Front Royal Town Councilman Jacob L. Meza says he plans to stay in his appointed seat despite calls for him to step down.
Members voted at a special meeting in December to appoint Meza to fill the vacancy created by former Councilman Chris W. Holloway taking the mayor’s seat following his election in November.
The council appointed Meza in January 2015 to fill a vacant seat. Meza ran for election in November 2016 and won a four-year term on the council. Meza did not run for reelection and his term expired Dec. 31.
The council sought to fill the vacancy and interviewed four applicants interested in serving before a majority of members settled on Meza on Jan. 4.
But town resident Paul L. Aldrich has sought to have a judge nullify Meza’s appointment. Local attorney David Downes filed a civil complaint on Monday in Warren County on Aldrich’s behalf for declaratory judgment and a petition for injunctive relief to nullify the appointment as unconstitutional and to keep Meza from taking any action in his capacity as a councilman. The complaint also asks a judge to prohibit Meza from being appointed until after Jan. 1, 2022.
The complaint states that Aldrich notified the clerk of the Town Council on Dec. 31 that he wanted to be considered for the appointment.
“Aldrich took time away from his employment to be interviewed by the Town Council on January 4, 2021, and continues to have a sincere and vested interested in this appointment,” the complaint states.
Downes cites the charter clause as stating that “No member of the council of the Town of Front Royal shall be appointed or elected to any office of the council while he is a member of the council, or for one year thereafter ...”
Almost a dozen people spoke at a council meeting Monday and complained that members violated the town charter by appointing Meza to fill the vacant seat. Councilwoman Letasha T. “Tasha” Thompson, the lone member who voted against Meza’s appointment, has said she felt the council needed new people onboard.
Some speakers claimed that Meza planned to not run for another term and not have to campaign for the seat against a roster of candidates so he could be appointed to the expected vacancy. Some speakers also claimed that as a councilman, Meza has pushed for, and voted in favor of actions meant to benefit his employer, Valley Health.
Some speakers compared Meza’s appointment to what they called voter fraud in the Nov. 3 presidential election in which President Donald Trump lost to former Vice President Joe Biden. Election officials across the United States determined that claims of widespread voter fraud remain unsubstantiated.
Downes spoke at the meeting on Monday and explained that several of the candidates who did not win council seats still received hundreds of votes and should have been considered for the appointed position. Thompson has said the council should consider election runners-up to fill vacancies. Mike McCool, who ran for mayor in November, made a similar comment to the council several years ago.
After hearing from speakers, Meza said he would continue to serve on the council unless asked to step down by his fellow members.
Town Attorney Douglas Napier told council members in early December that appointing Meza to the vacant seat would not violate the town charter. At a subsequent meeting, the council voted to appoint Meza to the seat and he took office on Jan. 4.
After several people, including Thomas Sayre, a former town councilman and a former Warren County supervisor claimed that Meza’s appointment violated the town charter. Sayre cited the charter clause that prohibits the council from appointing someone to a seat on the panel who had served as a member within one year.
Napier reiterated his opinion in a news release issued by the town that the council did not violate the Town Charter. Area attorney Robert Mitchell concurred with Napier in an opinion as stated in a subsequent news release issued by the town.