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Solar energy company drops suit against Front Royal councilmen -- for now

By Joe Beck -- jbeck@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- An attorney for a solar energy company and its founder-partners dropped a $40 million defamation lawsuit against three council members Thursday, but vowed he would refile the suit in a few months.

David W. Silek, who represents SolAVerde LLC, Donald F. Poe and Gregory A. Horton, said he had found two witnesses whose depositions would give him a better chance of winning the case than the current version.

Silek said both witnesses needed to give depositions before he would refile the suit, most likely in late winter or early spring.

Silek said the new suit would name the same three council members -- Thomas H. Sayre, Chris W. Holloway and Carson C. Lauder Jr. -- who are defendants in the suit that was dropped Thursday.

"We had two people come forward who heard statements that were not mentioned in the [current] complaint," Silek said, referring to his new witnesses.

He refused to identify either one.

Douglas Napier, the town's attorney, and George Sonnett Jr., the town's assistant attorney, said they were confident they would have won a decisive victory Thursday that would have ended the case once and for all before Silek withdrew it.

The defendants won one round earlier this year when retired Judge Paul M. Peatross of Albemarle County ruled that none of the three council members made defamatory statements about the plaintiffs.

"They were acting within the scope of their responsibilities" as council members, Napier said Thursday of the defendants' actions.

Silek later filed an amended complaint to continue the suit.

The plaintiffs were defamed when Holloway and Lauder inquired of former town attorney Thomas R. Robinett on March 30, 2010, if the "incentives" former Town Manager J. Michael Graham mentioned to the council on March 29, 2010, constituted a bribe being offered, Silek says in his original complaint.

Graham has said that he was never offered a bribe, Silek says in his amended claim.
Holloway, Lauder and Sayre also defamed his clients when they voted publicly for a state police investigation of the bribery allegation, Silek says.

The case was scheduled to be decided Thursday by Peatross in a hearing to determine whether the amended complaint in the lawsuit should be thrown out or upheld.

Napier said he was adopting a wait-and-see strategy in response to Silek's intentions of refiling the suit.

"We'll see what he does, and then we'll respond," Napier said.

1 Comment

Beyond the continued embarrassment this whole mess brings to the Town, has anyone honestly looked into the feasibility of solar farms in an area noted more for its challenging winters and mercurial, mountain-driven weather fronts than a cumulative number of sunny, arid days? Have the myriad of vexing engineering problems charactering solar collection and delivery systems advanced to the point where regions not noted for a tight relationship with Mr. Sun can reliability and profitably utilize such complex and costly technological investments like solar farms? Or do these rudimentary concerns and considerations demand a “visioning session” to hash out? Why wait until after the ongoing lawsuit has drained public coffers or ups the premium the Town pays to whatever insurance carrier underwrites this unabated stream of infuriating nonsense to examine and address such fundamental issues? Does anyone else sense a Shenandoah Solyndra on the “horizon?”

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