On January 2nd Judge Bruce D. Albertson filed a written decision on dueling motions in the citizen’s Removal Petition against two Warren County Supervisors not retired or turned out of office in the new year. The Removal Petition targeting the entire elected county board was filed on October 18. However, after retirements and the November Election result only two of the then-sitting supervisors, Happy Creek’s Tony Carter and the Fork District’s Archie Fox who were not up for re-election in 2019, remain impacted by the Removal effort.
Judge Albertson gave the petitioners, now represented by Rockingham County Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Parker (and privately-secured attorney Timothy Johnson), 21 days to file an amended petition; and denied a defense motion seeking dismissal of the Removal Petition against County Supervisors on claims of Legislative Immunity and Separation of Powers.
The court ruled that, “legislative immunity does not apply to exempt the governing bodies of localities when there have been allegations of ‘unauthorized’ appropriation or misappropriation of funds,” continuing to observe that, “In this case embezzlement is the main contention of the petition for removal. Therefore, Respondents (defendants) cannot succeed on a plea of legislative immunity in this case for that reason as well.”
As to the separation of powers argument that the judicial branch of government should not be involved in interfering with the legislative branch process, Judge Albertson split some fine legal and political hairs.
“In this case, if the Court were to find against the Board on all counts and award the full relief sought, no legislative act would occur. The Court would be exercising ‘the essential function of the judiciary – the act of rendering judgement in matters properly before it’ and not ‘the function of statutory enactment, a power unique to the legislative function.”
In prefacing that observation the judge wrote that, “the separation of powers doctrine and legislative immunity are distinct concepts lying with separate entities: the first establishing our form of government and ensuring the protections of the people against aggrandizement leading to tyranny, and the second ensuring the independence of a legislator. One belongs to and is for the benefit of the people while the other belongs to and is for the benefit of the individual legislator.”
So, Judge Albertson appears to be ruling that in cases of alleged misappropriation of public funds, neither the legislative immunity nor separation of powers doctrines can be utilized to protect legislators from legal scrutiny demanded by their constituents.
As to the rewording of the original petition the judge noted that during the December 17 motions hearing both sides agreed that several paragraphs reference “inapplicable statutes” because while Warren County has an elected county board, its legislative-administrative form of government is not categorized as a “county board form of government”.
“As a result, the Petition does not outline a cause of action as currently written with regard to those paragraphs,” the judge wrote, adding that, “The Commonwealth asserts that other statutes and authorities implicitly impose some or all of the duties outlined in Paragraph 3 of the Complaint, so leave to amend is granted.”
So amended to reference the proper codes the Commonwealth asserts will support the Removal Petition’s claims of administrative negligence against county supervisors, it appears the case will continue to revolve around the dueling arguments as to whether the county board of supervisors had the necessary level of direct administrative oversight to stem the alleged activities of former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald through 2018 after alleged “red flags” appeared; and more particularly over the final three-plus months of that year.
Those red flags eventually led the County and EDA Boards to contract a financial fraud investigation into EDA finances in September of 2018. Despite that investigation that zeroed in on the activities of EDA Executive Director McDonald, the Removal Complaint asserts that McDonald’s financial authority was not adequately reined in by either her board of directors or the county supervisors who appoint the EDA board.
Now dismissed criminal misdemeanor charges of misfeasance and nonfeasance against past and current EDA and county board members cited McDonald’s movement of $309,000 of allegedly misdirected EDA assets over the last three-plus months of 2018 as the Cherry Bekaert investigation of EDA finances was under way.
McDonald resigned on December 20, 2018, under increased scrutiny by her board in the wake of closed session reports from contracted forensic auditor Cherry Bekaert regarding McDonald’s use of EDA assets. She has since been named the central of 14 human or business entity defendants in what is now a $21.3 million EDA civil litigation; and has been indicted on 32 financial felony counts related to the Cherry Bekaert findings. However, many involved citizens wonder if the EDA investigation’s focus has been too narrow in determining peripheral accountability.
McDonald and a number of her fellow EDA-related criminal defendants are scheduled to be in court on civil and/or criminal motions hearings Friday, January 10.
Linden resident strikes pedestrian with vehicle, charged with malicious wounding
In the evening hours of May 12, 2020, the Front Royal Police Department responded to the intersection of East Stonewall Drive and Bee Street for a report of a pedestrian struck by a vehicle. The victim, 54-year-old male, Dale Potter, was quickly located by first responding officers and transported by Warren County EMS personnel to Warren Memorial Hospital for initial treatment. Potter was then flown to Winchester Medical Center for treatment of serious but non-life-threatening injuries.
From the initial investigation, it was discovered the victim was intentionally struck by a passenger car driven by Avery Bailey because of a physical altercation in the minutes prior. Bailey, a 21-year-old Linden resident, fled the scene and abandoned the vehicle at an alternate location. The vehicle and Bailey were located shortly thereafter by FRPD with the assistance of the Warren County Sheriff’s Office.
Avery Bailey has been charged with malicious wounding (18.2-51) and was transported to Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren (RSW) Regional Jail where he is currently being held without bond. The court date for this offense is set for June 30, 2020, in Warren County General District Court.
This investigation is on-going and anyone with any further information is asked to contact Detective M.R. Ramey at (540) 636-2208 or by email at email@example.com.
Town Talk: A conversation with Captain Jeff Holzbauer and Lt. Robbie Seal; watch out for scams, counterfeit money
In this Town Talk, we’ll have a conversation with Captain Jeff Holzbauer and Lt. Robbie Seal from the Warren County Sheriff’s Office. Lt. Seal is the Community Resource Officer and Captain Holzbauer is in charge of the Patrol Division. The Warren County Sheriff’s Office Patrol Division has the primary law enforcement responsibilities of providing a wide range of services and to initiate a proactive approach when assisting the community.
Lt Seal brings us information on COVID-19 scams in our community. Captain Holzbauer ask for help from the community on two individuals wanted in connection with passing counterfeit money in the County.
The Sheriff’s Office is looking for the following individuals:
Cyrus Bartholomew Fiel, a 31 years old, white male, 5’10”, 160 lbs, red hair, green eyes. He has multiple warrants out for his arrest: Probation Violation, Dangerous Drugs, Forgery of US Currency.
- Wanted out of Strasburg Police Department for Dangerous Drugs
- Wanted out of Front Royal Police Department for a Probation Violation
- Wanted out of WCSO for Forgery of United States Currency
Fiel and other accomplices have allegedly been making counterfeit United States currency, $10, $20, $50, $100. Two arrests have been made in this case already and more charges are pending.
Lekeshian Jones, 33 years old, black female, 5’3″, 180-200 lbs. She is from the Trenton, NJ area. Jones has been identified as one of two females that passed $760 in counterfeit $20 at Walmart in Front Royal on April 11, 2020.
If you have any information, please contact Investigator J. Seabright firstname.lastname@example.org or call the mail number of the Sheriff’s Office (540) 635-4128
Town Talk is a series on the Royal Examiner where we will introduce you to local entrepreneurs, businesses, non-profit leaders, and political figures who influence Warren County. Topics will be varied but hopefully interesting. If you have an idea, topic, or want to hear from someone in our community, let us know. Send your request to news@RoyalExaminer.com
One vehicle accident downs power lines to Royal Village Wednesday afternoon
The power into Royal Village was interrupted early Wednesday evening as a result of a traffic incident. Town Director of Energy Services David Jenkins responded to Royal Examiner’s request for information on the situation early Thursday morning. Below is the full text of his reply:
“The Energy services department received an online submittal that the power was out in the W 11th St area. a crew was dispatched and upon arrival they found that a vehicle had struck a utility pole that feed’s directly from our Kendrick Lane substation and snapped it off. The crew than began to clear and isolate the primary wire and pole that was on the ground and then proceeded to get the power back on by transferring the loads to another circuit that feeds from our Manassas Avenue substation.
“The pole that was struck also had underground primary feeder attached to it as well. We called in our Public works department for a backhoe to dig up the damaged wire. A contractor for CenturyLink had to be called in to repair the phone lines.
“Power went off at 6:41 pm
“Power back on at 7:27 pm
“Number of customers affected 931”
Information gathered at the scene by Royal Examiner staff indicated the driver of the involved vehicle may have fled the scene on foot.
By late morning Thursday, Front Royal Police Captain Crystal Cline confirmed the arrest of Artavia Michelle Price-Bey for DUI, Property Damage over $1000, and Failure to Maintain Car Insurance, regarding the incident. Price-Bey was transported to RSW Regional Jail and booked into the facility at 9:26 p.m. Wednesday evening. She was released Thursday morning at 11:52 a.m.
Winchester Police on point of carjacking suspect arrest in Front Royal
Prior to 8 a.m., Thursday morning, April 2nd, not far from the Royal Examiner/National Media Services’ Commerce Avenue Front Royal offices, a joint law enforcement operation led by the Winchester City Police Department’s Investigative Unit arrested a suspect on multiple charges in a March 28 incident in the city. Below is the Winchester Police Department’s full press release on its investigation and Thursday morning’s joint-departmental operation:
On April 2, 2020, at approximately 7:15 a.m., the Winchester Police Department (WPD), assisted by other law enforcement agencies, executed a search warrant at 218 East 6th Street in Front Royal, VA following an ongoing investigation into a carjacking in the City of Winchester. As a result of the investigation and search warrant, Diontre Tyrese Bell, 20 years old, of the above address in Front Royal, was arrested and charged with carjacking, robbery, and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
On March 28, 2020, at approximately 12:30 a.m., WPD was alerted to a motor vehicle theft that had just occurred in the 100 blocks of East Pall Mall Street. Upon investigation into the incident, detectives learned that the male victim was standing outside his 1990 Dodge Caravan when he was approached by a group of males. One of the males, later identified as Diontre Bell, grabbed the backpack the victim was wearing and took items including a firearm and keys to the van. Threatening statements were made during the encounter. No injuries were sustained during the incident. The van was later recovered on March 30th, parked and unoccupied, along the roadway in the 1300 block of South Braddock Street.
During the execution of the search warrant, two cell phones were seized and DNA was collected. Bell is being held at the Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren Regional Detention Center without bond. The Winchester Police Department would like to publicly thank the Front Royal Police Department, Warren County Sheriff’s Office and the Northwest Regional Drug Task Force for their assistance in the investigation.
Front Royal man arrested on robbery and weapons charges
Early this morning, D’Andre Lawrence was arrested on felony robbery and weapons charges stemming from an early morning incident at the Blue Ridge Motel. Front Royal Police were called at approximately 1:30am to respond to an alleged robbery that had occurred at the local motel. The victim alleged that two individuals assaulted him and took an undisclosed amount of money and ran in the direction of Massanutten Avenue.
Lawrence was arrested on the mentioned charges and transported to RSW Regional Jail and held without bond. The second individual in this incident was identified as a male juvenile and is wanted for questioning.
Anyone who may have information about this case is asked to please contact Detective Z. King at 540-636-2208 or by email at email@example.com.
Virginia State Police concludes investigation into inmate death at New River Regional Jail
The Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Wytheville Field Office has concluded its investigation into the September 2019 death of an inmate at the New River Valley Regional Jail. The case is closed and no charges will be placed in accordance with the findings of the Office of the Medical Examiner in Roanoke and at the advisement of the City of Radford Commonwealth’s Attorney and Pulaski County Commonwealth’s Attorney.
The investigation was conducted at the request of the New River Valley Regional Jail. On the evening of September 11, 2019, Radford University Police responded to a call at a campus facility concerning Aris Eduardo Lobo-Perez, 18, of Culpeper, Virginia. Police took him into custody shortly before midnight on a charge of public intoxication. As is standard procedure, Lobo-Perez was transported by the arresting agency to New River Valley Regional Jail in Pulaski County.
At approximately 7:20 a.m. on September 12, 2019, jail personnel approached Lobo-Perez to offer him breakfast, which he declined. It was at 7:50 a.m. that jail personnel found Lobo-Perez unresponsive in his cell. Despite the immediate efforts by jail personnel to resuscitate the inmate, Lobo-Perez was declared deceased at the jail. His remains were transported to the Office of the Medical Examiner in Roanoke for examination and autopsy.