JACOB MEZA

Meza

A judge kept alive a Front Royal man’s lawsuit over the Town Council’s choice to fill an empty seat.

Warren County Circuit Court Judge William W. Sharp on Friday granted a Front Royal attorney’s request to file an amended complaint on behalf of his client who claims Town Council appointed a member to fill a vacancy in January in violation of the Town Charter.

Councilman Jacob L. Meza's first four-year term ended Dec. 31. Meza did not run for re-election in November.

Then-councilman Christopher W. Holloway won the mayoral election and the shift created a vacancy on the council. A majority of council members chose Meza from a slate of candidates and voted to appoint him to the seat.

Front Royal resident Paul L. Aldrich claims in a lawsuit filed on Jan. 11 in Warren County Circuit Court by local attorney David A. Downes that the appointment violates the Town Code. Downes argues in the lawsuit that the Town Charter prohibits the council from appointing a former, elected Front Royal official less than a year of that person leaving office.

Heather K. Bardot, of the Fairfax firm of Bancroft, McGavin, Horvath and Judkins, represents the defendants — the Town Council and Meza.

Sharp states in the letter that he sustained the defense’s demurrer, or objection, that challenges the plaintiff’s claims.

The judge also states in the letter that he reached several conclusions, including that Aldrich has legal standing to bring the lawsuit as a citizen taxpayer. Sharp overruled several counts of the defense’s objections: that the court lacked jurisdiction in this case; that the plaintiff fails to state a claim that the specific section of the Town Charter cited in the lawsuit applies to appointments to the council; and that the charter section is unconstitutional as it applies to Meza.

Sharp sustained the following counts in the demurrer: the plaintiff does not sufficient claims to support a preliminary injunction and that Aldrich fails to state a claim for court to order the town government to execute a legally obligated duty, referred to as a writ of mandamus.

Sharp granted Aldrich 21 days to file an amended complaint, should he so decide. The defendants shall respond to the amended complaint with 21 days of its filing.

Sharp dismissed the case at an April 7 hearing on motions including the defense’s demurrer. The judge held a hearing on May 25 to reconsider Aldrich’s motion that asked the court to allow the plaintiff to file an amended complaint. Sharp took the motion under advisement and then issued his decision Friday.

– Contact Alex Bridges at abridges@nvdaily.com