NVDAILY.COM | Local News

Posted June 21, 2012 | comments 28 Comments

Regional Jail Authority looking at legal recourse for protesters

By Sally Voth -- svoth@nvdaily.com

The RSW Regional Jail Authority today directed its attorney to explore whether legal action can be taken against some Shenandoah County residents who have tried to stop the jail project.

Several authority members objected to the action, with Shenandoah County Sheriff Timothy C. Carter -- who has long opposed the project -- particularly speaking against it, and taking umbrage when it seemed he was included in any possible legal action. Barbs were traded among several of the authority members as a result.

Warren County North River District Supervisor Daniel J. Murray Jr. introduced the resolution at the authority's afternoon meeting after Ted Cole, of Davenport and Co. LLC told the authority that a delay in a bonds sale resulted in higher interest rates that would cost the three jurisdictions involved in the regional jail -- Shenandoah, Warren and Rappahannock counties -- an additional $47,595 in debt service every year for 30 years.

The Virginia Resource Authority sold $45.36 million in bonds on June 7, rather than in a pool with other requests on May 23 after a group of jail foes threatened legal action. By that time, the interest rate had climbed from about 3.9 to 4 percent.

In an email dated May 15 to William G. O'Brien, chairman and director of the VRA board, jail critic Cindy Bailey cites a clause in the regional jail authority agreement that states if the commonwealth does not agree to fund 50 percent of the anticipated eligible construction costs, the jail authority would not proceed without approval from the governing bodies of the three participating localities.

It's been estimated the state will fund about 45 percent of the project.

According to a June 19 memo from VRA program management director Peter D'Alema to Warren County Administrator Doug Stanley, who is the jail authority's chairman, Shenandoah County residents started sending emails to VRA board members and staff on May 13.

"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.

With the higher interest rates, the total net debt service is expected to be $79.9 million, as compared to $78.16 million, according to the memo.

"There were certainly additional costs of issuance that the RSW Regional Jail incurred by being in a pool by itself, versus being in a pool with several other issuers," Cole said.

According to the memo, the debt service reserve fund went up more than $70,000 to about $3 million, among other price increases.

During Thursday's meeting, Murray said the partners on the regional jail have worked hard to keep costs down, and he was "extremely dismayed" that a "handful" of Shenandoah County residents had tried to derail the project.

He said Warren County taxpayers would be on the hook for about $25,000 more each year because of the higher interest rate. That amount of money could pay for a sheriff's vehicle, a teacher's aide or go to a non-profit agency, Murray said.

"I urge the board to see if there's any legal action that can be taken [against] those responsible and hold them accountable for the waste of our money," Murray said.

In a Thursday evening phone interview, Murray explained what he'd said about "some officials" during the meeting. He said some officials had been identified by jail opponents as being opposed to the jail and the financing, and because they hadn't spoken up to refute those claims, "they are just as culpable as the others."

"I'm not blaming anybody," he said. "I'm blaming the contingent of people that sent these nastygrams, emails, of intent to [file a] lawsuit. After six or seven years, this is insane. It's a done deal. Millions have been spent and now you want to be a good shepherd of the people's money? If you disagree, say you disagree. Don't bite your lip and say nothing, but speak out."

Murray wouldn't say that he was referring to Carter.

"I'm referring to a couple people that said nothing and were really against it [and] could've spoken up long before I got there against it," he said.

Murray, who was elected to the Board of Supervisors in November, said he wasn't sure if those "couple people" were part of the anti-jail group.

"They appear to be supporters of that group," he said. "I'm not asking to sue. I'm asking what recourse we have."

During Thursday's meeting, Carter objected to Murray's motion.

"I think as part of that resolution, I think he's referring to me as being culpable," Carter said at the authority meeting.

Murray said he hadn't said anyone by name.

While he said he didn't have a prepared statement, Carter said he felt obligated to speak.

"I think I have an obligation to bring forth options to my county, and I've done that," he said. "If you want to compare costs, compare it to what I originally brought forward to my board. If we want to dig back that far and dig up all the information, we can do that."

Carter said he'd tried to be a viable member of the jail authority, and that he didn't think the regional jail was the best option.

"That's fine," he said. "We can disagree. I'm okay with that. I wasn't a part of that group that came and spoke here, but I think citizens should have the right to voice their opinions such as these, or any matter for that matter, with regard to the expenditure of tax dollars. I don't see any problem with that.

"It just doesn't feel right that a board that's representing people now wants to attack those very individuals because they question the board's decision."

Carter told the authority he hadn't tried to derail the process, but said he thought there were other ways to address overcrowding at the Shenandoah County Jail.

"I disagree that we should spend this amount of money and not know what the local impact to Shenandoah County is going to be," he said. "We still to this day do not know what the local impact is going to be to the citizens of Shenandoah County. For citizens to question that, I don't have a problem with that."

Carter "misinterpreted" Murray's prepared statement, Warren County Sheriff Daniel McEathron said. He said he thought the statement referred to the effect on the bonds sale.

Carter said the interest rates during any given week could be debated indefinitely.

"But, this little group of so-called taxpayer shepherds ..." McEathron said. "Who was involved? The names are out there so that's who has to take credit."

Shenandoah County Supervisors Chairman Conrad Helsley responded to Carter's earlier comment referring his idea of converting the current sheriff's office to a work-release center for $1.1 million.

"The reason maybe we're even here today is a call I got shortly after I got on the board from the sheriff, telling me that we needed to do something in Shenandoah County [about the jail]," Helsley said. "There's where it really started. When we were talking about this $1.1 million, we wanted the people who would make the decisions [to] come to Shenandoah County."

Carter said he didn't come up with the $1.1 million figure, but that it had come from county advisors. He said the response from a Virginia Department of Corrections official referred to by Helsey was contradictory, with other corrections staff saying the work-release project was "doable."

"The reason we are here rehashing this came last November when you regurgitated it," Helsley said.

Carter said the full costs of the regional jail for Shenandoah County, including transporting prisoners and possible holding cells in the localities, aren't known.

"There's where you can be very much involved," Helsley said.

Carter responded, "I have tried to do that privately and publicly. Conrad, come on now. I've tried to do that for six years."

He asked whether the legal advice regarding recourse against the anti-jail group was because its action resulted in a higher interest rate, or because the citizens threatened litigation.

"It's hand-in-hand," McEathron.

Carter said he'd been threatened with lawsuits before, and the proposal was "irregular."

"You can vote no," McEathron said.

Stanley said it was just asking if there was any recourse, and wasn't taking action.

In addition to Carter, Rappahannock County Administrator John McCarthy and Rappahannock County Supervisor Roger Welch also voted against the motion.

28 Comments | Leave a comment

    This has become a crusade for the opponents of the jail. Don't take away their diversion.

    Dan Murray for Dictator! Down with the 1st Amendment!

    Do I understand all I know about this?

    The tri-county regional jail agreement was written stipulating it was contingent upon 50% funding coming from Virginia.

    When authorities from the tri-counties signed the agreement, it became binding.

    Funding questions arise and Virginia's clarification of its funding obligations results in Virginia's funding contribution being re-defined as 45%, not 50% as in the agreement. Who is in breach of contract? Virginia, tri-county authorities, or a protesting group of voters?

    Tri-county authorities do a song and dance distracting voters from the state shortchanging the funding by 5%. Well, a deal is a deal, and if Virginia can not be forced to pay 50%, what can you do?

    Irate citizens refuse to be railroaded. Investors smelled blood in the water, realizing the jail deal is in jeopardy.

    Superintendent Murray should have made his request for legal information privately to test the legal waters on the legal validity of the deal being null and void if the state fails to fund 50%. Contract law says if it is in writing, it exists, if it is not in writing, then it doesn't exist.

    Instead Murray has dropped his charade and joined the Good Old Boys, resorting to grandstanding showboat tactics meant to intimidate the protesting citizens who are demanding the funding shortfall is legal grounds to abort the jail agreement.

    Does Murray think it is a good idea to sue voters? How smart is that?

    Mr. Murray,
    Perhaps you missed the lesson on the 1st Amendment in Middle School, but...they can say what they want to...don't like it...tough cookies.

    It's scary/funny/odd that you would have the audacity to make such a comment in a public forum.

    And don't blame the critics, blame the Virginia Resource Authority...they voted to sell the bonds late and didn't pay heed to their own policies.

    Does the RSW Regional Jail agreement contain language that says if Virginia does not agree to fund 50 percent of the anticipated eligible construction costs the jail authority would not proceed with the project unless the governing bodies of the three participating localities approve to move forward?

    If the agreement says this, isn't the next appropriate step votes by authorities in the 3 counties to approve the modified funding of the project? Or is there a problem with going back to the voters and asking them for more money to build a jail not wanted by a growing plurality of voters?

    If this is true then why on earth is Dan Murray doing the Nazi goose step strut on the First Amendment rather than bringing the matter before the members of the Warren County Board of Supervisors as the agreement requires?

    Why doesn't Mr. Murray look into the fact that the sale of bonds without voter approval is ILLEGAL according to the Virginia Constitution. How many people have seen the question for approval of the bonds on their ballot?

    The residents of these counties need to look into the legal recourse they have against they 3 counties boards of supervisors that are breaking the law with a bond sale. Like maybe prison time for all the members that voted for this project against Virginia law without voter approval.

    I am a big boy here and if the board wants to sue someone let them just sue me because I started this campaign years ago. I saw then that there was no curb on their spending and knew that a public official can't restrain himself when it comes to spending someone else's money. Conrad Helsley and the Shenandoah County Board has already sued me once and that was thrown out. Just put only my name on this frivolous law suit and stay away from the others especially Marsha who was attacked by the Board today and was only defended by Sheriff Carter. Bravo Sheriff Tim Carter for standing your ground for what's right even though you were never a part of this group.
    Mark Prince

    Letter to the Editor
    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
    394 Brook Creek Road
    Toms Brook VA 22660

    Hey look at that! Not even totally approved and we've got our first cost overrun. That should set some sort of record. Bend over Taxpayers, more to come.

    Why didn’t the VRA wait until the next pool before they sold the RSW Regional Jail Bonds? They could have had a better rate than forcing them to stand alone. The Authority was under the gun to break ground and didn’t want anything to derail the project so they pushed them to get the money which was apparent at the last RSW Authority meeting. The Shenandoah County BOS want to take power away from Sheriff Carter. They have systematically taken steps to do so and have berated him many times. If I were to do the same to the Board they would probably sue me.....again. Wait which suit are we on now.
    .I've lost count.

    If they are so concerned about our $$$, why do they continue to push to fund it. Now the board can point and blame others for the cost overruns. On top of that, the board is going to pay lawyers to see it they can sue someone. They should be suing themselves. The state is going to fund no more than 45% not the 50% they told the taxpayers. If they wanted to do the right thing, they should of allowed the voters to vote on the jail proposal before sticking it to us. They are not going to pay for it, we are! Our taxes will be raised again and again in the coming years to pay for their boondoggle. Hey I oppose the jail, SUE ME, TOO!!!!

    From: Cindy Bailey [mailto:cbailey2@shentel.net]
    Sent: Friday, June 22, 2012 12:04 AM
    To: David Ferguson (davidf@shentel.net); neesedick@gmail.com; Sharon Baroncelli (asbaron@shentel.net); bakerinc@shentel.net; Dennis Morris (dmorris@shentel.net)
    Cc: Conrad Helsley (chelsley@shentel.net); dwalker@shenandoahcountyva.us; tgilbert@shentel.net; mark@markobenshain.com; 'martin.kent@governor.virginia.gov'; 'adam.zubowsky@governor.virginia.gov'; 'News'; 'news@ournewspaper.net'; 'news@winchesterstar.com'; 'Keith Stickley'; 'Sally Voth'; 'startraylor@yahoo.com'; 'editor@rappnews.com'; 'dfinnegan@timesdispatch.com'; 'Rob Longley'; 'kmayhew@dnronline.com'; 'Alex Bridges'
    Subject: RSW Regional jail Authority meeting today June 21, 2012

    Dear Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors,
    The RSW Regional Jail Authority today directed its attorney to explore whether legal action can be taken against some Shenandoah County residents who have tried to stop the jail project. Did Chairman Helsley and County Administrator Walker get your approval to vote YES to look into suing Shenandoah County citizens for speaking out against the RSW Regional Jail project? Do you have any control over what the Regional jail Authority decides in their meetings? (Having only three votes on a board of nine individuals hardly gives you control.)
    So, if the answer to these questions are no, then “we the people” who have criticized this project from the beginning were correct when we said “our local government would have no control over the authority, their decisions or their spending”. But “we the people” will pay higher taxes to feed the spending addiction of the Authority and you our Board of Supervisors.

    A response to these questions are required as part of your oath when you took office and became a servant of the people for Shenandoah County. Long live the Constitution and freedom of speech.
    Retired Captain Shenandoah County Jail, Cindy Bailey

    So the Warren County Ds' (McEathron, Murray & Stanley) want to spend taxpayer $s on a hired gun to figure out which Shenandoah County taxpayers to sue? Great example of intercounty cooperation that bodes well for the future.

    We're going to do what we want, and if you complain, we'll throw you in jail! Absolutely disgusting.

    Our local government is just like our state and federal: they aren't representing us anymore, but we keep paying and paying.

    All of these comments have been very interesting, especially those of Mark Prince.

    POWER TO THE PEOPLE! And thanks to Sheriff Carter for standing up against this foolish spending.


    People just want to understand how much this boondoggle is going to cost, and how much it will "pay" - BEFORE committing to paying for it themselves in hiked taxes and lowered services in the county for the next several decades. Asking those questions put blood in the water, and now that the sharks are getting confused and starting to turn on each other, one shark in a suit threatens to sue people who ask legitimate questions about the cost, the legality and who benefits from this costly white elephant. Why not wait another 6 months to answer our questions or even put the jail decision to a public referendum? Note to Richmond, VRA, men in suits and companies hoping to get paid on this project, municipal debt is the next big bubble poised to pop.


      Well Said Karen! When the Fed Govt goes bankrupt (and it will) the Local and State Govts are going to have to pick up the slack as far as services go. When this happens, I do not want to be living in a county riddled with debt like this on things that are not necessary. I say that locally we should lead by example and I think we should have a no debt policy. If our elected officials want to do something or build something then save up money and do it. Don't build something on borrowed money. That only ensures that our taxes will be higher in the future. And I believe they will be higher in a very bleak future. The best example our local govt can provide is to not spend money they don't have on things we don't need. It is up to us citizens to throw these crooks out. They do not have our best interests in mind. And Murray is MY Supervisor. I was at a regional jail protest. Does that mean Murray is planning to sue me for expressing my First Amendment right to Free Speech? Shame on you Mr. Murray. And regarding the money lost in the delay of (unconstitutionally) issuing bonds for this project, what if the delay had caused interest rates to drop and the county saved a few million instead? Would the Regional Jail Authority being sending us protesters a check for saving them money? I think not. So to absurdly claim that our protesting directly lost them money and we're therefore responsible for it, is unbelievable. Fight on protesters! In the end, we will either win or make them uncomfortable. And hopefully bringing this process to light will cause them to lose support and their office.


        Nick -- we intend to find real conservatives to run against the so-called "republicans" who currently sit on our BoS. Our "elected representatives" have complained vociferously about the gall we have had to question the regional jail deal and the incredible debt it will heap upon the shrinking population and business base of Shenandoah County. Fight on, absolutely we will!

    When you think about it, since the BOS invited people to speak and give their opinions at meetings in opposition to the jail they are part of the protest because they encouraged the protesters to speak...oh what a tangled web we weave...

    Dan Murray ran on the lie that he is a Republican but he is really a New Jersey liberal. He has only been in the county for a handful of years; who is he to tell us what our county needs. Who is he to try to supress the taxpayer's constitutional rights to protest and to free speech?

    In 1776 the people of this region considered themselves loyal subjects of King George. Until he and Parliment began taxing them without listening to their imput. We all know how that turned out for King George. Maybe our elected county supervisors need to dust off their history books and remind the Regional Jail Authority that the people they are talking about taking legal action against are the people who elected the supervisors to their positions!

    History if forgotten tends to repeat itself.

    Add me to the list. Everyone I speak to are opposed.
    I think our great county government is going to have to build a larger jail so they can lock up all of Shenandoah County residents.

    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. Citizens who question the decisions of our board of supervisors are the ones being threatened with a lawsuit.

    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

    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.


    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)

    Please mark your calendar for this coming Tuesday 6/26/12 7pm to attend the Shenandoah Co. BoS meeting in Woostock. It will be at the government building (back entrance). It is open to the public.shruntzm

    Where is the government center located?

    As a resident of Warren County I want to attend the Shenandoah County BOS meeting. I know where the old courthouse is located; where is the government center relative to the courthouse?

    Thanking someone in advance for directions or an address to plug into my GPS.

    Shenandoah Co BoS meet in rear room of the county office building at:

    600 North Main Street
    Woodstock, VA 22664

    Hope many can make it.

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