FRONT ROYAL - Lawyers for several defendants named in the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority’s civil lawsuit have filed motions in the case lamenting lacking details and requesting that discovery be discontinued pending criminal investigations.
The nine defendants in the $17 million lawsuit that alleges embezzlement, misappropriations and faulty contracts are former EDA executive director Jennifer McDonald, Warren County Sheriff Daniel McEathron, ITFederal LLC, ITFederal developer Curt Tran, MoveOn8 LLC, DaBoyz LLC , Earth Right Energy Solar Commercial LLC and principals in Earth Right Energy Solar Commercial LLC Donald Poe and Justin Appleton.
Lawyers for McDonald, McEathron, Poe, Appleton and Earth Right Solar Commercial LLC filed motions that further discovery be delayed until the conclusion of a special grand jury that is investigating potential financial wrongdoings of the EDA, town, county, schools, Sheriff’s Office and officials within those entities.
The EDA’s lawsuit alleges that McEathron and McDonald used EDA funds to purchase real estate. It also states that the two were involved in deception to use a proposed criminal justice academy for their personal benefit.
Edward MacMahon Jr., McEathron’s lawyer, states that the EDA’s complaint “is strangely silent” on how McDonald took money “without any financial oversight by the EDA.” He adds that the lawsuit does not allege that McEathron exercised “any control over the EDA or its finances.”
Lee Berlik, McDonald’s lawyer who is also representing her limited liability companies MoveOn8 and DaBoyz, filed a request for either a demurrer or a bill of particulars. The demurrer is an objection to the EDA’s lawsuit. A bill of particulars would require the EDA’s lawsuit to be amended to provide more details.
Berlik states that “one global problem” with the EDA’s lawsuit is “its intentional conflation of alleged actions and parties that performed those actions.”
He notes that while there are nine defendants, each is being sued collectively for $17 million while not each defendant was not mentioned in each of the accusations.
Berlik states that the EDA's lawsuit is “a list of grievances” regarding “decisions it now regrets." He adds the authority is engaged in a smear campaign against McDonald while “blaming her for every bad decision" of the EDA board.
He states that the demurrer should be sustained or the motion for a bill of particulars should be granted so McDonald can develop a defense for the plaintiff's theories.
The EDA lawsuit also alleges that Earth Right Energy and its principals Poe and Appleton entered into an agreement with McDonald for the installation of solar power facilities and the company did not perform work for which it was paid. It adds that the company entered into a $27 million contract with McDonald to install solar equipment at schools despite Poe and Appleton's knowledge that the schools never approved the deal.
Christopher T. Whelan, Justin Appleton’s attorney, states in motion for demurrer that the EDA’s lawsuit bunches all of the defendants into one and seeks to impose joint liability "despite failing to make a single factual allegation to support such a broad theory of joint liability.”
Whelan states there is no proof of any wrongdoing by Appleton and asks that the EDA’s complaint against him be dismissed.
In a motion to suspend discovery until the conclusion of the special grand jury, Whelan states the EDA is attempting a “shock and awe campaign” to “use broad tools of civil discovery to enhance a criminal investigation.”
Ryan D. Huttar, Earth Right Energy Solar-Commercial LLC’s attorney, also filed a motion for a protective order against discovery until the conclusion of the special grand jury’s investigations.
Huttar states in a motion for demurrer that the EDA’s complaint “is so poorly written that it’s unclear what factual allegations the EDA has leveled against” Earth Right Energy Solar-Commercial LLC. He adds that the complaint against the company should be dismissed.
William D. Ashwell, Poe’s lawyer, states in a request for demurrer that the EDA’s lawsuit has no “factual assertions” that Poe “took possession of EDA property” for his personal benefit. He adds EDA’s lawsuit is “an unfortunate attempt” by the county and authority “to impugn the names and reputations” of the defendants in attempts to “rectify the unfortunate dysfunction of the plaintiff.”