FRONT ROYAL – Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority Chairman Gray Blanton said over the phone Thursday that the board should receive a private financial consultant’s final report regarding EDA finances this morning.
The county in September hired a private financial consultant on behalf of the EDA to look into the organization’s finances after it surfaced that the town was owed at least $291,000 by the EDA stemming from overpayments related to debt service.
Blanton said that he has been told the report is “an inch thick” and the board will review it during a closed session today. He said the meeting could last between three to four hours because there is a lot of “evidence” involved.
“We’ve got a whole lot of materials to go over to find out what’s with the money,” he said.
Blanton said that attempting to find out whether the EDA owes the town and county money “led us to a whole lot of other things.” He could not expand any further due to confidentiality agreements.
He said board members are all “sworn to secrecy,” which he does not like because “it makes us all look like we’re not all that sharp.”
Blanton said he has never dealt with problems that regard “millions of dollars” and “it’s tough” but luckily the board has received good advice from EDA attorney Dan Whitten.
Blanton said that while the report will be presented to the board today, attorneys will need time to digest it. He added that he cannot say whether criminal charges will be involved or if law enforcement is already involved. He said such questions should be directed to Whitten.
Whitten has said numerous times that he could not answer those questions due to attorney-client privilege.
Blanton said findings of the report would be made public Tuesday or Wednesday, at which time he said the media “will have a lot to write about.”
“Unfortunately, we are going to have it and discuss it, but we can’t tell you anything until next week,” he said.
At that point, Blanton said he would be happy to talk.
In other news, Blanton confirmed that EDA administrative assistant Missy Henry resigned on Monday. He said that Henry stated in a letter of resignation that the reason for the decision was that she did not get along with EDA interim director John Anzivino.
Blanton said: “I don’t think that was really the reason” for the resignation, but the board will not find out until today “whether she’s done anything wrong.”
Henry’s resignation follows myriad reshuffling of the board and organization.
That has included the resignations of William Biggs, EDA treasurer of 30 years; Josie Rickard, EDA bookkeeper of 20 years; and Jennifer McDonald, EDA executive director of 10 years.
In August, Greg Drescher stepped down as chairman but remained on the board. In October 2017, former director of marketing Marla Taylor Jones retired.
Up to this point, the county has paid the financial consultant $160,000 for work completed from September through February. The county also approved a $100,000 cap that may be provided to a law firm for potential work with the EDA. Also contracted was attorney Robert T. Mitchell for $275 per hour to prevent any conflict of interest involving Whitten, who is also the county attorney.
In other news, a Freedom of Information Act request was denied by Whitten that sought information on who gave the EDA reimbursements for payments made on the canceled criminal justice academy.
The $8 million police academy was to be funded through a private investor who would make payments on an as needed basis to the EDA. Police reports regarding an EDA office break-in state that McDonald told police that the investor was ITFederal developer Curt Tran.
Tran said that while discussions were held about him as a possible investor, the transaction never came to fruition.
The EDA spent over $540,000 on the academy and $200,000 was reimbursed. Whitten said that $200,000 came from the private investor but declined to reveal the investor’s identity, which he said should never have been revealed outside of closed sessions.
Whitten stated in an email that “a copy of such check” is exempt to disclosure under Virginia Code section 2.2-3705.1(3), which includes “legal memoranda and other work product complied specifically for use in litigation or for use in an active administrative investigation concerning a matter that is properly the subject of a closed meeting.”
On the Net
For more details on the police academy funding, visit https://tinyurl.com/y4co3yqb