FRONT ROYAL — The special grand jury empaneled to investigate misuse of funds within the local government has received a six-month extension through March 31.

The special grand jury was empaneled in March to investigate potential misfeasance and malfeasance — including misappropriation or embezzlement of public funds — within the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority, the County of Warren, the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, Warren County Public Schools and the Town of Front Royal.

The special grand jury was originally empaneled through Sept. 30 but an Aug. 21 court order approved by Circuit Court Judge Clifford L. Athey has extended that deadline.

“As a result of the complexity of matters investigated and the voluminous nature of the evidence collected, the Special Grand Jury would require additional time to review the evidence, issue additional true bills, if necessary, and prepare its Final Report,” the court order states.

So far, the special grand jury has handed up 18 indictments against former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald, former EDA administrative assistant Michelle “Missy” Henry and businessman Donald Poe.

The court order states that the special grand jury has interviewed 60-plus witnesses and over 10,000 documents as evidence.

The order, filed on Aug. 21, comes as the special grand jury met Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Another court order states that the special grand jury appointed Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Bryan Layton to serve as “the Special Counsel to assist the Special Grand Jury in its deliberations and to coordinate with the Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office...to assist with the prosecution” of any individuals charged.

This was necessary, according to the court order, as Commonwealth Attorney Brian Madden will become a circuit court judge on Sept. 1 and Layton will as serve commonwealth attorney until the November election.

The court order adds that since the newly elected commonwealth attorney “will be wholly unfamiliar with” the special grand jury’s activities, Layton will “continue in his role.” It adds that Layton has agreed to serve as special counsel and assist with prosecutions for $90 per hour, a rate that will “commence at such time as he is no longer employed” with the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office.

Layton and Interim Clerk of Circuit Court Janice Shanks could not be reached for comment as of press time.

– Contact Josh Gully at jgully@nvdaily.com