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EDA in Focus

Town authorizes new EDA; Chamber as CARES administrator; and FRPD equipment upgrades

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On Monday, July 13, the Front Royal Town Council took several actions, for better or worse, that will shape several key future functions in coming months and years. At the top of the list was second and final reading approval – 4-1, Thompson dissenting as she did at the June 22 first reading – of creation of a new Economic Development Authority solely overseen and funded by the town government and its taxpayers.

The Town will become the first municipality in Virginia to concurrently be a part of two EDA’s. In an unprecedented example of attempting to “have your cake and sue it too”, the Town has maintained its half-century-plus, co-founding membership in the half-century-old joint County-Town EDA while civil litigating for virtually all the money the EDA is trying to recover in its initial $21.3 million civil action against its former executive director and 14 co-defendants accused of conspiring to misdirect or embezzle EDA assets.

The Town’s legal and administrative department heads may now be pondering what’s next after final approval of a new unilateral EDA to counterbalance the one the Town is suing. We know, appointment of a board of directors – they’re volunteers, so that won’t cost anything. Royal Examiner Photos/Roger Bianchini – Royal Examiner Video/Mark Williams

But at least the Town does not have to fund operational costs of the old EDA, as in EDA legal fees to fight the Town litigation, while figuring out where its operational costs for it new unilateral EDA will come from, if not a successful civil litigation against its old EDA. For as previously reported, the County took over the Town’s share of joint EDA operational funding several years ago as part of ongoing negotiations about the double taxation of town citizens. So, while the town government doesn’t have to fund the EDA’s legal defense against it, its citizens do as county taxpayers.

Alright, enough of that dizzying legal scenario.

Also approved Monday were a Fiscal Year-2021 budget amendment authorizing receipt of $1,276,558 of the County’s $3.5 million in CARES (Coronavirus Assistance, Relief Equities and Securities) Act federal funding for COVID-19 relief for private-sector economic losses incurred due to the Coronavirus pandemic emergency management response restrictions; as well as an agreement with the Front Royal-Warren County Chamber of Commerce to manage distribution of the Town’s CARES Act funds.

The amount of money authorized to be put under the Chamber’s control was $1,176,558, $100,000 less than the total amount being transferred to Town control. According to the staff summary, that $100,000 is being put into the General Fund Contingency account to cover “COVID-19 expenses”.

‘How much is that going to cost?’ Lori Cockrell asked of administering $1.2 million of CARES Act federal COVID-19 relief funding received through the County. The interim town manager said costs should be ‘minimal’.

Questioned about those expenses by Councilwoman Lori Athey Cockrell, Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick said those costs were an “unknown” at this time, so no amount was being cited at this point in the process.

However, Tederick said he was “confident” those costs would be “minimal”.

Also approved in a series of 5-0 votes, Holloway absent, as were the CARES Act related items, were three appropriations totaling $256,981.72 for equipment upgrade purchases for the Front Royal Police Department. FRPD Chief Kahle Magalis made a detailed presentation on the need for the equipment upgrades at council’s previous work session.

Those equipment purchase authorizations were:

  • $82,159.72 for a VESTA 911 phone system;
  • $162,000 for replacement of 10 WatchGuard 4Re In-car WIFI camera systems, and 24 VISTA body cameras, and;
  • $12,822 for Avtec-Motorola radio console equipment to replace existing equipment termed at its “end of life” stage of service.

As Chief Magalis told council at his work session presentation, these equipment upgrades are the cost of doing law enforcement work at an optimum of communications efficiency; and self-monitoring standards that protect both the public and the department’s personnel legally.

It’s always good to be packing a little heat when you’re asking this group for a quarter million dollars in operational funding, FRPD Chief Magalis may have been thinking as he dressed for Monday’s meeting.

The agenda summary noted that the Town will pay for the car and body cameras at $32,440 annually over a five-year period. Funding for all three purchases were cited as available through existing FY-2021 FRPD budget line items.

A scheduled Closed Session to discuss unspecified “Personnel” matters was deleted from the agenda at Councilman Meza’s suggestion, due to the absence of one member, Chris Holloway.

Lori Cockrell’s request to then add a Closed Session to discuss the Town’s litigation against the County-Town Economic Development Authority was rejected for not receiving the required unanimous vote to alter the advertised agenda. Councilwoman Letasha Thompson explained she would oppose the addition on the same grounds council had agreed to remove the scheduled Closed Session, Holloway’s absence preventing consideration by the full council.

E.J. Swindell and Jorge Guerrero are recognized by the Town Manager as Town ‘Stars of the Month’ for work ‘above and beyond’ in gathering up wind-blown recycling in the Ay-View Estates subdivision.

The final agenda item was unanimous approval of a Resolution of support for a Town “Employee Appreciation Day” to be this Wednesday, July 15. The resolution cited the ongoing contributions of the Town’s remaining 168 part and full-time employees, particularly during upheavals in normal service resulting from the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic emergency management response. Staff will be honored with a Town-hosted luncheon tomorrow to mark Employee Appreciation Day.

As his children and new chief watch, Scott Baker is introduced and pinned – carefully – by his wife as FRPD’s newest officer. Baker came over from the WC Sheriff’s Office investigations division.

See the staff summaries, discussion and votes on these matters, as well as Stars of the Month Employee recognitions to the Solid Waste Department’s EJ Swindell and Jorge Guerrero for work “above and beyond”; and the departmental “pinning” by his wife, of FRPD’s newest Officer Scott Baker; and public presentations on town road infrastructure/pothole issues (Mike McCool), trash accumulation and overflow at the County Dog Park in town (Betty Showers), and another 2nd Amendment Sanctuary initiative seeking to shield citizens from State-enacted gun laws presented to council (Paul Aldridge) in this Royal Examiner video:

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EDA in Focus

EDA announces pending sale of Baugh Drive warehouse to medical marijuana distributor

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The EDA Board of Directors met in a Special Board meeting this morning. With a unanimous vote on a motion by Greg Harold, seconded by Jim Wolfe, the Board approved a resolution authorizing the Chair and Secretary to sign a Letter Of Intent (LOI) to sell the former Atlantic Skyline Building at 426 Baugh Drive for the full asking price of $5,750,000 to Parallel Virginia, LLC, a pharmaceutical processor of medical cannabis. The sale is contingent upon the conditional approval of the company’s application for a pharmaceutical processor permit in Health Service Area 1 by the Virginia Board of Pharmacy – a decision expected in March 2021. As authorized by law, the Virginia Board of Pharmacy may award conditional approval for only one pharmaceutical processor application in this health service area.

The Commonwealth of Virginia passed legislation approving the production and use of medical cannabis oil in 2018. The legislation established five Health Service Areas with one pharmaceutical processor per area. The Board of Pharmacy has already awarded permits in Areas 2-5. The Area 1 permit reopened for applicants in the fall of 2020.

Parallel Virginia, LLC, if awarded conditional approval, will begin establishing its manufacturing presence in the spring of 2021. This experienced, multi-state operator is already successfully operating in four states – Georgia, Massachusetts, Colorado, and Florida. In addition, the company is currently developing a recently awarded research-focused operation in Pennsylvania in partnership with the University of Pittsburgh.

Parallel has a strong research and development component in every operation and has already signed letters of intent for strategic research and workforce partnerships with several public and private Virginia institutions of higher education.

The company’s industry-leading experience and multi-state success will greatly benefit the Warren County and Front Royal area. In the first five years of operation, they project a capital investment of tens of millions of dollars and the creation of hundreds of jobs.

Virginia law requires doctors who want to write prescriptions for medical cannabis to register with the Board of Pharmacy. Patients prescribed medical cannabis are required to pay an annual fee in addition to the cost of the prescription. The law also limits the number of dispensing facilities within the Health Service Area to five. The company, if selected, will establish its pharmaceutical processor operation at this facility, and has future plans to identify separate, stand-alone dispensing facilities within other localities in HSA 1.

Aerial perspective of the 426 Baugh Dr. warehouse – photo, graphic courtesy of WCEDA

Finally, selling the building will save Warren County taxpayers approximately $25,000 per month, or $300,000 a year, in loan payments, utilities, and insurance costs. It was a priority of the Board to get this building back into the hands of the private sector and back online creating jobs and adding to the economic engine of our community. This prospect will create jobs, generate tax revenue, and develop licensed medicine for patients in need. Doug Parsons, EDA Executive Director noted, “We believe this company is a good fit for our community. They have been thorough, transparent, and accommodating in thinking through their potential presence in Virginia. We appreciate their interest in our community and their commitment to making a lasting, positive impact in our region.”

Also following the closed session, on a motion by Tom Patteson, seconded by Harold, the board unanimously approved a short-term storage lease with Interchange Group for 10,000 square feet of space at 426 Baugh Drive for $4,125 per month.

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EDA in Focus

McDonald bankruptcy hearing draws ‘5th’ pleas on details of alleged 2015 sexual harassment settlement agreement EDA counsel says doesn’t exist

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(Editor/writer’s note: This will be the first installment of an exploration of Jennifer McDonald’s testimony at the first hearing on her bankruptcy filing in the wake of claims made against her in the EDA civil litigation. That litigation accuses the former EDA Executive Director and 23 co-defendants of conspiring to profit from alleged embezzlements and misdirection of over $21 million in EDA assets by McDonald over a period of years. Due to local interest in the EDA case and alleged misdirection of public funds we will explore that testimony in some detail.)

On Friday the 13th of November, creditors including the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority had a first meeting by conference call concerning the bankruptcy filing of former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald. Information concerning McDonald’s bankruptcy claim of a $21-million-dollar debt due to the EDA’s civil litigation against her, versus her claimed assets ($2.48 million personal; $1.4 million MoveOn8 LLC; $76,000 Little Rugratz Daycare LLC property – about $4.6 million total) and current combined monthly income ($3400 versus monthly expenses of $3882.35) were taken under advisement without any rulings on the validity of her bankruptcy filing or requests for exceptions to it.
Among the exceptions being sought are the EDA’s to both McDonald and her real estate LLC MoveOn8’s bankruptcy claims. A first hearing on motions filed during or following the Friday the 13th teleconference meeting is scheduled for December 16 at 10 a.m. That will be an online ZOOM meeting.

EDA headquarters where Jennifer McDonald claims an executed copy of a $6.5 million sexual harassment Voluntary Settlement Agreement with the EDA was left in her office. Royal Examiner File Photos by Roger Bianchini

If motions for exceptions are granted by a bankruptcy judge, certain of McDonald’s assets could be removed from control of the bankruptcy court and remain at issue in the EDA’s now $21-million to $25-million civil actions alleging a McDonald-orchestrated conspiracy to misdirect or embezzle EDA assets to her own and associates’ personal benefit.

$6.5 million settlement claim

In addition to questions surrounding the movement of properties through MoveOn8 and her other, apparently now-defunct real estate LLC, DaBoyz, a prominent topic of discussion last week was McDonald’s claim of a still-owed $6.5 million debt to her by her former employer, the EDA. McDonald cited an out of court “Voluntary Settlement Agreement” regarding a sexual harassment claim related to her job dating to August 2015. Asked by U.S. Attorney Webb King if she had a copy of the August 28, 2015, agreement, McDonald replied “no” that it had been left in her EDA office at the time of her December 2018 termination when she was locked out of her office as it was deemed a potential crime scene. Does the EDA have a copy of the agreement she was then asked?

“They should,” she replied.

Above, then EDA/County Attorney Dan Whitten and EDA Board member and former chairman Greg Drescher on Dec. 20, 2018, as Jennifer McDonald’s office is locked down and remote access to her computer is locked out by WCPS’s IT person Tim Grant, at computer. Below, just under four months later on April 16, 2019, the FBI and VSP seized materials from the still locked down office.

Asked if she had been paid any portion of the settlement amount, McDonald took one of her many Fifth Amendment pleas, reserving her Constitutional right not to self-incriminate. A follow-up question on whether she had ever been written a check by the EDA for a portion of the settlement amount led to a lengthy pause and apparent discussion with her attorney and second consecutive plea of the “Fifth”.

As to compensation from the alleged Settlement Agreement, McDonald did say there was “a list” of ways she could be compensated, including the transfer of real estate and payment of her personal debts. Both methods play into the EDA’s civil litigation against McDonald alleging embezzlement and the misdirection of EDA assets to her personal benefit and that of 23 co-defendants, both human and corporate “people”.

“Did the Warren County IDA (IDA is the acronym for the EDA’s original and often legally referenced name, Industrial Development Authority) transfer any sort of personal property to you?” U.S. attorney King continued in the wake of her claimed “list” of ways she could be compensated for her claimed sexual harassment compensation agreement. “I assert my right pursuant to the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution,” she again replied.

“Under this agreement did the Warren IDA transfer any real property to you or any entity that you controlled?” came the next question. “I assert my right pursuant to the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution,” again came the answer.

“And you claim not to have a copy of this agreement?” U.S. Attorney King pressed McDonald. “I do not have a copy of the fully executed document,” she replied after a brief pause.

“Do you have a copy of the unexecuted document,” King pressed on, adding, “I’m going to note the delay in answering the question again,” inserting into the record another 10-second and counting pause.

That led to McDonald’s civil and past criminal case attorney Peter Greenspun to come on the phone line to say that while he did not represent McDonald in her bankruptcy filing, as her counsel in the civil and any potential criminal cases he was present with her consulting her on her answers in the bankruptcy hearing. “We’ll be back to you in just a short minute,” Greenspun informed the hearing.

Above, Royal Examiner file photo of McDonald on the job in fall of 2018 with board members Greg Drescher and William Biggs backs to camera in foreground, Bruce Drummond across the table and Gray Blanton chairing the EDA board meeting at right; below, McDonald attorney Peter Greenspun.

McDonald’s criminal charges at the state level were dropped due to prosecutorial speedy trial concerns so that they could be re-filed at a later date. The criminal investigation of McDonald and its million-plus pages of related documentation has been turned over to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Western District of Virginia. McDonald’s original civil attorneys from the Berlik Law Firm withdrew from her case after EDA representatives indicated a belief the Berlik firm had been paid, albeit unknowingly by them, with stolen EDA assets; and of introducing what was cited as a forged document by EDA officials into evidence in an early civil case hearing. Greenspun, then representing McDonald in the state criminal cases also took on her civil defense.

As Greenspun and his client’s “short minute” passed, someone came on the conference call line to ask if there was an EDA representative on the line to which current EDA Board member and EDA Executive Committee member Greg Harold replied. Harold was asked if he had seen a copy of the alleged Sexual Harassment Voluntary Settlement Agreement between the previous EDA board and McDonald.

“I have not seen an official copy of the agreement located in the office,” Harold replied. That led Sands-Anderson and EDA civil case lead attorney Cullen Seltzer to introduce himself to the proceeding, after which he addressed the elusive $6.5 million-dollar Voluntary Settlement Agreement.

‘Our … belief no such agreement exists’

“I can represent to the court that we’ve investigated the existence of this agreement. It is our understanding and belief that no such agreement exists,” Seltzer told the hearing. Seltzer then responded to a follow-up question from McDonald creditor Tom Sayre, who has a $20,000 defamation civil judgment against her, as to the thoroughness of the EDA counsel’s search for the alleged sexual harassment agreement documentation.

“Without getting into the particulars or the nature of the inquiry, we’ve made a number of inquiries appropriate to try and determine if any such agreement exists. And we’ve found that it does not,” Seltzer stated, adding that inquiries with “appropriate people who would know” had been made.

McDonald at EDA board meeting with the late Patty Wines chairing.

McDonald did respond to an earlier question as to who had negotiated the Voluntary Settlement Agreement with her, citing then-EDA Board Chair Patricia Wines (deceased) and then-Treasurer William “Billy” Biggs.

McDonald civil, criminal counsel Greenspun then re-entered the conference call fray. (To be continued)

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EDA in Focus

EDA approves grant agreement with Backroom Brewery

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The EDA Board of Directors convened a Special Meeting Thursday morning, October 29. Following a one-and-a-half-hour Closed Session, the Board approved a resolution to approve the Master Agreement between Warren County, the EDA, and Backroom Brewery for an Incentive Grant and Tourism Grant to Backroom Brewery as financial assistance to expand its operations.

The Backroom Brewery is the first farm brewery operation in the state of Virginia and boasts more than 25 unique approved recipes. The EDA is proud to work with Warren County and support this local business. Congratulations to proprietor Billie Clifton and we wish them continued success.

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EDA settles civil claim against McEathron estate for $90,000

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Following an hour-and-thirty-five-minute closed session on a variety of topics that opened its monthly meeting of October 23, the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority Board of Directors approved a motion agreeing to a settlement with the estate of late Warren County Sheriff Daniel McEathron.

The settlement amount agreed upon between the EDA and McEathron’s widow and two adult children is $90,000. McEathron was linked to the EDA financial scandal due to his partnership in former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald’s DaBoyz LLC real estate company. In the EDA’s civil litigation initially filed in March 2019, McDonald is accused, among other things, of unauthorized moving of EDA assets to her own benefit through her real estate companies DaBoyz and MoveOn8. Still Sheriff at the time, McEathron along with McDonald and the two real estate companies, were on the initial list of civil case defendants.

Sheriff Daniel McEathron – File Photo/WCSO website

After taking early retirement effective May 1, 2019, just over a month after being named a co-defendant in the EDA civil litigation, the county’s long-time sheriff was found dead on his Bentonville property 28 days later, May 28, from an apparent suicide. Some questions about the death arose after Sheriff’s Office personnel, ostensibly alerted by McEathron to his planned suicide by phone, removed the body from the scene where it was discovered in proximity to an expended firearm before the Virginia State Police, the EDA criminal case investigating agency, was notified of the death.

On Friday, EDA Asset Committee Chairman Greg Harold, who made the motion to approve, addressed the McEathron Estate settlement prior to the vote.

“Mr. Chairman, I want the community to know that the EDA has negotiated in good faith for this settlement for a long time. This is something that we’ve taken very seriously; this is something that we have called back and forth with, with our attorneys and the estate’s attorneys. While we feel there are certain risks and rewards with these situations, I think the EDA is comfortable at this time that we have done the best that we can for the community and that it’s time to put this matter behind us as the motion is written,” Harold said.

EDA Asset Committee Chair Greg Harold, pictured during Friday’s ZOOM meeting, recounted the process leading to the settlement with the estate of late Sheriff Daniel McEathron. Royal Examiner Photos by Roger Bianchini

Thank you for that,” Board Chairman Jeff Browne responded. There was no other comment prior to the vote on Harold’s motion, seconded by James Wolfe, which then passed by a 4-0 margin of the members remaining after the closed session, the above three and Tom Pattison. Jorie Martin and Melissa Gordon were present for the 8 a.m. convening of the meeting into closed session but had left to other commitments prior to the closed session’s 9:45 a.m. conclusion.

The motion on approval of the settlement read into the record by EDA Administrative Assistant Gretchen Henderson states in part, “Whereas the Front Royal-Warren County EDA has certain claims against Daniel McEathron; Whereas the EDA and McEathron’s heirs desire to resolve any claims that may exist between them; Now therefore be it resolved the chairman and the secretary of the Front Royal-Warren County EDA Board are authorized to enter into an agreement … (with those heirs) for the purposes set forth in this resolution which agreement shall provide for the payment of $90,000 dollars to the EDA …”

The motion adds that if any FOIA request are received by the EDA related to the settlement, McEathron’s widow or her attorneys will receive notice of those requests having been made.

As initially reported by former Royal Examiner Editor Norma Jean Shaw, McEathron and McDonald’s first transaction in DaBoyz dated to October 2016 and the pair purchased a total of $2.8 million of real estate between then and 2019. The LLC was involved in a number of transactions cited in the EDA civil litigation filed to recover allegedly misdirected assets, including a mysterious one in which a property was bought and sold back to the owner a month later at a loss of $600,000.

January 2018 Royal Examiner file photo of Jennifer McDonald in her EDA office displaying tax receipts she said indicated winnings at Charles Town’s Hollywood Casino. Coincidentally, the blue star on her chair is the logo of her favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys from whom the real estate LLC ‘DaBoyz’ name was taken.

A number of McDonald and her two LLC’s existing properties were frozen by the court early in the civil case process. However, civil claims against McDonald assets have been complicated by her recent filing of bankruptcy, which put her assets under control of the Harrisonburg-based bankruptcy court.

The EDA civil litigation has grown to 24 human and business entity co-defendants, with total claims, actual and punitive, of about $25 million dollars. And as previously reported, the Harrisonburg Special Prosecutor’s Office has turned the criminal investigation into the EDA financial scandal over to the U.S. Western District of Virginia federal prosecutor’s office.

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EDA approves short-term lease on Baugh Drive during Strategic Planning weekend meeting

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The EDA Board of Directors met, via Zoom, Friday, and Saturday, October 9-10. There was one item of new business before the board. On a motion by Jorie Martin and seconded by Greg Harold, the Board of Directors unanimously approved a short-term storage lease with ECOMNET for use of 426 Baugh Drive warehouse building.

File photo from October 2019 building tour with EDA.

The remainder of the evening, as well as the full-day Saturday, was devoted to the process of updating the EDA Strategic Plan. The board, along with EDA staff, invited members of the community and Board of Supervisors to share their insights on the role the EDA can play in improving the economic health of and shaping the economic direction of the Front Royal Warren County community.

Attendees included Walt Mabe and Delores Oates, Warren County Board of Supervisors; Ed Daley, Interim County Administrator; Melissa Chapman, President, Ninth Way Solutions; Jeanian Clark, Vice President of Workforce Solutions and Continuing Education, Lord Fairfax Community College; Scott Jenkins, owner of Mountain Home B&B; Chris Laurence, Realtor; Dee Sparger, Outreach Coordinator, Front Royal Presbyterian Church; and Kelly Sprague, owner/manager Blue Wing Frog restaurant.

EDA Board Director Jim Wolfe facilitated the program. The goals of this event were to begin to articulate a vision and mission statement for the EDA, plus develop a list of objectives that the EDA can accomplish within the next five years. While the EDA Board, staff, and participants represented diverse professional backgrounds, all involved share a common passion for this community and a hopeful outlook for the future.

Chair Jeff Browne stated, “A lot of good ideas came out of the sessions that give us terrific ideas to consider as we move forward. There was a strong consensus on important ideas, like Town-County cooperation on a common vision for our community.”

The Board of Directors is proud to have begun this community conversation and look forward to fine-tuning the plan in the coming weeks.

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‘This is BIG’ – EDA Chairman reacts to news feds handling EDA criminal investigations

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At 12:03 p.m., Thursday, October 8, Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority Administrative Assistant Gretchen Henderson forwarded a press release from Rockingham County Commonwealth’s Attorney Marsha Garst to the media regarding the status of her office’s investigation of potential criminal charges related to the EDA financial scandal and resultant civil litigation.

As stated in that release posted on the Royal Examiner website earlier this afternoon, Garst and her appointed EDA prosecutor Michael Parker, a specialist in white-collar crime, came to a decision to hand their investigation over to the Western District of Virginia U.S. Attorney’s office in Harrisonburg in late February of this year.

Both FBI and VSP were on hand for April 16, 2019, removal of evidence from the EDA office regarding alleged embezzlement and asset misdirection by former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald and thus far civilly accused co-conspirators. Royal Examiner Photos by Roger Bianchini

“Our primary goal with the prosecution is to assure a just outcome. Mr. Parker did an excellent job of assessing the case and putting the evidence together. In doing so, it became apparent that federal prosecutors would be able to gain the best outcome,” Garst wrote in her release dated October 7, continuing to note the late February turnover of the case to the federal prosecutor’s office in Harrisonburg.

“It was explained that my office cannot comment on the case further or jeopardize any potential federal prosecution. I want to assure the citizens of Warren County that my office is dedicated to seeing justice done. In light of an ongoing criminal action, I cannot provide any further information,” Garst concluded, referencing further inquiries to Western District U.S. Attorney’s Office Public Affairs Specialist Brian McGinn.

While anticipating a similar reply to Garst’s “no further information” qualifier, Royal Examiner did reach out to the federal prosecutor’s office to see if there were any clues on timelines on decisions that might be made public. And in a very quick reply to our emailed query, McGinn noted as we predicted, “As per DOJ policy, we cannot confirm or deny the existence of an ongoing investigation.”

Perhaps the judicial system is running silent, but deep on the EDA criminal front, like a submarine tracking its prey above the surface.

Garst’s release acknowledging the change in prosecutors from the state to the federal level in the EDA financial scandal criminal investigation over seven months ago comes just nine days after the Front Royal Town Council’s aggressively worded September 28th Resolution “demanding justice” condemning the lack of action on the EDA criminal prosecution front by the Rockingham prosecutor’s office, and Parker in particular.

We contacted the author of that Resolution, Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick who coming out of a meeting had not seen the Garst press release. Informed of its content, Tederick said, “Good news – mission accomplished,” in that a response containing some new information on the EDA criminal investigation’s status had been received.

“I’m sure there’s a rationale and a reason,” he added of the previous silence from the state special prosecutor’s office. “But when the public trust has been violated to this degree, the public deserves some assurance that they are still pursuing the case.”

Tederick noted that confidential information was not being sought in the Town resolution approved by a 5-1 vote, Thompson dissenting, on September 28, just that the case had not gone cold and been abandoned.

As a masked Matt Tederick listens, Lori Athey Cockrell reads a statement into the Sept. 28 council meeting record regarding her perspective on the EDA business at hand.

But as noted in our story “Town targets Special Prosecutor’s Office over EDA prosecution delays” it appears the Town pursued its Resolution initiative without any prior communications with the Rockingham prosecutor’s office.

That apparently was not the case with an inquiry launched by the EDA, according to Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority Board of Directors Chairman Jeff Browne.

Having received Garst’s press release through the EDA, we contacted Browne about it. Browne indicated an EDA inquiry about the criminal case status through the EDA’s civil litigation attorneys was begun about a week before the Town resolution was publicly approved.

Browne said he believed local attorney and “B.E.E.R. Party” principal David Downes launched a separate inquiry to Garst’s office as well. Downes publicly criticized the Town Resolution’s message and tone in public comments at the September 28 council meeting prior to the vote on its approval.

Local defense attorney David Downes was critical of the message delivered by the proposed Town resolution on the pace of EDA criminal prosecutions at the Sept. 28 meeting. He then undertook a different path toward seeking information on the EDA criminal case status.

Contacted about the County’s knowledge of the origins of Garst’s press release, Interim County Administrator Ed Daley said the County had inquired about the status of the Rockingham prosecutor’s EDA investigation through State Senator Mark Obenshain’s office. It was through Obenshain’s office Daley indicated County officials became aware yesterday of Garst’s press release that may have first been circulated locally in the Harrisonburg-Rockingham County area.

Regardless of who, how, or why – the consensus is that the information that the case is active and in federal prosecutors’ hands is welcome.

“This is big – from our standpoint, it is really good news,” EDA Board Chair Browne enthused. “This shows that it is still on prosecutors’ radar. The people of Warren County deserve justice. And we want to see anyone there is evidence of involvement prosecuted for it.”

Of the EDA inquiry, Brown observed that he kept hearing that nothing was going to be done regarding criminal accountability for the at-this-point still alleged criminal misdirection of EDA, County and Town assets – “It made me mad and I wanted to let people know we’re still interested in achieving justice,” Browne said of the impetus for the EDA’s inquiry through its legal counsel to the Rockingham prosecutor’s office.

Some people have been working toward cooperation on the EDA legal front longer than the final weeks before Election Day. Here, newly elected Mayor Tewalt promises cooperation on his part in December 2019, as Jeff Brown, standing in the red shirt, Ed Daley, dark shirt seated left, Supervisors Vice-Chair Cheryl Cullers, behind Tewalt, among others listen. Ten months later have Tewalt’s council colleagues caught up to the idea?

And while the nature of the inquiries may have been different, Browne said he looked at it as a positive that both involved municipalities and the EDA were on the same page in seeking assurances that criminal accountability was still on the legal table at this point.

“We’re in this together, we should be working together,” he said of the Town, County, and EDA.

Perhaps another small step toward increased cooperation, as opposed to increased hostility and litigation, as this community moves forward toward an outcome, if slowly in a complex legal setting.

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Dec 6 all-day
2021 Dare to Dream Enrichment Grant Application @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
Front Royal Women’s Resource Center (FRWRC) Beginning on November 1, 2020, to accept Applications for 2021 DARE TO DREAM GRANTS (Take classes, start a business, purchase a computer, learn a new skill, train for a[...]
11:00 am Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Dec 6 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Enjoy special tours of our Historic Mount Bleak house during this festive season. Visit each of the rooms in this stone manor and discover how the people who called Sky Meadows “home” celebrated the holidays[...]
Dec
13
Sun
all-day 2021 Dare to Dream Enrichment Gr... @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
2021 Dare to Dream Enrichment Gr... @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
Dec 13 all-day
2021 Dare to Dream Enrichment Grant Application @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
Front Royal Women’s Resource Center (FRWRC) Beginning on November 1, 2020, to accept Applications for 2021 DARE TO DREAM GRANTS (Take classes, start a business, purchase a computer, learn a new skill, train for a[...]
11:00 am Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Dec 13 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Enjoy special tours of our Historic Mount Bleak house during this festive season. Visit each of the rooms in this stone manor and discover how the people who called Sky Meadows “home” celebrated the holidays[...]
Dec
19
Sat
11:00 am Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Dec 19 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Holiday House Tours @ Sky Meadows State Park
Enjoy special tours of our Historic Mount Bleak house during this festive season. Visit each of the rooms in this stone manor and discover how the people who called Sky Meadows “home” celebrated the holidays[...]
Dec
20
Sun
all-day 2021 Dare to Dream Enrichment Gr... @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
2021 Dare to Dream Enrichment Gr... @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
Dec 20 all-day
2021 Dare to Dream Enrichment Grant Application @ Front Royal Women’s Resource Center
Front Royal Women’s Resource Center (FRWRC) Beginning on November 1, 2020, to accept Applications for 2021 DARE TO DREAM GRANTS (Take classes, start a business, purchase a computer, learn a new skill, train for a[...]