FRONT ROYAL – John Bell, a candidate for commonwealth’s attorney in the November election, said he is wondering why legal proceedings regarding the financial debacle at the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development are being “slow walked” through the justice system.
Bell is one of two candidates — along with Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Layton — who have publicly declared their intention to fill the seat to be left vacant by Brian Madden, who is slated for a circuit court judgeship.
Bell, 63, said he moved to Warren County in 1988 and served as the lead assistant commonwealth’s attorney for 16 years. He then a entered private practice, returned briefly back to prosecution in Shenandoah County, and is now a partner in a law firm. He said over the phone that his main concern regarding the Commonwealth’s Attorney Office’s investigation into any potential financial wrongdoings at the EDA is that the office has not shared the priorities of county citizens, which is “outrageous.” He added that he does not think the office realizes the “depths of anger and betrayal” citizens have experienced.
Bell said that while he understands the need for secrecy in any investigation, the EDA case seems to have slowly trudged through the legal system without any justification.
If elected, Bell said his goals will include fostering a better relationship between victims and the office while giving them better access to any needed assistance.
He said another goal would be to serve as the lead prosecutor in most cases because citizens deserve to see their elected officials “in the trenches” and serving as the county’s top lawyer. He also noted the need to change many outdated “administrative procedures” within the office such as poor case tracking software and the blanket forms used to create indictments.
He said many citizens planted the idea to run for commonwealth’s attorney in his mind and he eventually became convinced that “it is time for a change.”
Bell noted that his son is in the military, another is a police officer, and “our whole family is dedicated to service...that’s the reason I am in this.” He added that while having a private law firm is enjoyable, “there comes a time when the needs of the community come first.”
He said although he was not born in Warren County he will be buried there and he is running for office because “it is a way to preserve the good things in my home.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article should have stated Bell's age as 63.