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Posted June 25, 2012 | comments 15 Comments

State ACLU leader slams jail authority action

By Sally Voth -- svoth@nvdaily.com

The RSW Regional Jail Authority's threat of possible legal action against vocal jail protesters is a "garden-variety slapsuit" -- strategic lawsuit against public participation -- the head of the Virginia American Civil Liberties Union said Monday.

"There are lots of times when public officials don't like when public citizens speak up, and they try to sanction them," Virginia ACLU Executive Director Claire Gastañaga said in a phone interview.

On Thursday, the jail authority -- made up of government officials from Rappahannock, Shenandoah and Warren counties -- voted to have its attorney explore whether legal action can be taken against a group of Shenandoah County residents who succeeded in delaying the sale of $45.36 million in jail bonds by the Virginia Resource Authority.

When the bonds were sold June 7, the interest rate was 4 percent, up about .1 percent from the May 23 VRA pool sale. Ted Cole, of Davenport and Co. LLC, told authority members that increase will result in an additional $47,595 in annual debt service for the next 30 years.

The authority then voted 5-3 to have its counsel, at the suggestion of member Daniel J. Murray Jr., who is the Warren County North River District supervisor, "see if there's any legal action that can be taken [against] those responsible and hold them accountable for the waste of our money."

Anti-jail proponents bombarded VRA board members and staff with emails prior to the May bond sale, according to a memo from VRA program management director Peter D'Alema to RSW Regional Jail Authority Doug Stanley, who is the Warren County administrator. The memo says threats of legal action were made.

Shenandoah County Sheriff Timothy C. Carter -- a longtime critic of the jail project -- Rappahannock County Administrator John McCarthy and Rappahannock County Supervisor Roger Welch cast nay votes to Murray's motion.

Voting for it were Murray, Stanley, Warren County Sheriff Daniel McEathron, Shenandoah County Supervisors Chairman Conrad Helsley and Shenandoah County Administrator Doug Walker.

"I didn't think it was appropriate to support a resolution that in my opinion could lead to legal action against citizens of this county, who were exercising their dissent regarding a public issue or government business," Carter, who has proposed what he claims are cheaper alternatives, said in a Friday phone interview.

Gastañaga would seem to agree.

"The whole idea of this simply sounds ludicrous," she said.

She said slapsuits were lawsuits designed to censor, intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with litigation.

"Those are just fundamentally offensive to the First Amendment," said Gastañaga. "I think it's just one of those situations where we need to wait to see what's happened, and we will keep a close eye on it. One hopes that counsel for the authority and clear heads will prevail."

The resolution wasn't part of the authority's objective, Welch said Monday.

"I don't think those people intended to, I guess, cost us more money by having the date changes and everything resulting in the change in interest rate," he said.

Those protesting the jail are "just a small minority," Welch added.

McCarthy said he doubted there was much to gain by seeking legal recourse.

"We're a public body," he said Monday. "There's going to be public [dissent] that may act to the detriment [of] the mission, but that doesn't mean that there's much we can do about it. Looking into the possibility doesn't say that we would actually do anything about it anyway.

"I certainly understand the reason Mr. Murray made the motion he did. It's a hard pill to swallow."

In his prepared statement at last week's jail authority meeting, Murray said protestors had insinuated some public officials were on their side, and by not publicly denying such claims, those officials were "just as culpable as the others."

"My response is I don't control the behavior of the citizens," Carter said Friday. "I've been publicly opposed to this project since December of 2006 ... but, I can't control them using my name. The comments that I make are the comments that I make.

"I think people expect me to point out that there's another way to do this, there may be another way."

Shenandoah County supervisors had little to say on the issue.

"I'm not sure how I feel yet," District 1 Supervisor Dick Neese said Friday. "I guess probably it's not a bad idea to see if there's any [legal recourse]. I would be surprised if there was."

As for whether the action could impinge free speech, Neese said, "That's a touchy subject, one way or the other. It's kind of a gray area, I think."

When he was reached on Friday, District 5 Supervisor Dennis Morris said he didn't really know about the authority's action. He didn't have much further to say Monday.

"Right now, it's an authority issue," Morris said. "I haven't talked to anybody. It's not really a board issue at this time. It's not an issue that I need to get involved in right now. Our board hasn't discussed it."

District 2 Supervisor Steve Baker, District 3 Supervisor David Ferguson and District 4 Supervisor Sharon Baroncelli didn't return messages left Friday and Monday.

15 Comments | Leave a comment

    Wow- the fact that anyone in a public position think this was a good idea is mind boggling.

    The line was crossed here - supporters need to be voted out. No excuses.

    Daniel J. Murray Jr, Doug Stanley and the rest! Vote them out.,! – I agree – It is time to dump the tea!

    This Authority has just come into existance
    and is thinking like this, just wait until it grows up and truly is out of control. The whole thing needs to be shut down and sent back to each county. These members and the Boards who support them must go now. VOTE THEM OUT and FIRE THE REST!!!!!

    I thought that Citizen Dan Murray was against the Regional Jail before he ran for North River Supervisor? Am I correct Mr. Supervisor?

    Brains, brawn, and buffoon.

    Warren County authorities, our Good Old Boys, have become increasingly hardened to ideas and suggestions not invented by themselves. Their bullying boldness has now surfaced through their representatives on the RSW Regional Jail Authority Board of Directors. Murray did not act spontaneously, he came to the meeting with a PREPARED written statement, just like one of his predecessors, Ron Llewellyn...

    Warren County Administrator Douglas Stanley -- a man always looking for dollars to spend -- is in charge of pencil-whipping the figures, bending them to meet Good Old Boy demands, a skill he has notoriously developed over his years in office. It was Douglas Stanley who put in the good word promoting his buddy, longtime friend, and Springsted Company executive Douglas Walker to become Shenandoah County Administrator. Today, both men sit on the Board of the RSW Regional Jail Authority in a mutual back-slapping love fest.

    Ask Warren County Sheriff Dan McEathron -- a man who never met a dollar he couldn't spend on something frivilous -- about his $8,000 T-3 Motion battery powered three wheeled "patrol" vehicle he purchased in 2008 intending to patrol the corridor shopping centers and high school campuses. It has never been seen in use.


    It sets unused, in need of $30,000 worth of trailer and tow vehicle to transport it around the county to the patrol sites. Or take the $276,000 Lenco Bearcat SWAT armored riot suppression vehicle rusting away in the office parking lot. Perhaps it will be deployed tonight at the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors meeting, armed and ready to douse protesters with tear gas?

    The more that come, the worse they get, and the last to arrive is New Jersey transplant Dan Murray, now a Warren County Supervisor -- eager to spend every dollar he can meet -- and willing to slap protesting citizens with a lawsuit amounting to harassment.

    So who is the brains behind suggesting a SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) lawsuit? It wasn't sock-puppet Stanley -- he TAKES marching orders, he doesn't GIVE them.

    Who is the brawn pushing the gullible messenger to step forward threatening a SLAPP lawsuit? It wasn't McEathron acting alone, he had help and encouragement to persuade Murray to be the hero.

    Who is the buffoon now enjoying the taste of shoe leather by thinking his PREPARED message would quiet the protests? Mr. Murray, here is your card -- you are now a bona fide card-carrying member of the Good Old Boys club of angry old white guys.

    You MIGHT, and I mean might, understand that these members don't know much about laws BUT you would 'THINK' that the sheriff of the county WOULD KNOW about freedom of speech and what can be said and what can't pertaining to the law. And he would know you can't sue just because you don't like what they said or WHEN they said it.
    AND on top of it, It wasn't these folks who decided to delay the vote. It was the VRA board members who did that.

    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 where you are violating citizens rights, 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 then 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 where 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 by your actions. 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”). You will leave the others alone in this fight because I am to blame for everything. 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

    Thank God for showing us who the Progressive Rinos in our County Government are. The current Board of Supervisors and the Staff they have Hired.

    Hey Mark,

    One important correction to your statement. The RJA didn't vote to sue anyone - they voted to explore their legal options. Of course, one could conclude that one option would be for the RJA to take legal action against those who protested, after exploring their legal options. Just keep in mind this important difference when you take your case to the public.

    It is very sad, indeed, that a disgusting group such as the ACLU would even have to make a comment about anything pertaining to our beautiful Valley. I think we are better people than this in the Valley and this can be resolved in a manner beneficial to everyone. Step back and regroup. It will work out!!!

    The vote by the Authority was a precurser to the suit. What these men did, they did in Anger, because you could hear it in their voices and they have already taken to the air waves on Channel 3 verbalizing retribution. go see!

    Bottom line is we are fed up with the Lies and mismanagement of our County!

    I firmly believe that the majority of Shenandoah County residents oppose the regional jail. We will never know. We were never given the opportunity to vote, yes or no, on such a costly initiative. Do our wise leaders really think they have more sense then the voters? They got us into this mess and they continue to tell its for our own good. Now their threatening to sue us if me protest their boondoggle. I think this shows us the true mentality of our so wise leaders.

    Time for Tax Payer Henry to ride the midnight ride again! Just like his ancestor Patrick Henry, Tax Payer Henry has sounded the alarm against tyrants many times during the 22 years I have known him.
    He sounded the alarm at the Post Office 20 years ago. As we now see, the post office is in dire straights. As in all government agencies, the post office was and probably still is mandated to hire idiots, incompetents, malingerers, criminals, perverts and drive out intelligent and hard working people. The American public is now paying the price for the idiocy that was and probably is allowed to exist in the post office.
    At the time of Tax Payer Henry's postal career, it was policy to run off and fire Caucasian men by whatever means necessary. There were and most likely still are people working at postal facilities who cannot read, write or speak English. I am sure that this is part of an overall liberal communist secular humanist plot to dumb down, subdue, subjugate, terrorize and humiliate hard working American people. Also, the liberal secular humanist communist agenda is to wreck the infrastructure of America and our government.
    To Arms Taxpayer Henry!! Ride Well, Fast and Swift!! One if by land, Two If By Sea!!
    Peace Out and Good Night Chesty Puller, Where Ever you are.


    On June 26, 2012 after the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisor’s meeting, I talked to board member, David Ferguson about the “out of control” ad he brought up during the meeting, which ran in the Free Press last week. Another citizen, new to the county meetings, was there with us. Ferguson wanted to know how I came up with the future projected debt. As Ferguson and I debated different issues back and forth, Ferguson stated “Cindy, I just figured out what your problem is”, I said what’s that? Ferguson said “your daddy didn’t spank you enough when you were a little girl”, to which I replied, “I just figured out what your problem is Ferguson, I am a grown woman now and you still believe that a woman should be seen and not heard.” He then turned and walked away.

    I wonder how the citizens of Shenandoah County feel about having a leader of the Republican Party and member of our Board of Supervisor (David Ferguson), who believes that a grown woman, who exercises her freedom of speech and right to question policy makers and elected officials spending habits, was not spanked enough as a child? That because I am brave, bold and not intimated by anyone. That I am willing to stand up and speak out and ask questions without fear of retaliation is somehow wrong or lacks discipline. I was raised in a solid Christian home and will always remember that I am beholden to no one, BUT OUR FATHER WHO ART IN HEAVEN! I wonder who the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisor’s are beholden to.

    Cindy Bailey

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