town anti-growth” comments and a concurrent effort to dramatically reduce water and sewer Tap Fees to developers. And the interim mayor appeared to have an initial three to four-person portion of council (Meza, Holloway, Gillespie and …) in agreement.

If we are to believe what a four to five-member portion of council said during last week’s working session, Tuesday night’s vote will be “NO”. At last week’s work session, initially Mr. Tederick, based on comments from members of the Council, pushed for the Town Manager to send Crooked Run West developers Tom Mercuro and Ed Murphy a notice that the Council was not interested in pursuing this effort – a direct reversal from his previous pushes for the effort.

Instead, the decision was suddenly reversed to “Let’s put this on the agenda for our next Town Council meeting for a vote.”

It will be interesting to see what takes place in front of the people of Front Royal who have consistently said NO to this build during meetings. Will the Town Council indeed vote per the words they spoke last week? This goes well with the comments made by Mr. Meza.

At a recent Town Council meeting Councilman Meza decried foul at the amount of criticism that the Council was receiving from the people of Front Royal. He is quoted as saying the “lack of trust and the disrespect is not earned.”

Well Mr. Meza, if this vote keeps in line with the Council’s words from last week’s work session then you and the council will have helped build the respect you demand.

Remember trust is earned. Note Mr. Meza, it was your comment at last week’s work session when you stated “do words really matter” in front of the citizens of Front Royal, which were very surprising in lieu of your recent comments on “we are not crooks.”

Well, that is easily answered with a resounding “YES, words do matter!

Note that Mr. Tederick will not have a vote as he is now the Interim Town Manager.

It is indeed interesting that Mr. Tederick will not have a vote on this issue as his knowledge of commercial and residential development appears to be above others on the council. Although his knowledge was somewhat lacking in truly understanding what needed to be done by the Council to move this proposal forward. If you visit the following website, www.1839capital.com/executive-bios, Mr. Tederick’s bio is rather amazing and shows him as President of a firm called 1839 Capital.

I will skip the front part of his bio as it is the same as in the Front Royal official website. Later in the description of Mr. Tederick, it states:

“After military service he owned a multi-office investment advisory firm which he sold after 20 years in operation. Utilizing his governmental, real estate, and investment knowledge, Mr. Tederick developed a thriving business solving complex problems for national residential and commercial construction entitles in several states. In many cases, Mr. Tederick led the entitlement team consisting of attorneys, engineers, and architects in order to accomplish client objectives. Mr. Tederick spearheaded over 35 projects ranging from single parcel to 1,500 acres, mixed use (residential, commercial, industrial, institutional) developments.”

It should also be noted the 1839 Capital (out of Alexandria, VA) did not file for their United States SEC filing until August 9th of 2019 right in the middle of Mr. Tederick’s service as Interim Mayor – somewhat strange timing. You should also note if you look at the complete request in the website (Section 4), the firm’s areas of expertise is in real estate development.

Like I said at the start, it’s all about timing!

Simon Mays
Front Royal, Virginia

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Public Virtue

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historically speaking

The men who gathered in that blistering humid room in Philadelphia in 1787 to create our governing document did not represent a cross section of the American population. Unlike most Americans, they were wealthy lawyers and planters and most were extremely well-educated. Though they may not have all attended universities, they were well read in history and political philosophy. We know the major influences of men like Locke and Montesquieu upon our governing documents, but we know little today of James Harrington.

All of the founders were familiar with Harrington.  His writing was the inspiration for the original South Carolina government and in many ways also on the Constitution. If we want to try to understand the thinking behind the Constitution, and make better historical arguments, it is helpful to know what inspired the men who wrote it.

Writing during the rule of Oliver Cromwell, Harrington described the fictional utopian nation of Oceana. The Commonwealth of Oceana, like all utopian novels, was meant to shed light on the author’s own government and its shortcomings. Harrington criticized Cromwell, thinly veiled as Olphaus Megaletor in the tract, and served time in the Tower for his criticism. Harrington believed that all political power should be shared by men of property and that property should be distributed amongst the middle class, a concept shared later by Thomas Jefferson. Harrington believed that these property holders should vote for senators who serve limited terms so all could take turns in governing. Like most political philosophers of the time, Harrington saw these men as those who had a stake in society and so should hold the power. Power should also be held in a bicameral legislature, with a lesser and greater house making the laws.

The key to freedom for Harrington was that the property holding citizens had an obligation to serve in the militia. Under the Cromwell rule, the army had become a tool for tyranny. Not being property holders themselves, Cromwell’s solders did not have a stake in society and cared little for the rights of the people. They had become professional soldiers, whose only loyalty was to Cromwell.

If the property holding citizens were the militia, he believed, they would not drain the purse. More importantly, they would be the ones who ruled. If they attacked the system, they would only be attacking the system that placed them in power. In other words, a standing army can lead to tyranny, whereas an armed citizenry of stakeholders leads to democracy.

Another author every founder knew was Thomas Gordon who wrote under the name “Cato.” The original Cato was a Roman Senator who stood against Caesar and was a popular pen name for anyone representing republicanism. In his 1722 Cato Letter #65, Gordon wrote, “In attacks upon a free state, every man will fight to defend it, because every man has something to defend in it. He is in love with his condition, his ease, and property, and will venture his life rather than lose them; because with them he loses all the blessings of life. When these blessings are gone, it is madness to think that any man will spill his blood for him who took them away, and is doubtless his enemy, though he may call himself his prince. It is much more natural to wish his destruction, and help to procure it.”

Harrington understood there would always be those who tried to take advantage of the stakeholders, like Cromwell, who wanted to take power. The answer was for stakeholders to practice public virtue, the ability to look beyond themselves for the good of the state. As we see from Cato, virtuous citizens must be willing to lose their lives for the good of the state.

You can see the influence of Harrington and Gordon in the creation of the Bill of Rights. They both saw a standing army as a potential for tyranny, hence, the Second Amendment. I am not trying to make an argument for or against gun control here, only to show the influences on the founders and their points of view.

What can be drawn from understanding men like Harrington is the concept of virtue. There have been so many arguments as to why we are so divided today and why there are so many issues such as random violence. I have heard blame placed on a loss of God, a growth in white supremacy, the NRA, and violent video games. Maybe what we have really lost is public virtue. Maybe what we have lost is the willingness to give our lives for what we believe in and to put public virtue before ourselves. Historically speaking, Oceana may be a fictional nation, but maybe Harrington understood something. If we could ever bring back the notion of public virtue, maybe we could attack the causes of our divide instead of always having to fix the consequences.


Dr. James Finck is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. Follow Historically Speaking at www.Historicallyspeaking.blog or Facebook at @jamesWfinck.

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Retired Marines support Walt Mabe for Supervisor

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Dear editor,

A big reason that Tom Sayre doesn’t deserve reelection on November 5th is that the doesn’t back up with his “accomplishments” as a Front Royal Town Councilman for eight years (2006-2014) and a member of the Warren County Board of Supervisors for four years (2016-2019) with facts.

Are we expected to simply take him at his word without any back up? Isn’t this what got us into the EDA mess in the first place?

Mr. Sayre, you present no dates, times, and locations of actions — that you initiated — that would have prevented one of the biggest scandals in the history of Virginia from occurring. You simply makes claims.

We’ve had enough of the current Board of Supervisors lack of integrity, credibility, courage, and leadership! We are tired and angry. We want a clean sweep of all local government officials.

That includes Mr. Sayre. We no longer want to be the laughing stock of the state — or the nation!

Here’s an example of Mr. Sayre’s lack of credibility. It is based on his personal Facebook page entry dated October 8, 2019:”

  • Mr. Sayre state: “As a freshman supervisor [2016], the now notorious long-standing corruption related to the EDA broke-open and I played a big roll in exposing the rogue EDA director.” Then says, “I played a significant part in putting pressure on people to look at her actions and involve the Virginia State Police.”
  • Mr. Sayre, where are the details of this pressure you put on people? Where, when, and with whom did you meet? Where, when, and with whom did you make telephone calls? What actions did you initiate? Most importantly, what were the results? Mr. Sayre also states in his October 8th Facebook post, “I became aware of irregularities in the work force housing issue and held open meetings questioning Jennifer McDonald.”
  • Mr. Sayre, Where and when were the meetings held? Were the meetings advertised to the public?
  • How many constituents attended?
  • Were any media present?
  • The truth is these “open meetings” were never held according to all available evidence.

Here’s another example of Mr. Sayre’s lack of integrity and credibility:

It’s common knowledge that the first red flags that something was amiss with Jennifer McDonald and the EDA were raised in November 2016 — not by Mr. Sayre — but by Front Royal Councilwoman Bebhinn Egger. For months, after Bebhinn raised the red flags, Mr. Sayre and the Board of Supervisors did nothing of substance while the scandal spun out of control. Now, three years later, Mr. Sayre is shamelessly trying to take credit for what Bebhinn did. It’s a blatant and brazen misrepresentation of what really occurred.

Also, note that when Bebhinn voiced her concerns in November 2016, she was roundly mocked, derided, and belittled by fellow town council members. Why didn’t Mr. Sayre and Board of Supervisors — which appointed the EDA and had the ability to dismiss them at any time for any reason — come to her defense? Why were they so silent about the debacle?

The stonewalling was nothing but contempt for the truth and the people of Warren County.

Also, in a letter-to-the-editor in the Royal Examiner on October 14th, 2019, “I never claimed to have made a motion in open session to conduct a forensic audit. To do so before criminal charges are placed would have told the people who were subsequently arrested that we were on to them.”

Yet, six months earlier in an article in the Northern Virginia Daily dated April 11, 2019, journalist Josh Gulley wrote, “Sayre said he and supervisor Archie Fox wanted the board to approve a Virginia State Police investigation into the EDA in 2017 — but they were voted down in a closed session.”

Mr. Sayre, had this supposed motion been passed, wouldn’t it have had the same affect?  Wouldn’t it have “told the people who were subsequently arrested that we were on to them?”

Also, if the EDA irregularities were important for you and Archie Fox to want the Virginia State Police to investigate, why were you absolutely silent after this supposed vote went against you? A good leader would have held open public meetings, conducted press conferences, and written “open letters” to the media and government officials to express EDA concerns to the public. Mr. Sayre, you did none of these things.

In the same April 11th Northern Virginia Daily article, Paul Gabbert asked Mr. Sayre:

  • “You say you wanted a special investigation. Couldn’t you have gone further if you knew what was happening… Couldn’t you have gone further to the public?”
  • Sayre said: “I was doing what I could do” and “I was letting people know” but “it fell on deaf ears.”
  • Mr. Sayre, this is such a weak response. To whom did you speak? Who refused to listen? Most importantly, what did you do after your efforts “fell on deaf ears”?

Two final items on Mr. Sayre’s credibility and courage:

1. On October 25th, 2019 — just over a week ago — Mr. Sayre caved shamefully and voted with the other supervisors to use taxpayer’s money to fund defenses against the recently-filed removal petition — after pledging earlier in the month to pay for his own defense against charges of misfeasance and nonfeasance. How convenient again that the charges were dropped on a technicality and Mr. Sayre will not have to answer the question.

2. Why did Mr. Sayre refuse the invitation from Walt Mabe — his opponent in the current campaign for the Board of Supervisors — to debate the EDA scandal and other issues during the closing days of the campaign? The offer was mad by Mr. Mabe in an October 21st letter-to-the editor of the Royal Examiner. A real leader would have welcomed Mr. Mabe’s challenge. We believe the real reason Mr. Sayre ignored the challenge is that he doesn’t have a public record he can defend.

On November 5th, the voters of Warren County will have a chance to vote Mr. Sayre out of office — and begin the healing of our badly fractured county. Let’s give Walt Mabe a big win on November 5th.

Sincerely,

Bill Hammack, retired U.S. Marine Corps colonel, campaign manager for Walt Mabe
John Lundberg, retired U.S. Army colonel, assistant campaign manager for Walt Mabe

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Criminal-justice professional supports Tom Sayre for Supervisor

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Dear Editor,

As a criminal-justice professional of over twenty years’ experience, I have come to understand that three types of individuals inhabit most communities – a relatively small number who cannot follow the rules, the many who obey the letter of the law, and those few who serve others. Without question, my County Supervisor, Tom Sayre, falls into the third category.

Whether he is working on a simple issue, such as the improvement of rural roadways, or striving to shed light on a complex matter, such as the EDA scandal, Tom Sayre brings ability, real-world practicality, and rock-solid integrity to the job.

Although I cannot begin to comprehend what could have possibly motivated either the Commonwealth’s Attorney, or a Grand Jury of Warren County Citizens, to have pursued and returned plainly capricious indictments of Tom Sayre, my faith in our system of government has been reinvigorated by his recent exoneration within a local court of law. No one has made a greater effort than Tom Sayre to see that justice is done where this EDA matter is concerned.

On Tuesday November 5, Tom Sayre will have my vote, and the votes of like-minded members of our community.

Thomas A. Quinn
Front Royal, Virginia

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College student supports Delores Oates for Supervisor

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Local politics has again brought out the very worst in people.

That being said, going into tomorrow I did have a few thoughts for everyone back home. The British historian Lord Acton famously declared that “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The people of Warren County have learned that small-time county bureaucrats are not immune from this. The American experiment is unique in its attempts to curb the abuses of power through its constitutional architecture. In addition to utilizing elaborate systems of checks and balances, good government demands good character. That is why I hope you will support Delores Riley Oates for the Warren County Board of Supervisors.

I have had the great pleasure of knowing Delores for the past ten years. I first met her when she was the sponsor of the Warren County Teen Republican Committee. Following her political activism in the community she has invested time and effort in Young Lives, a group committed to providing support for teenage parents. To state what is obvious to everyone who knows her, Delores cares about the people of Warren County, and repeatedly demonstrates this through leadership by example.

Like President Calvin Coolidge, Delores is committed to first principles, “that the people should manage their government, and not be managed by it.” She will bring a healthy dose of skepticism to local government, and has the strength of character to demand accountability when and where it is necessary. The people of North River will be fortunate of have Delores Oates as their supervisor.

Devon Downes
Hillsdale College

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