By Alex Bridges -- firstname.lastname@example.org
The Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors denies they needed a voter referendum to borrow millions of dollars to build a regional jail in Warren County.
Toms Brook resident Mark Prince filed a complaint in Shenandoah County Circuit Court in early July asking a judge to void the financing for the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail, currently under construction on U.S. 340-522 in Warren County.
Prince argues that state code requires the local governing body, when seeking to borrow large sums of money, to put the question on the ballot as a referendum for the voters.
County Attorney J. Jay Litten filed a response with the court Monday in response to Prince's claims and asked the court to dismiss the complaint.
"The Board further states that it took all measures legally required before adopting the [RSW Regional Jail] Service Agreement," the answer states.
Judge Dennis L. Hupp addressed the case for the first time in the court Thursday. Prince appeared for himself though he has retained attorney Bradley Pollack as legal counsel. The complaint identifies the county, the RSW Regional Jail Authority board, the Virginia Resources Authority and SunTrust Bank as defendants in the case. Litten appeared for the board of supervisors. Robert Hodges represents the VRA. No attorneys appeared for either the jail authority board or SunTrust.
Hupp set the next hearing date for Sept. 27 to address the complaint and any responses filed by the defendants.
The RSW Regional Jail Authority Board sought moral obligation bonds in the amount of more than $80 million, through SunTrust Bank and the Virginia Resources Authority. Prince, a long-time, vocal opponent of the jail and other Shenandoah County projects, claims in the complaint that the supervisors did not put the borrowing issue on the ballot as a referendum for the voters. As such, according to Prince, the court should nullify the bond issuance as the jail authority borrowed the money without the consent of the voters.
Litten states that if the complaint refers to the RSW Regional Service Agreement then the supervisors deny any referendum was required. The board of supervisors did not need to give its approval of the bonds issued by regional jail authority bonds, according to Litten. The board did enact a resolution in support of the authority's issuance of the bonds and entered into an agreement endorsing the action, Litten notes.
"The Board affirmatively alleges that its actions with respect to the Service Agreement and the funding of the regional jail have been lawful in all respects," the answer states.
The board "denies that the bonds are either 'null' or 'void.'" The board denies most other allegations in Prince's complaint, according to Litten's response.
The answer goes on to state that the board denies that Prince "has the lawful right to represent others as expressed [in] the Complaint' opening paragraph." Likewise, Litten states the board denies the allegation that it guaranteed the bond issued by the jail authority as claimed in the complaint.