FRONT ROYAL – The Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority is seeking legal counsel due to the pending exit of its attorney Dan Whitten, who recently announced that he is resigning to become Prince George County’s attorney.
The EDA at its regular Friday meeting approved a motion to solicit “law firms to provide legal counsel to EDA on an ongoing basis.”
County Administrator Doug Stanley noted that the county is also advertising for a new county attorney. To this point, the county’s attorney also served as the EDA’s attorney. He said this was initially done to save money but wondered if it “makes sense to continue the arrangement.”
“For obvious reasons, maybe we don’t want to continue that arrangement. I think that’s an item for discussion moving forward. I think it’s very prudent in the interim, given what’s going on with the lawsuit and everything, for y’all to probably get counsel,” he said.
The lawsuit Stanley referenced is the EDA’s $17.6 million civil lawsuit that was filed in March against nine defendants including the authority’s former executive director for a series of alleged embezzlements and misappropriations.
Stanley noted that Whitten’s assistant, Caitlin Jordan, had a baby Thursday and will be on maternity leave through October. He said the county is attempting to find someone to manage the office until a permanent hire and it will be difficult for one person to cover the EDA and the county’s legal issues.
“Let’s get through the next two or three months and the immediate issues that we have at hand,” Stanley said.
Authority board member Ed Daley said the EDA’s seeking of legal counsel beyond the county’s attorney is a short-term solution that could turn into a permanent solution.
Authority board member Tom Patteson said it is a good idea to hire an outside lawyer as there “is a lot of noise out there” regarding potential conflicts of interest in Whitten’s representation of both the county and EDA.
“You put that issue to rest, too,” he said.
Whitten suggested that the EDA attempt to pay its new lawyer a flat rate instead of an hourly rate so the authority is not being charged for every one of the new lawyer’s phone calls and emails.
Stanley noted that the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail authority has an outside lawyer who charges an annual $30,000 fee, and this is a service many law firms provide.
The EDA also:
Appointed new officers in its annual election process including Daley as chairman, Jeffrey Browne as vice chairman, Marjorie Martin as secretary and Patteson as treasurer.
Went into closed session to discuss: consideration of the acquisition of real property for a public purpose or the disposition of publicly held real property on Main Street, Fairgrounds Road and in the Stephens Industrial Park; a prospective business or industry or expansion of an existing business or industry on Main Street, Fairgrounds Road or in the Happy Creek Technology Park and the Stephens Industrial Park; consultation with legal counsel regarding its civil lawsuit and loans, accounting and debt service issues regarding the Afton Inn.