FRONT ROYAL – Interim Mayor Matt Tederick said during a Thursday town-county liaison meeting that he believes the town can force the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority's dissolution and subsequently receive half of the authority’s assets.
He pointed to a March 1991 agreement that states if the EDA is dissolved, “the Town and County shall receive an equal division of all IDA (the EDA was previously referred to as the Industrial Development Authority) property.”
Although the town ceased funding of the EDA in 2008, Tederick said he believes the town could still force the authority’s dissolution as no updated agreement has been found.
"I believe the town could force dissolution," he said.
Supervisors Chairman Dan Murray said: “don’t threaten, please.”
Tederick said it is not a threat, but the town and county need to find a way to work together in solving the EDA’s embezzlement scandal. In March, the EDA sued nine defendants for $17.6 million over a series of alleged embezzlement and misappropriations. Two previous EDA employees, Jennifer McDonald and Michelle Henry, have since been arrested on counts of embezzlement and obtaining money by false pretenses stemming from their time at the EDA. Their arrests resulted from indictments handed up by a special grand jury investigating the situation and there is a separate FBI investigation.
Tederick said he placed the dissolution of the EDA on the liaison committee’s meeting because “we needed to have an open and honest discussion.” He noted that the community wants an “unambiguous” direction for solving the problem. He added that perhaps dissolution is not the answer and maybe the EDA needs to be rearranged.
He asked: How can the town and county work together “to clean up this mess?”
Tederick noted that the county has funded an audit of the EDA and associated legal fees - a price capped at about $1 million - while the town has its own filed lawsuit against the EDA. He said perhaps the two could join forces.
Murray responded that when the county asked the town if it would help fund the audit and legal fees, the town declined. Tederick said he has been told that the town had good reasons for declining but did not expand on those reasons.
Town Attorney Doug Napier said on Friday, as he was waiting to be interviewed by a special grand jury empaneled to investigate the EDA, that the town declined to provide funding because all town citizens are county citizens. Therefore, he said the town is already funding half. Although it would be “complicated,” Napier said he does believe the town could force the EDA’s dissolution.
Murray said that the discussions regarding the EDA during the liaison committee should be held in a more public setting between the entire Board of Supervisors and Town Council, not just a couple of representatives from each. Present at the Thursday evening meeting were Town Manager Joe Waltz, County Administrator Doug Stanley, Councilman Gary Gillispie, Murray and Tederick. Supervisor Archie Fox was also scheduled to represent the county but he was not present. The officials agreed to arrange a meeting between all supervisors and council members.
Murray said making any decision during the Thursday meeting with no citizens present would be “wrong” and further to the criticism that the local government lacks transparency. He added that the supervisors are being transparent and they themselves do not know anything because the FBI has not shared any aspects of its investigation with local officials.
Tederick responded that he was not seeking to arrive upon a resolution that night, but he hoped the discussions would continue in the future. He noted that years ago, town-county liaison meetings may have been contentious but were productive. He said they now consist of nothing but reports from officials, which needs to change.
Tederick suggested that town and county officials meet every 10 days to solve the EDA fiasco. Murray said: “I don’t think so” because such a schedule would be “overbearing” and “people have lives.” They eventually agreed to perhaps a monthly meeting.
Tederick added he would like to pave a road for improvement although he is the “lamest of lame ducks” and will likely not see the solution to its end as he is only interim mayor until a Nov. 5 special election. Regarding the date Tederick’s term expires, Murray - who is not seeking re-election for a term expiring in January - said: “lucky you.”