NVDAILY.COM | Local News

Posted June 22, 2012 | comments 22 Comments

Critics of jail project not planning to back down

By Sally Voth -- svoth@nvdaily.com

Some of the Shenandoah County residents who have vehemently opposed the construction of the RSW Regional Jail vow they won't be cowed in the face of a threat of legal action.

The RSW Regional Jail Authority decided on a 5-3 vote Thursday to have their attorney explore whether there was any legal recourse against the jail opponents whose letter-writing campaign delayed the sale of $45.36 million in jail bonds by a couple of weeks.

Del. Bob Marshall, R-Prince William County, on Friday said he didn't think the decision would hold up in court.

The bonds were sold by the Virginia Resource Authority on June 7, rather than in a pool of other requests May 23.

During that time, the interest rate went up about one-tenth of a percent, which will result in about an additional $1.74 million in debt service over 30 years, Ted Cole of Davenport and Co. LLC, told the authority Thursday afternoon.

This prompted authority member Daniel Murray Jr., Warren County North River District supervisor, to propose the resolution.

He, Warren County Administrator Doug Stanley, Warren County Sheriff Daniel McEathron, Shenandoah County Administrator Doug Walker and Shenandoah County Supervisors Chairman Conrad Helsley voted for the resolution.

Shenandoah County Sheriff Timothy C. Carter, Rappahannock County Administrator John McCarthy and Rappahannock County Supervisor Roger Welch opposed it.

A week before the May bonds sale, the citizens group bombarded VRA board members and staffers with emails, according to a memo from VRA program management director Peter D'Alema to Stanley, who chairs the jail authority.

"Throughout the course of the week of May 14, 2012, the email correspondence from the citizen group escalated in frequency and tone, culminating with unspecified threats of legal action regarding the 2012 Spring Pool and the RSW Jail Project," the memo states.

Woodstock attorney Brad Pollack also sent letters prior to the bonds sale to Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Jim Cheng; Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg; Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock; Del. Beverly Sherwood, R-Winchester; and Del. Michael Webert, R-Marshall.

In the letter to Cheng, Pollack asked for the sale to be put on hold while the VRA investigated the issue, which Pollack claimed was unconstitutional.

"The violation is that the RSW Regional Jail Authority Service Agreement was not approved by the voters as required by Article VII, Section 10, of the Virginia Constitution," the letter states.

Pollack's letter to the legislators asked them to pressure Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to confirm that the three participating county boards of supervisors could choose to not honor the debt obligations of the authority.

In a Friday afternoon phone interview, Pollack said he hoped the First Amendment protected him and the others who tried to stop the sale.

"All we were doing was speaking the truth," he said. "As far as we're concerned, this whole endeavor is patently unconstitutional without a vote of the people. If this boondoggle turns out to be as bad as we predict it is, is [Murray] going to pony up the $100 million to pay back the taxpayers?

"We're not going to stop fighting this thing. As I see it, these bond issues have been an unconstitutional ploy that the money people have been doing for 20, 30 years."

Another vocal critic of the regional jail project, Cindy Bailey, also said she wouldn't be silenced. She questioned whether the bonds sale could've been delayed a week or two to see if the interest rates went back down.

"It was their choice to go ahead and sell them when they did with the increased interest rate," said Bailey, who was chief jailer of the Shenandoah County Jail when she retired. "All along, they've been so quick to spend taxpayer money on this project. This is going to cripple Shenandoah County's economy if we allow this to go through.

"We're filing a lawsuit. They did this yesterday to try to shut us up. That's all this was. It was a scare tactic and shame on them."

Bailey said the jail opponents plan to turn out at the Board of Supervisors' meeting on Tuesday.

"We're not intimidated by their lawsuit," she said. "We have the constitution and freedom of speech on our side."

Bailey is right, according to Marshall, who became acquainted with some of the jail protestors as he campaigned for the Republican nomination for a U.S. Senate seat. On Friday, Marshall said he'd consulted with three attorneys with the legislative services, who he said legislators rely on when drawing up statutes.

"They were scratching their heads as to what grounds there could possibly be to sue citizens who were merely conveying information to other agencies of the commonwealth," Marshall said. "They said unless they're chaining themselves and blocking the meeting, or something like that, they didn't understand the [decision] of the jail board to direct their attorney to do that."

Additionally, the VRA, and not the citizens group, made the decision to pull out of the sale, Marshall said.

"The supervisors, or the ones on the jail board, should've figured that out," Marshall said.

22 Comments | Leave a comment

    You can add me to the list of those opposed the construction of the RSW Regional Jail.

    I'm supporting the jail because of the incessant filibustering of those opposing it.

    If the jail weren't so accomodating to the criminals (internet, ac, cable tv, free medical, education, 3 squares), they wouldn't be so full and there wouldn't be a need for larger and larger ones. How about a "tent city" jail such as the one in Arizona! Maybe then it really would be a diversion.

    In my home, I don't have internet (I'm at a friend's house), ac or cable tv. I work 45 hours a week to pay my bills and buy a little bit of groceries with what is left over. I can't afford the luxuries that the criminals are getting in jail. What's wrong with this picture.

    I'm opposing the regional jail because of those who are incessantly against a citizen's rights to petition their government seeking redress.

    I think everyone was scratching their heads, wondering what basis they would have to sue citizens for protesting (not just the three attorneys that were consulted for their opinion). I am most surprised that Sheriff McEathron didn't recognize this action as being a boneheaded move at best.........and violating a citizens right to express their opinion at worst.

    I won't be surprised if this issue doesn't evolve into something bigger than the issue of the jail iteslf.......similar to the way the UVA president's ouster has blown up in the faces of the Board of Visistors. The internet allows people to mobilize and unify more effectively than ever before. At the very least, people should be calling for the resignation of Murray. Not because he is for building the jail, but because he wanted to supress the rights of the citizens he was elected to represent.

    Isn't it fascinating how a third-rate politician in a bottom-rung post suddenly assumes the grandeur of a Pasha Potentate, and browbeats the electorate for exercising their First Amendment rights?

    This is a disease, bordering on psychosis: an egoist waltzes into a piddling post and suddenly his IQ rises by twenty points, his common sense succumbs to power lust, and he blames the taxpayers for his own greed -- greed that prompted him to advocate spending their money unwisely in the first place!

    If you want to know what's wrong with Washington, observe, please, Warren County's newest supervisor -- who cannot even supervise his own actions to conform with the law and his oath of office.

    There you have it, close up. Add a few dozen zeroes, and there is Washington, the swagger capital of the world. Congressman Ackerman (D-NY) just decided to retire after a long career. "The people are getting dumber," he complained.

    Apparently our newest supervisor buys into the Ackerman line. He is so suddenly brilliant, and we are so intellectually impoverished. Woe is us! Save us, O Prophet Daniel, save us, before we perish!

    Who will put this Bozo in his proper place -- that of a humble public servant, not that of a corrupt, bullheaded Chicago war heeler?

    How in the world did a US American wind up a supervisor that thinks he can sue the public for disagreeing with him? Freedom of speech is one of the building blocks of our nation that even second graders are aware of. I am stunned. I know Middletown, where I live, has its problems but this is just amazing and makes Middletown councilors look brilliant. If I had voted for Dan I would be passing around a petition for his recall.

    I met with Sheandoah County Administrator Doug Walker June 5, 2012 regarding the RSW Regional Jail and the escalating cost. Here is part of the conversation:

    I asked Doug Walker if he was comfortable voting on the SunTrust resolution, short-term note funding the RSW Regional Jail that was handed out May 31, 2012 at the authority meeting, without reading it first. Walker said “yes”. When I asked the question again to clarify his answer Walker said “yes, because the attorney had read it”. I asked one more time, because I couldn’t believe the answer and Walker stated “Now I feel trapped”. To which I replied “now you know how the taxpayers feel.”

    Now, on June 21, 2012, I wanted to ask the rest of Authority members, with the exception of Sheriff Carter, who voted no to the resolution, “how can you vote yes and commit your county to yet another contract between the authority and a financial Institution without reading and discussing the wording with the other county board members and citizens of those counties?”

    This is yet another example of what is wrong with this process, this authority, and the leaders leaping into a decision that will cripple Shenandoah County’s economy for years to come.

    To quote Thomas Jefferson, “It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the PRETENSE of taking care of them. To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the spread of ideas which he disbelieves and detests is sinful and ruling unjustly.”

    Retired Captian Shenandoah County Jail,
    Cindy Bailey

    I was surprised when Dan Murry was voted in. I have heard his ideas at Interbake Foods where he is in charge of maintenence. Always putting off what needs to be done. He has always got some fast talking , but when you slow it down he has actually said nothing. He needs to go back to New Jersey. We have enough to deal with. We dont need people who think they are better than us because they are from bigger towns. Look at what has happened to Strasburg for example.

    Concerned Citizens:
    Stand up for free speech and be heard:
    Are we going to let the RSW Regional Jail Authority run our county? Disrespect our citizens and threaten lawsuits for speaking out against unnecessary building projects, or any decision that our leaders make?

    Tuesday, JUNE 26, 7 pm, speak out, stand up or just show up to support free speech at the Board of Supervisors meeting, Shenandoah County Government Center in Woodstock.

    Stop our county debt from increasing let your voice be heard. No more Capital Improvement projects. Encourage business growth in our county.

      YOU are so correct Ms. Bailey. In a nutshell this is our national problem and we just cannot continue to let these fat cats run over us!

      WE are all being ignored and we are quickly losing ground. Let's show up united for FREE SPEECH! I'll mark it on my calendar - June 26.

        Diana, thank you for your comment, I look forward to meeting you Tuesday. Now for those
        who need an address for the meeting please review the following.

        Concerned Citizens:
        Stand up for free speech and be heard:
        Are we going to let the RSW Regional Jail Authority run our county? Disrespect our citizens and threaten lawsuits for speaking out against unnecessary building projects, or any decision that our leaders make?

        Tuesday, JUNE 26, 7 pm, speak out, stand up or just show up to support free speech at the Board of Supervisors meeting, Shenandoah County Government Center 600 North Main Street in Woodstock.

        Stop our county debt from increasing let your voice be heard. No more Capital Improvement projects. Encourage business growth in our county.

        Cindy Bailey


    January 22, 2008, Shenandoah County Board of Supervisor's meeting, part of the minutes below:

    Item E. Discussion regarding the General District and Juvenile Domestic Relations Court.
    Supervisor Baroncelli said I would like to move that we build a new General District and Juvenile and Domestic Relations Courthouse behind the County Government Center. I further move that after relocating these Courts out of the Historic Courthouse, that the Historic Courthouse and Courtroom be restored for the continued use by the Courts for Judicial Court purposes and the remainder of the building be renovated for adaptive governmental uses that generate effective, ongoing use of the facility, that ensures an economic stimulus for downtown.
    Supervisor Helsley seconded the motion.
    Supervisor Baroncelli - Aye Supervisor Morris - Aye
    Supervisor Helsley - Aye Supervisor Neese - Aye
    Supervisor Baker - Aye Supervisor Ferguson (no vote shown here or correction in Feb 13th minutes)

    Maybe we should sue the politicians for misusing our hard earned tax money!

    I have only lived in VA and in this community for 5 years – One thing I noticed is the, “what” appears to be corruption. Even in our Sanitization District – back room deals have been made and questionable practices. I really do not care if they want to build a jail – I care that my fellow tax paying citizens cannot speak their mind and disagree! – What type of democracy is this? For this alone I won’t back the jail

    If the interest rate had gone down by 0.1% instead of up, would the RSW Regional Jail Authority be issuing a check for 1.74 million dollars to the protesters? If not, then their entire premise is flawed.

    Whether or not the Jail Authority has the legal right to bring suit against the citizens for speaking out against the jail, (We'll let the lawyers worry about that!) even suggesting that they would bring such a suit was an increadibly boneheaded move. Messrs. Murray, Stanley and McEathron are an embarrassment to the County of Warren. Where does this stop? Will Mr. Murray suggest that the county sue anyone who speaks out against a proposed ordinance and try to recover the lost income? Suppose someone stood up at a public hearing and made a compelling argument that the County shouldn't raise taxes. Would Mr. Stanley suggest suing the citizen for the lost taxes? Think back on Walmart in Front Royal. Should the town have sued the citizens who spoke out against that development for the loss of taxes? What would Mr. Murray suggest?

    The citizens deserve better than this. What were you guys thinking? I think the citizens of all three counties deserve a WRITTEN apology from the people who voted for this abomination.

    I suggest the Jail Authority take out a full page advertisement in all the local papers apologizing for their stupidity.

    Nazism, Fascism, Communism, Marxism, Socialism,
    Germany; Nazism under Hitler,
    Italy; Fascism under Mussolini
    Russia; Communism under Stalin / Socialism under Karl Marx
    Cuba; Communism under Fidel Castro
    Vietnam; Communism under Ho Chi Minh
    Cambodia; Socialism under Pol Pot who killed off 21% of his population

    What do all of these have in common? The answer is the lack of FREE SPEECH and oppression of people who call it the way they see it! I served in the United States Marine Corps to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America which guarantees the right of Free Speech and the right to air your grievances which is what you are trying to stifle.
    Helsley/Walker and the rest of the Board that approved the motion to sue peaceful protesters need to go back and refresh your memories about the First Amendment of the Constitution.
    Here is a highlight;
    The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights. The amendment prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging (restriction of) the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.
    Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors you have a credibility issue and we are tired of your lying;
    Lying As Morris did twice while being deposed under oath about his financial relationships with Maddox.
    Lying As you allowed incentives to be offered towards Maddox’s property while he voted in closed sessions on the Economic Development
    Lying As you used Maddox’s property as the only site offered for the Regional Jail in Shenandoah County and as the only site for the REI project.
    Lying As you allowed Walkers predecessor, Poling to LIE in court under oath about FOIA Documents showing the placement of a Regional Jail in Toms Brook that he said never existed. Yet, he passed them out at a Regional Jail Committee Meeting.
    Lying As you voted to build and finance a new courthouse without a court order like you stated existed, which in fact did not.
    Not once have you come out with a statement admonishing their and your actions or put policies in place to prohibit them, so in essence you are condoning and perpetuating these grievous violations.

    Now, you have VOTED to SUE citizens in order to scare us and keep us quite while trying to extract some type of revenge. Well this is the second BOGUS suit you have tried to file against me and as you can see “it doesn’t work”. I am not afraid of you, you can’t intimidate me, though you should be afraid of me because I am not afraid to expose your dark secrets.
    The following is an excerpt from my Letter to the Editor, written when I found out about the suit;
    Dear Sir,
    I am appalled by the treatment of Mrs. Marsha Shruntz by the Regional Jail Authority Board during their meeting on 6/21/12. Mrs Shruntz, a school bus driver, was threatened by a lawsuit from the Authority for her participation of exercising her constitutional first amendment “right of free speech” by protesting the Regional Jail Bond sale. The protesters, who are trying to stop this $100,000,000 boondoggle, according to the Jail Board will all be sued. I am one of those members and am proud to stand by her to protest what we feel is wrong. I am bringing a suit to challenge the constitutionality of whether the agreements between the Authority and the counties are valid. Remember, they are actually taxing us for a minimum period of 30 years “VA Code” to pay for their facility and operate it without holding a vote “or referendum” by the people for approval as required by the Constitution. I have no problems if a referendum is held and the taxpayers actually vote on it, but our Supervisors are taxing us without representation. The costs are staggering and building as I write this letter. Our government officials traded verbal blows “Helsley and Sheriff Carter” during this meeting about culpability when Helsley surely knows that the Virginia State Police have initiated an investigation into the actions of members of the Authority’s Board and companies sponsoring the jail. So we not only have a constitutional issue, we possibly have 4 Virginia code violations and an ensuing law suit by the Authority who are using my tax dollars to sue me. Ironic isn’t it?
    Mark W. Prince

    The RSW RJ Authority stated that they lost money on this bond sale because the interest rate went up $50,000 a year and they wanted the protesters to pay this difference because of their actions. This was because the VRA elected to pull the Bonds from the Pool because we informed them that there were numerous justifiable problems with the Regional Jail. What if the Authority would have waited to go into the next pool instead of forcing the VRA into having a standalone sale? What if the interest rate would have gone down $50,000 a year or built a local jail for millions less would we be the recipients of this windfall? They are so eager to place the blame on someone else for their mistakes. This move is just stupidity in abundance by our elected officials (SERVENTS). Which brings to mind that George Washington signed each letter as President “your faithful servant”, so he knew who was important and that was “The PEOPLE”.

    Walker, you need to stand on your own two feet grow a spine and let these supervisors know what’s right and what’s wrong and not VOTE how they tell you to. Because especially in this case or you won’t be around long. It’s easier to sleep at night if you do the right thing and after meeting with you, I thought you were better than this!

    Helsley, you told me 5 years ago that you sided with Sheriff Carter about the Jail when I gave you the jail presentation, you changed sides and didn’t listen. The Sheriff told you he could function with a work release facility for less than two million dollars and you didn’t listen. The Sheriff told you that he could build a local jail for 16 million and you will end up spending about 24 million and additional millions in operating expenses, so you didn’t listen. The Sheriff told you this suit was not what you should be doing and still you don’t listen. We told you not to ignore us and include us in the process and you haven’t and you still aren’t listening. You have trampled our rights and brought discredit upon Shenandoah County. I am ready to go to jail if necessary to protect our rights as citizens and will not bend to tyranny; (which is defined as “an oppressive government by one or more people who exercise absolute power cruelly and unjustly”). The six who voted to sue can share a cell with me before they are tarred and feathered and sent packing in the next election if you are not recalled before then.

    One last question! Mr. Helsley, what shall we call your type of government? Helsleyism!
    Mark W. Prince

    The Board of Supervisors needs to be reminded of the 1st Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." Specifically the last part.

    It`s too late. It`s a done deal. Save your anger and disgust for the next election.

Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily | nvdaily.com | 152 N. Holliday St., Strasburg, Va. 22657 | (800) 296-5137