FRONT ROYAL – After exiting a closed session during its Tuesday meeting, the Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to remove the $750,000 cap on legal fees for the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development’s $21.3 million civil lawsuit.
County Administrator Doug Stanley said over the phone Tuesday that the Sands Anderson law firm – which was hired in January to represent the EDA – has submitted invoices totaling $936,381. Two of those invoices totaling $215,658 are unpaid.
The county also paid the firm Cherry Bekaert $486,000 to perform a study of the EDA’s finances. A report completed by the firm was the basis for the complaints in the EDA’s civil litigation. Dan Whitten, the former county and EDA attorney, previously said that Cherry Bekaert likely will not be paid to investigate any further.
The combined cost of the study and legal fees now stands at $1,422,381. Stanley said he does not know what the final cost will be, and suggested contacting Sands Anderson attorney Dan Siegel, who did not return a phone message.
Stanley compared the expenditures to a house break-in. Upon experiencing a break-in, he said a police report is filed. Then, he said an insurance agent would be called, and the resident would be asked to provide a list of stolen items. He said the police would not provide the insurance agency a list of stolen items and it is incumbent on the resident to do so.
For the allegedly stolen money to be recouped, Stanley said “proactive steps” must be taken, which came in the form of the lawsuit and the study.
Since the county hired Sands Anderson in January, the cap on legal fees has steadily risen. In February the cap was raised to $100,000, in April to $300,000, in June to $500,000 and in August to $750,000.
Stanley noted that the EDA has said it will pay back the county.
So far, the EDA has accused 14 individuals and companies of stealing or misappropriating the authority’s money.
Jennifer McDonald, the EDA’s former executive director, is the one common thread in all of the allegations. She has also been indicted on 32 felony counts related to financial improprieties during her decade-long tenure at the EDA.