FRONT ROYAL — The county is hiring a law firm to represent the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority regarding unspecified matters.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a contract with the Sands Anderson law firm on behalf of the EDA at the regular Tuesday meeting. County Attorney Dan Whitten explained that no money has yet been spent on the matter and the contract has a $50,000 legal fees cap. A motion to approve the contract states that the law firm will “provide legal counsel on a specific matter.”

When asked after the meeting what that matter is, Whitten, who is also the EDA’s attorney, did not expand any further and said the firm would represent the EDA on a “specific legal matter.” He said the firm already represents the county and EDA on bond counsel issues, “but this is for a separate matter.”

Although Whitten remains EDA’s lawyer, he said Sands Anderson is necessary because “I don’t have the time to represent the county and the EDA on this specific matter.”

The decision was made after the Board of Supervisors went into a 45-minute closed session for consultation with legal counsel regarding accounting and debt service.

Whitten said he does not know how long the firm will be employed to oversee the unspecified issue.

“It just depends on how much evidence they need to review, if they need to file any kind of suit, how much time they will be in court. It really just depends on how it plays out...It really just depends on the evidence and the individuals involved,” he said.

The county approved another expense regarding the EDA when on Dec. 21 it OK’d a $90,000 payment to an unidentified financial consultant who has been looking into overpayments the town and county made to the EDA relating to debt service.

The day before that vote was taken, Jennifer McDonald, former EDA executive director, resigned from that position after the EDA board held a series of closed sessions regarding her performance and debt and accounting services.

The Town Council has passed a resolution stating it overpaid the EDA at least $291,000 while the county has not said if or how much it overpaid. A previous county news release, however, stated that the consultant will hopefully sort out “specifically what is owed” to both the town and county.

That $90,000 was a payment for three months of work already completed, and Whitten said the financial consultant is getting close on providing a final report, which may be provided at the EDA’s regular Jan. 25 meeting.

“They’re still finding stuff, so they’re still researching and conducting interviews,” he said.

Asked about the current standing of the money owed by the EDA to the town and whether it is accounted for, Whitten said: “that is attorney-client privilege.” Gray Blanton, EDA chairman, said in December that “it won’t be as simple” as cutting the town and county checks for the money owed.

Also citing attorney-client privilege, he said the identity of the consultant would not be revealed.

“I’m the attorney for the EDA, and so I’m basically using the consultant to provide outside services to me and my attorney-client relationship to the EDA...I’m using outside financial consultants to help me in my provision of legal services,” he said.

The EDA has scheduled a special meeting for 10 a.m. Thursday during which the board will hold a closed session regarding the potential replacement of McDonald. Other items slated for the closed session include discussion of debt and accounting services and an unannounced business to be located in the Happy Creek area.

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