FRONT ROYAL– The Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority on Friday announced it will soon file litigation.
After coming out of a closed session that was over two hours long, the board unanimously voted in favor of allowing the Sands Anderson law firm to file litigation on behalf of the EDA.
EDA Attorney Dan Whitten denied saying who the EDA may be suing, but that whoever is being sued could change and he has “no comment until it’s filed.” Whitten also declined to comment whether it would be a civil or criminal suit. He also declined to say whether the EDA would make an announcement when the lawsuit is filed.
The Warren County Board of Supervisors has approved a $100,000 cap for legal fees to be given to the Sands Anderson law firm for its work with the EDA. The county also approved $160,000 to be paid to an unrevealed financial consultant to look into EDA finances. The EDA on Friday heard that financial consultant’s final report, which Chairman Gray Blanton previously said should be released sometime next week. The only financial question that has officially been raised regarding the EDA is that the organization owes the town at least $291,000 stemming from overpayments related to debt service.
Blanton said the lawsuit should be filed either Monday or Tuesday. He declined to say how many people may be sued.
“That’s the advice that we’re getting, and we’ve gotta follow it,” Blanton said.
Sands Anderson attorney Cullen Seltzer also declined to comment on who the suit would be against, when it will be filed and how many parties are involved. He said those “are all perfectly reasonable questions, but I can’t say.”
Interim EDA Director John Anzivino noted during his report to the board that the EDA’s budget, despite its small scope, has been the most challenging one he has worked on in 40 years of employment in the public or private sector. He said that is due to “the limited amount of available information, the lack of available documentation in some cases and the fluid nature of past projects.” He previously noted that he would simplify the new budget while providing more detail.
In addition to Sands Anderson representatives, Warren County Supervisor Tony Carter and County Administrator Doug Stanley were included in closed session discussions Friday. They both said they were invited to join.
Supervisor Tom Sayre arrived at the EDA offices at about 12:20 p.m. and was surprised to hear that Carter and Stanley were included in the closed session. Sayre proceeded to ask accountant Carolyn Stimmel to knock on the door and ask if all of the supervisors were allowed to be included.
She returned, saying Carter said: “‘We’re going to be out in a minute.’”
“They didn’t tell me that you could come in...they said that they would be out in a minute,” Stimmel said.
Sayre said it is unfair that the two were allowed in closed session and that he was denied entry. Carter, Sayre said, has fought him every step of the way during his quest for answers regarding the EDA, and that Stanley never thought anything questionable had occurred. Stanley declined to respond to those comments.
Carter pointed out later over the phone that Sayre has filed a defamation lawsuit against former EDA director Jennifer McDonald. He said that Sayre’s presence in the closed session could have been seen as him attempting to gain information that would assist that ongoing litigation.
Blanton said he had complied when Stanley and Carter had asked to be in the closed session. Sayre requested to be involved in future closed sessions, to which Blanton agreed.
Stanley said Dan Siegel, of the Sands Anderson legal firm, also thought he should be in the closed session.