FRONT ROYAL — A notice of a special meeting of the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority scheduled for today was greeted earlier by a lament from chairman Gray Blanton that “this is getting ugly.”
Blanton, who said he planned to attend the meeting, was replying by email to the meeting notice sent Tuesday by authority attorney Dan Whitten.
Whitten sent his email to the EDA board members, the media and EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald. In replying to Whitten’s email, Blanton sent his message to the same list of recipients.
Blanton went on in his reply to state that the Board of Supervisors needs to “step up” because “they have us there, no employees” and the EDA is expected to “do this job for nothing and get all the blame.”
He closes out the email by stating “the auditors are running this.”
In a follow-up email two minutes later, Blanton stated that he was angry and not accustomed to “being put in this position.”
Whitten, who is also the county attorney, then sent an email telling Blanton to contact him regarding any concerns.
County Administrator Doug Stanley said he does not know what Blanton means by saying the supervisors need to step up. He speculated that some EDA board members may feel their positions came with more of a time commitment than expected.
He noted that McDonald is on leave this week to deal with a family medical emergency and EDA administrative assistant Missy Henry is on medical leave, meaning the organization’s only two employees are out of the office.
Stanley added that the volunteer EDA board has had a myriad of recent meetings to “to pick up the pieces and keep things going.”
The agenda for the special meeting today states a closed session will be held for discussions regarding McDonald’s position and for legal consultation pertaining to EDA’s debt service and accounting service.
This comes less than a week after the EDA’s nearly four hour closed session that was held to discuss a part-time public relations position; an unannounced prospective business or industry or expansion of a business or industry; and consultation with legal counsel regarding EDA loan programs, debt service, the new market tax credit program, and accounting services.
After that meeting, the board passed a series of resolutions that removed McDonald as the EDA’s bank account administrator and stipulated that two out of three specific board members sign all EDA contracts and checks.
These meetings come after it was discovered that the EDA owed the town at least $291,000 due to overcharges related to debt service, but Whitten said last week that the closed sessions were not directly related to that money.
According to previous reports, Blanton said the changes were related to “overall accounting, check writing” and “contract signing” because “we don’t like the way that some things have gone the past couple of years.”
Whitten explained last week that the resolutions were recommendations from accountants and auditors.
Previous reports state that the board approved another resolution after the closed session authorizing the EDA to retroactively “execute any and all documents relating to loan modifications with United Bank.”
The EDA held a special meeting following the Dec. 14 closed session, during which the board went into another closed session lasting about 1 hour and 20 minutes to discuss McDonald’s position.
While it has not been publicly revealed if the EDA also owes the county money, the Board of Supervisors will hold a Friday closed session to consult with legal counsel regarding accounting and debt services.