It seems the $24,500 the Front Royal Town Council spent to have a private-sector executive search firm seek out qualified municipal management candidates has been taxpayer money thus far ill spent.
That is because from an initial field of 49 candidates assembled by executive search firm Baker-Tilly since they were contracted on February 13, none survived the initial selection process. As previously reported by Royal Examiner, two final candidates chosen from that field of 49, were brought into town for face-to-face interviews last week.
It appears neither was found acceptable to a majority of the Town’s elected officials – though it may have been a close call on one, according to Vice-Mayor Bill Sealock. Sealock serves as council liaison to the executive “headhunting” firm as some, including the vice mayor, colloquially call such executive “hunt” professionals. However, it appears a council majority of four rejected the preferred of the two final candidates as not bringing quite enough to the table to replace Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick on a permanent basis.
“One had a poor interview,” Sealock observed, adding that while the other candidate had “a great resume” and was generally “liked” by all his council colleagues, was found by that majority to not have the necessary intangibles for the job. The primary intangible may have been age, as in the early ’30s being too young or not allowing for sufficient experience in municipal management.
“I could have voted yes; I think two, maybe a third could have,” Sealock said without naming names, “I really wanted to meet that 90-day time-frame,” the vice mayor added of making the choice by the end of the Fiscal Year 2020. However, with the potential of throwing a deciding vote Mayor Gene Tewalt’s way for an almost sure deciding 4-3 vote in favor of replacing Tederick at the helm of the town administration, any potential 3-3 tie evaporated.
“We didn’t want to do that,” Vice-Mayor Sealock said of having the mayor, rather than council have the final word on the decision.
Of the town manager search and restart of that process in the wake of the early July failure to make an appointment after a three to five-month process, Sealock said executive search consultant Baker-Tilly had informed him that “a couple” in the initial pool of candidates might re-apply.
Over half withdrew from consideration
Of the 49 original candidates provided by Baker-Tilly, Sealock said that 27 had dropped out, taking the field to 22. Those 22 were narrowed by council to a pool of nine, which jumped to 11 with two late additions. Council then narrowed the finalists down to three, one of whom removed them-self from consideration, leading to the final two candidates being brought in last week.
Sealock noted that part of the Baker-Tilly contract states that if an appointment is made and that appointee is terminated with cause within two years, Baker-Tilly will be responsible to assist in a new town manager candidate search at no additional cost to the original contract.
So, a young, likable candidate with a “great” resume – what have you got to lose?!?
Of on-the-street “conspiracy theories” that the consultant search is more show than substance, and that Tederick will eventually be offered the job on a permanent basis by his council and County Republican Committee allies, Sealock pooh-poohed that notion.
“I talked to Matt this morning (Thursday, July 9) and he’s not interested in the job permanently. Could we hire him under other circumstances? – Yes, but he’s not interested. He’s done an exceptional job. No one else could have come in and been dead on, on services like he has,” Sealock observed.
If lauded inside Town Hall for his job as interim town manager, Tederick has drawn some pointed public criticism, including from council candidates Bruce Rappaport and Betty Showers. Most prominently that public criticism has focused on two council decisions many see the interim town manager’s influence on the front end of.
One was Tederick’s late January 2020 dis-assembling of the Town Tourism Marketing function in the wake of the firing of five department heads, as part of his FY-2021 town budget preparation and plan to downsize or “right-size” as he termed it, the town governmental function in favor of private-sector outsourcing.
The second was the decision to sue the existing Town-County EDA and apply to the state government for authority to become the first municipality in Virginia to be allowed to create a second Economic Development Authority while technically remaining a part of the existing EDA it has chosen to litigate against, rather than negotiate with to reach a mutually satisfactory resolution on any misdirected assets from the previous EDA Administration’s financial scandal.
For a council and interim town manager focused on reduced governmental costs, many have questioned the long-term financial impacts on town taxpayers of those two decisions.
Also as reported last week, Tederick’s contract as interim town manager was extended on a monthly basis past its June 30 end of the fiscal year term, as well as adjusted to a less complicated legally, personal rather than LLC hire, as council ponders life without its interim man.
As readers will recall, council first appointed Tederick interim mayor in the wake of Mayor Hollis Tharpe’s April, effective May, 2019 resignation to deal with legal issues.
Contacted by phone shortly before publication Friday, Tederick confirmed Sealock’s perception and reinforced his own previous comments that he is not interested in, and will not seek the town manager’s job on a permanent basis. He noted that restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic response delayed planned business activities on his part, allowing him to continue in the interim role longer than he might have.
“But there will be a time when I’ll have to say ‘I have to move on’. So, I’m hoping to see this resolved in the next two to three months … There was a lot of time invested in this process. Both of those final candidates were brought in for 11-hour days around their interviews,” Tederick observed of the conclusion of a five-month process since Baker-Tilly was contracted by the Town.
Tederick noted that he was not in the room for the town manager candidate interviews, nor was he privy to details of those interviews. However, as to the observation about “age” being a determining factor in the rejection of the stronger of the two candidates interviewed last week, Tederick suggested perhaps limited “experience” as a preferable choice of words.
Attempts to reach other council members and the mayor for comment on this story were unsuccessful over a two-day period prior to publication.
County Emergency Services and Sheriff talk equipment and personnel costs
Money, law enforcement, and emergency services were at the forefront of an eight-item work session agenda of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, Tuesday night, August 11.
First up was good news from County Fire & Rescue. That news was the receipt of a federal FEMA grant in the amount of $725,454.55 to achieve a total of $854,427 for state-of-the-art breathing apparatuses for department personnel responding to fire and other emergency situations where not only smoke, but contaminated air may be an issue.
And while a local match of $128,972.47 will be required for the full purchase of 114 SCBA units and a total of what appeared to be 428 associated pieces of associated equipment, as noted in earlier discussion of the grant application process, the department was facing the necessity of acquiring the equipment in order to maintain certified safety standards to replace now obsolete and dysfunctional equipment with an approximate million-dollar price tag on it.
So Emergency Services Chief Richard Mabie and Fire Marshal Gerry Maiatico, along with the supervisors, gave a BIG shout out to County Grant Facilitator Brandi Rosser for her work in acquiring the grant funding for the County.
The variety of equipment, some of which was on display before and during the work session, and financial variables were dizzying as outlined in a power-point handout. However, the bottom line was simple as Board Vice-Chair and expenditure “conscience” Cheryl Cullers pointed out in citing the difference between $128,000 and a million dollars to become industry-standard compliant in equipping the County’s emergency service personnel adequately to perform their crucial function to this community.
“I just want to say thank you again to Ms. Rosser and you guys … for all the work. This is a big relief,” Cullers said.
To accommodate an August 30 deadline for official acceptance of the grant, the matter was placed on the August 18th meeting agenda for board approval.
Following two reports by Zoning Administrator Joe Petty on suggested adjustments to county codes on first, storage of inoperable recreational vehicles and other equipment and then on regulations of signage, including political, to accommodate a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision concerning signage content, it was Sheriff Mark Butler’s turn to address operational costs, but this time without the assistance of federal money.
Sheriff Butler implored the supervisors to provide the necessary funding, cited at a total of $130,000, to allow his communications staff to be expanded by two positions and that his existing staff be given a two-step pay increase.
It would be an increase that would allow communications or dispatch, staff to be paid at least as well as Butler noted recent local classified ads indicated, a “Sheetz clerk with no experience” at clerking, much less at the crucial law enforcement job of fielding citizen calls in often stressful situations and directing field officers into potentially volatile or life-saving situations.
The sheriff also pointed to impacts on his communications department, which he noted handles all 911 calls for the county, from the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic.
“COVID has definitely changed the way we do things. The problem with communications is you have an area where so many people are sitting right on top of each other. So, if one person comes in ah, symptomatic, they’re gone for three days because we don’t do tests. So that really shook us so bad that we can’t man our staff, that we took deputies off the street to man communications,” the sheriff noted of a personnel juggling act that ensued.
As for existing communications staff salaries, Sheriff Butler said, “These individuals are trained to actually handle these calls. So, we want the best communications officers we can find. Well, if I go through the pay scale it would shock you to hear that someone with six years in our agency and considered one of our best communications officers, makes about $33,000 a year.”
The agenda summary accompanying Butler’s request stated that “the average dispatcher makes $15 an hour which is the same as minimum wage in most states”. Butler asked the board to raise the pay step for dispatch officers from 5 to 7 at a maximum annual budget hike of $30,000 per year. Butler said that increase would make his department competitive with surrounding jurisdictions, most prominently Front Royal and Fauquier County.
The two additional, full-time positions were requested at a maximum annual budget increase of $100,000.
“I’d love to have four, but I need two,” Butler told the supervisors of the request for additional staffing. “I’m not asking you to break the bank – I’m saying pay them more than the starting salary at Sheetz,” the sheriff reasoned.
With an already packed, 10-public hearing August 18 meeting agenda, the board agrees to forward the request to its September 1st agenda.
See these discussions, as well as Zoning Administrator Petty’s two ordinance amendment summaries and end of meeting board discussions of a list of 40 “goals” and creation of a committee to deal with countywide broadband communications issues in this Royal Examiner video:
Redundant or not, council moves toward approval of new gun carrying resolution
At Monday’s work session following its August 10th regular meeting, council, the mayor and staff went round and round, not over the advisability of approving a new 2nd Amendment Resolution that would essentially continue a generally unknown lack of any ordinance ban on the carrying of firearms in municipal buildings, offices or public spaces utilized for special events or festivals, but over its redundancy.
According to a summary by Town Attorney Doug Napier, that redundancy is two-fold: first, in that there is no current town code prohibiting such legal concealed or open carrying of firearms into Town public spaces; and second, that following County approval in December 2019, in February the Town passed a “2nd Amendment Sanctuary Resolution” indicating the intent of not prohibiting a very broad interpretation of the 2nd Amendment right to not only own guns without a background check and red flag law prohibitions, but to bear firearms as a gun owner sees fit to.
The impetus for the new resolution request submitted by Paul Aldrich last month was the enactment of new state legislation passed by the Democratic Virginia General Assembly majority, that went into effect July 1. As previously reported, that legislation for the most part bans the carrying of firearms into state government facilities, offices, meetings, and spaces and allows municipalities to follow suit if they see fit.
“Before then, they never really said what localities could do other than that localities can’t pass laws other than what the General Assembly told them they could do – they didn’t really tell localities what they could or couldn’t do,” Napier explained of the nuances of a Dillon Rule state where local governmental entities cannot enact laws not enabled by existing state law.
However, he continued to describe a previous “mish-mash of laws all around the state” further noting that he and Front Royal Police Chief Kahle Magalis, who was present as meeting security, recalled that some time ago both Warren County and Front Royal had posted “No Firearms Allowed” signs in their government buildings – “But that was quite a while ago,” Napier observed.
During previous council discussion Napier had observed that most people locally believed a firearms ban in local government facilities still existed, as they do at the Warren County Courthouse which has a heavy security-check presence of Sheriff’s Office bailiffs at a metal-detecting single building entrance with no weapons of any kind being allowed in.
No question was raised whether that ongoing courthouse ban could be considered a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s 2nd Amendment right to bear arms, a seemingly logical conclusion of the stance there can be no legal state or municipal limiting of that federal Constitutional right to own and bear arms.
There was also no discussion of the potential such firearms reinforcing action might negatively impact community tourism if it becomes widely known among citizens with public safety concerns about random or directed mass shooting violence, that the Town of Front Royal has endorsed the carrying of firearms in public spaces and at events without any regulation. – But who wants those worrisome, liberal Northern Virginia tourists anyway, right?
Be that as it may, the issue was raised why pass a resolution of legislative intent, that Napier explained carries no legal weight, that essentially reinforces an existing situation?
Councilman Gary Gillespie asked if approved, would this council’s resolution limit the ability of future councils to take a different stance.
The answer was “no”.
Gillespie then observed that he believed the initially approved resolution from February was “stronger” than the one now on the table.
Queried on redundancy or the relative merits of the previously approved and newly submitted 2nd Amendment resolutions, Aldrich replied, “The resolution I put forward to you was brought forth by the lawyers at the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL). It was brought forth to prevent, not only current, but future,” here Aldrich hesitated before observing his awareness of the changing face of elected bodies, before trying to draw a line between his previous, now approved resolution, and the one on the table about carrying in government spaces.
“The 2nd Amendment Sanctuary Resolution assures us that you will not enforce unconstitutional laws. This resolution puts forward that you will not enact any laws within the town that restricts.
It’s slightly different … enforcement versus enactment,” Aldrich assured the town’s elected officials.
While Aldrich admitted a future council as may be seated next year after the November election, could overturn this council’s action on the resolution, but still urged it be moved forward as suggested by VCDL attorneys.
“It was put forth with the intent of challenging anything that goes through the state legislature,” Aldrich explained of the adversarial relationship that has grown between the Democratic-controlled legislature and the VCDL and its membership.
“Our problem is we have an attorney and chief of police who say we really don’t need it,” Mayor Tewalt pointed out.
“I don’t think it would hurt to pass it anyway – why don’t we just go ahead and put it on the agenda and vote on it. It’s not going to hurt anything,” council’s man who would be mayor-elect as of the November election, Chris Holloway, offered.
Others agreed and the consensus was to move toward a vote at the upcoming council meeting.
Watch the Royal Examiner video of this discussion in its entirety, and other work session discussion, including agreeing to remove the electric car charger in the Village Commons/Town Gazebo area, which is experiencing software issues and appears to be down to one regular customer at taxpayer expense with other chargers now available in the community, Electric Department Director David Jenkins explained to council; Finance Director B. J. Wilson’s FY-21 Revenue report update; and the makeup of and a vacancy on the planning commission, prior to council’s adjournment to closed session to discuss its pending litigation with the EDA:
Wait, where am I? A radical change of Town tone and focus 2 weeks later
Following Town Attorney Doug Napier’s reading of the Roberts Rules of Order conditions on public and member conduct in critiquing proposed municipal business and actions, the August 10th Public Comments period and consequent staff and board reports went surprisingly smoothly. Gone was the staff report political posturing of July 27th and mayoral-council infighting over that posturing. In fact, one member, Thompson, would later apologize for her role in the previous meeting’s back and forth.
But even more surprising was council Virginia Beer Museum “family values” critic Jacob Meza’s expression of common ground with Beer Museum proprietor and local attorney David Downes’ remarks to council. Of course, those remarks did not involve events at the Beer Museum, but rather Downes plea that the Town partner with him as a local criminal defense attorney, as well as with Town and County law enforcement and the judicial system in creating a more proactive safety net for opioid drug addiction in this community.
“We are dying in this town – I’m not referring to COVID where we’ve lost seven members of the community; I’m referring to at least 13 drug overdose deaths in Warren County this year alone,” Downes began, pointing to a total of 68 overdose calls reported to the regional joint drug task force, “20 in April alone,” he added, citing 25 defendants and over half a local court docket devoted to “drug-related charges”.
Downes bemoaned that fact that unlike the governmental COVID-19 pandemic reaction of emergency response planning, direction and precautionary guidelines at the state and local levels, no such commitment has been made in this community to an epidemic that has claimed twice the number of lives as the 2019 strain of Coronavirus for which millions of dollars of federal, state-administered aid is being made available.
Noting the current public focus on “marches, protests, petitions, referendums” Downes continued, “So, I must ask, do drug addict’s lives matter?
“I am here asking for your help before another 13 families” he hesitated, choking back emotion momentarily before continuing, “lose a loved one.”
Pointing to the closest drug detox center he said was in Galax, 250 miles away, Downes urged a commitment to bring such professionally administered treatment options to our community. Pretending the issue can’t or won’t ever reach you or your family or friend circles is no longer an option, Downes told council.
And some 20 minutes later, the meeting microphone went to Councilman Meza’s member’s report.
“I’d like to thank Mr. Downes for bringing up the drug epidemic. You know I’ve been on the planning commission and town council now for almost five-and-a-half years, and it’s something that I’ve heard discussion about but have yet to see any major initiatives taken, undertaken (stick with the first one in this context, Jake) in this community between both governing bodies and our law enforcement and community members. And I think there is a real opportunity for such committees to exist – 250 miles away is a long way, in addition to the drug epidemic and finding the resources available for those individuals.
“Behavioral health is another issue that our community faces and it faces the same statistical challenge of being about 200, 250 miles away for major centers of help. These are very important things that cripple citizens of our community,” the Valley Health administrative professional observed. “And I would be happy to have those discussions, with Mr. Downes and our law enforcement leaders on how we can work together and figure out a way to establish resources. Because it is an epidemic and it’s something that’s going to be tearing apart this town slowly but surely if we don’t get a handle on it.”
Okay, I am in “The Twilight Zone” right?
Setting an example
Talk about “Front Royal Unites”!! – Common cause between David Downes and Jacob Meza to a common good for this community? – Slap me hard (figuratively, not literally), and not with the butt of that gun council appears poised to resolve publicly that you are now going to be told you can openly carry into any Town office, meeting or public property festivals or events (see coming related story on Monday’s work session 2nd Amendment Resolution discussion).
Maybe there actually is the hope of compromises to positive community-wide ends in Front Royal and Warren County. If Jacob Meza and David Downes can substantively cooperate toward a common good – don’t drop the ball, guys – why can’t the rest of us on other issues of import to us all?
Watch this unexpected meeting of the minds on a crucial issue to this community – perhaps even more crucial than bikini-clad girls washing motorcycles behind the Virginia Beer Museum’s 6-foot Biergarten privacy fence and about nine parking spaces therein – in this Royal Examiner video of the business conducted at Monday’s meeting.
In addition to approval of a non-exclusive, 5-year contract on pole use for a fiber optics telecommunications system with LUMOS NETWORKS, Inc.; approval of a dedication agreement with First Bank on 594-feet of dedicated space to accommodate a “slip lane” at West 17th Street related to the Sheetz property access; and approval of a COVID-19 preparedness plan, that business included two other public comments speakers, Kelly Walker and Ina Kolesnik, raising the issue of whether the weekend walking mall idea has outlived its usefulness for the majority of Historic Downtown Front Royal businesses;
also Front Royal Unites’ Samuel Porter’s update on his relationship to the Black Lives Matter movement and a seeming response to Downes’ earlier “focus on marches, protests, petitions, referendums” comment; and a familiar final speaker, Tom Sayre, promising to bring some “levity” I’m still waiting for the punch line to, to “what’s going on in our country and community”, including FOIA inquiries on local Town-County “back-channel” meetings on the Town-EDA dispute over the FRPD headquarters debt service payments.
Setting an example – David Downes and Jacob Meza
Front Royal Town Council Meeting – August 10, 2020
Mayor takes aim at restoring order and discipline to council meetings
The cover sheet for Monday evening’s (Aug. 10) Front Royal Town Council meeting contains an addition in BOLD text under item number 5, “Petitions and/or Correspondence from the Public”.
Referencing Robert’s Rules of Order by which many municipalities including the Town, conduct meetings, is printed: “Public speakers and Council Members must use the same civility, decorum, orderly behavior, relevancy of comments to subject at hand, and appropriate language in addressing Town Council as they would in addressing a Judge in a Court of Law. No profanity, vulgar, or sexist language, or irrelevant commentary, is allowed.”
It is followed by a notation that “Further Details found page 2 of this agenda.” Page two in its entirety elaborates with 6 bullet points on the guidelines referenced on the agenda cover sheet.
Those points include acknowledgment of the mayor as presiding officer of council meetings, with authority to enforce the rules of behavior on both the public and council members; further noting that council members must address the mayor before speaking and confine their subsequent remarks “to the question before the body” avoiding “all personal or indecorous language.”
Bullet point 4 begins, “There can be no personal attacks,” adding that, “A speaker can condemn the nature or likely consequences of a proposed measure in strong terms, but under no circumstances can he attack or question the personalities or the motives of another member. The measure, but not the man, is the subject of debate.”
The thin political line
That’s drawing a very fine line, I thought, because often isn’t the motive of “the man”, the source of the measure at hand, as one might argue was the case in Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick turning his July 27th report on town business into a personal attack on Royal Examiner publisher and mayoral candidate Mike McCool? It was a report that essentially turned the manager’s report and council meeting into a perhaps subtle Chris Holloway mayoral campaign rally. And it was a “rally” that a council majority of fellow Tederick and Holloway County Republican Committee members, save Vice-Mayor Sealock, and even the one (Thompson) who isn’t, seemed perfectly happy to join, in attacking Mayor Tewalt’s efforts to stymie the political tone Tederick’s report and the meeting had taken on.
However, bullet point 6 does elaborate, “Governmental bodies may enforce policies against personal attacks … so long as they do not use the personal attack policy as a pretext to squelch a particular substantive viewpoint.”
Elsewhere, bullet point 6 adds that “Federal court decisions have established” that to ensure the efficient conduct of governmental business and “to maximize citizen participation in the discussion” that “public policy” in this regard “override the speaker’s First Amendment rights of free speech.”
Well, this will be a fun one to see the enforcement-of debate in the likely not too distant future.
I found myself wondering at the impetus for this precautionary note on public and council behavior. Was it made in anticipation of a McCool reply to what had been said about him by Tederick on July 27, and how council had jumped on board with, as previously reported in the above-referenced story, that unfounded personal attack?
Or perhaps was the mayor trying to head off a “Part 2” of any further in-house politicization of coming meetings?
I called Mayor Eugene Tewalt over the weekend to shed some light on the addition of the Roberts Rules of Order guidelines on public and council member behavior to Monday’s agenda.
“After the ruckus at the last meeting I asked Matt and the town attorney to put something together for me to read before the public comments,” the mayor explained.
I noticed the referenced Roberts Rules focus on public and council member behavior, but doesn’t reference staff, I told the mayor. So, would you as the meeting’s presiding officer, make the judgment call on staff behavior in this regard, I asked Mayor Tewalt.
The mayor replied that that was his belief, but he would check with Town Attorney Doug Napier for further elaboration on the staff adhering to the same behavioral standards as applied to the public and council members.
Stay tuned for the next thrilling episode of “As the Council Turns” in the coming Royal Examiner video and report on Monday’s meeting, as well as work session discussion of the 2nd Amendment Resolution before council seeking a commitment the Town will not follow the State General Assembly in limiting the carrying of firearms into governmental buildings, spaces, office and meeting rooms.
How’d graduation go? Decreasing COVID deaths? And removal petition expense draw supervisors attention
Board comments and questions revolving around a variety of financial issues were heard at the August 4th Warren County Board of Supervisors meeting, as was one apology concerning a previous complaint about pandemic-altered high school graduation plans.
“When I’m wrong I’ll admit I was wrong – and I was wrong on graduation,” North River Supervisor Delores Oates said during her member’s report after attending the Skyline High School graduation the morning of Saturday, August 1st, one day after Warren County High’s somewhat wetter one.
Oates said the football stadium parking lot-centered event utilizing the new Hawk tunnel and allowing family members to accompany their graduates for photographs was a rousing success and would likely lead to some permanent changes in the future, post-pandemic graduations – changes she called in some ways an improvement over traditional graduation ceremonies.
“I have a senior. And I was disappointed that we were going to do drive-in graduation. I had no idea, however, of what they had planned to accommodate our family so that we could get up-close and personal graduation with our senior,” Oates began, adding, “In fact, it was better than conventional graduation. And I have to take my hat off to everybody involved with the planning and execution of the graduation.”
She then observed, “The irony of COVID is that through social distancing, we were able to get closer to our graduate. And, so I agree with Ms. Cullers that graduation likely will change because parents enjoy close-up and personal graduation. So, I would like to thank the school system for what they did to make it a memorable day.”
GO Public School Administrators – let’s give them a run through that Hawk tunnel too.
Have they risen?
Happy Creek Supervisor Tony Carter then began with a question revolving around another COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease-2019) impact on the community, an apparent statistical anomaly indicating a reduction in the reported number of COVID-19 deaths in Warren County.
“One of the questions I’ve seen – why have the numbers kind of gone down? I think at one point there were 8 deaths, then it was 7 and now it’s 6,” Carter noted of a decrease in fatality numbers.
And while Carter directed his question at Deputy County Emergency Services Coordinator Rick Farrall, present for a number of COVID-19 related agenda item reports, Board Chairman and
County Pandemic Emergency Response Team Chair Walt Mabe stepped in.
“I can do that,” Mabe said of shedding light on the reverse trend in fatalities. “When we have a death that’s actually reported, that death is reported in Warren County. After a period of time, we come to find out that, that person that died is really from Shenandoah County or from Page County or wherever. And when that’s found out, we adjust the numbers – ours goes down, theirs go up.
And it could work the opposite way,” Mabe explained of the nation’s nearly 160,000 pandemic deaths being tabulated by the home community, not the place where the pandemic victim died.
Queried by Mabe, Farrall concurred with this explanation.
We are still seated – at what cost?
Carter then segued into another item of personal and political interest to him, the June 23rd court order of dismissal of all portions of the grassroots citizen county board Removal Petition spearheaded by Bonnie Gabbert and others against the supervisors seated through 2019. Carter and Fork District incumbent Archie Fox, whose seats were not up for re-election in 2019, are the only two targeted supervisors over the EDA financial scandal still seated after the 2019 election.
Two of the targeted supervisors, former Chairman Dan Murray and South River’s Linda Glavis did not run for reelection in 2019, and a third, Shenandoah District’s Tom Sayre was defeated by new Chairman Walt Mabe.
During his member report Tuesday morning, Carter queried Interim County Attorney Jason Ham on the case status and total costs to the County and its taxpayers of defending board members against that recall petition. That cost was $48,500, Ham replied.
And as he explained in a June 24th letter informing the current and past board members of the court action of the previous day, Ham noted that the portion of the suit against the no-longer seated members had been “dismissed with prejudice” meaning it could not be re-filed. And while the “Order of non-suit” and “Dismissal without Prejudice” against Carter and Fox would allow it to be re-filed in six months, Ham wrote that from the conversation with Harrisonburg Special Prosecutor Michael Parker, “I don’t think that is very likely.”
Carter noted that such a removal petition based around what is thus far considered unintentional lapses of oversight allowing alleged criminal behavior of others has rarely if ever been upheld in Virginia. The courts have indicated a preference to let such non-criminal legislative matters be resolved by impacted citizens at the ballot box, rather in another governmental branch’s courtroom.
Somewhat playfully perhaps, Carter wondered if a bill for the County Recall Petition legal defense expenses could be added up to be divided among the citizens who signed it seeking a judicial removal of local legislators for non-criminal behavior.
“And I assume there’s not a way … that the people who signed the petition, to send them a bill for 50 dollars each?” Carter asked.
Ham’s answer appeared to be that such a plan was not currently under consideration by him or his co-counsel on the matter.
“Anyway, I just thought I’d pass that information on,” Carter said in concluding that little legal-budgetary foray and notice of ALL those targeted by the Recall Petition’s survival of it.
View the Board of Supervisor meeting of August 4, 2020, in this related story.
Rockland area residents seek shooting ban for their neighborhood
Other than the Confederate soldier statue debate, the other primary topic during the opening public comments portion of Tuesday morning, August 4th, Warren County Board of Supervisors meeting was a proposed ban on recreational shooting in the Clearback subdivision off Rockland Road near the Shenandoah Valley Golf Club. The matter had been scheduled for a work session following the meeting and a closed session.
However, Happy Creek Supervisor Tony Carter suggested adding advertisement for a public hearing on the matter to the meeting’s Consent Agenda to speed up movement on the issue. His motion to add the matter to the meeting agenda was unanimously approved. Consequently, four people urged the supervisors to approve the recreational shooting prohibition for their neighborhood. They, along with others they presented supporting signatures of, called what they are experiencing, not only a public nuisance but also a reckless and potentially dangerous one.
Speaking on the matter were James Harper, Jean Isner, Robert Aylor, and Bruce Benzie. While not present due to family health concerns, our contributing writer Malcolm Barr Sr. sent an email in support of the requested ban to the board through Board Clerk Emily Ciarrocchi.
“I compliment and support Mr. James Harper in his efforts to obtain relief from a long-standing irritant that has been thrust upon residents of the Rockland Historic Area of the county for several years – that of irresponsible target shooting on at least two properties on Rockland Road, one of them specifically affecting residents of the Clearback subdivision, the other detrimental to the operators and users of Shenandoah Valley Golf Club. I secured, as a matter of record, the signature of Richard Runyon, owner, and operator of the SVGC who joined most Clearback Subdivision residents in seeking relief from the incessant noise and possible danger that is imposed on us. Almost daily, the sound of rifle fire beginning as early as 10 a.m. can continue up to 90 minutes to 2 hours, then begin again in the late afternoon,” Barr wrote the board.
Harper opened the Public Comments telling the supervisors, “Several weeks ago on a Saturday we all heard automatic gunfire for over 5-1/2 hours. This was non-stop gunfire,” Harper said of one obtrusive example of what has become a regular situation for area residents.
“Years ago this was farmland, now it’s a neighborhood. Is it fair for two houses to disrupt the neighborhood?” Harper asked the board before presenting a list of signatures in support of the shooting ban for the subdivision area, including from former supervisor Ben Weddle, former town councilman Kermit Nichols, and as Barr noted in his email, SVGC principal Richard Runyon. Harper told a story told him by Runyon when Harper first arrived in the area to introduce him to the shooting issue.
“He told me they were hosting a wedding, and they went across the street to ask them to stop shooting while the wedding was going on because it was an outdoor wedding. And they said ‘No’ and kept on shooting. That’s what we’re dealing with,” Harper told the supervisors.
“I ask you to put yourselves in our shoes during this discussion,” Aylor added, “The pop-pop-pop-pop-pop is loud, it’s annoying and it’s disrespectful … Some of us have pets and it’s annoying to them as well.”
Of one neighbor’s nearby pasture land, Benzie said, “Her cattle go absolutely ballistic when they hear that weapons fire. It’s just amazing.”
Of the potential of danger to neighboring properties, Benzie referenced a report he had heard about a “six-year-old child” being wounded under similar shooting circumstances in Middletown over the past weekend.
During his opening remarks, Harper said inquiries to the Warren County Sheriff’s Office indicated there was nothing law enforcement could do until a County code change added the neighborhood to those where such shooting is prohibited as a public nuisance and danger in a residential area.
That puts the ball in the Supervisors’ court just as both the County and Town have been approached about passing resolutions not to join the state government in imposing restrictions on firearms being carried into government offices, properties, and meetings. Maybe the cited Rockland offenders will bring their “automatic” or semi-automatic weapons to the coming public hearing to illustrate why their use shouldn’t be restricted.
The Royal Examiner video of the August 4, 2020 meeting is in two parts: