FRONT ROYAL – During the county’s Tuesday budget public hearing, citizen Paul Gabbert said no member of the Board of Supervisors can say they did not know about the alleged embezzlement at the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority.
“A special election should be held to get a whole new board because every one of you all knew what was going on. Every one of you, and none of you are gonna sit here and look me in the face and tell me you didn’t,” Gabbert said.
Although public hearings are not meant to be a question-answer segment, Supervisor Tom Sayre responded that he did know the EDA had issues, especially after his phone number was found on a note at the house of the authority’s former director Jennifer McDonald the night a rock was thrown through her front door.
Sayre said when he found out that McDonald “framed” him as one of the perpetrators responsible for the rock being thrown, he told people of his concerns because he feared for his life and his family’s health. He said he spoke up “so I wouldn’t end up having duct tape put over my mouth” and end up “in the bottom of a lake somewhere” or “in a “shallow grave.”
Sayre said he and Supervisor Archie Fox wanted the board to approve a Virginia State Police investigation into the EDA in 2017 but they were voted down in a closed session.
Gabbert asked: “You say you wanted a special investigation. Couldn’t you have gone further if you knew what was happening...couldn’t you have gone further to the public?”
Sayre said: “I was doing what I could do” and “I was letting people know” but “it fell on deaf ears.”
McDonald was charged on a misdemeanor count of filing a false police report relating to the incident at her house and found not guilty. Sayre has since filed a defamation lawsuit against McDonald relating to the incident.
The case filings for his lawsuit state that McDonald attempted to frame Sayre as a result of him investigating the EDA’s workforce housing deal. A recently filed civil lawsuit by the EDA against McDonald states that the workforce housing project was one of many ways she allegedly embezzled or misused funds.
“I know who threw the rock through the window and it wasn’t me but it was my phone number left at the crime scene. I’ve had to file a defamation lawsuit and then she’s turned around and filed one on me because she wants me to drop mine. I am sacrificing for this community,” Sayre said.
Gabbert responded that he did not ask “any questions about rocks being thrown.”