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By Dan McDermott
Warren County Report
FRONT ROYAL, Va. — July 19, 2010 — Three members of Front Royal Town Council and the Town Attorney were served with legal documents at a Town Hall work session tonight, protesting the whole while.
“Lock em up,” said newly installed Councilman Hollis Tharpe as process server John Arena went about his business with Town Police Lt. Clint Keller racing up from behind.
Earlier today, Warren County Report exclusively reported that the complaints in a $30 million lawsuit charging the town and three councilmen with defamation and hurting a business would be served after the work session, held most Mondays in between the more formal twice-monthly council meetings.
The council had just voted to go into a closed session to discuss their lawsuit with the town attorney (an item conspicuously absent from the agenda) and it appeared to some that one meeting had ended but another had not yet begun as spectators, staff and reporters began packing their items up to leave.
At this point, process server Arena, 6’8″ tall and armed with size 18 feet and four 154-page copies of a lawsuit that could cost Front Royal taxpayers millions, casually sprung into action.
Arena first placed a folder in front of Town Attorney Thomas R. Robinett and walked away. Looking surprised, Robinett said “Sir, you are going to interrupt a public meeting?”
Arena said nothing and proceeded around the table toward his next target, Councilman Chris W. Holloway. Holloway sat and didn’t say anything (yet.)
Newly installed Mayor Tim Darr asked Arena to wait until after the closed session “which will only last about five minutes.” Arena slowed for a moment before placing the next folder in front of Holloway.
FRPD Lt. Keller (presumably there to beef up the security normally provided solely by Chief Richard Furr) hurried to catch up to Arena and Furr stood guard at the other side of the table.
Councilman Tharpe (perhaps emboldened since he wasn’t on Arena’s $30 million hit list) issued some advice to Arena and instructions for Keller. “You’ve been warned. Lock him up,” Tharpe said in a most serious tone.
At this point target 3 Councilman Sayre (who had been ducking behind people throughout the meeting to avoid our reporter’s camera) got up and walked around the table to flee Arena and his intimidating folders. Councilman Carson Lauder, target 4, sat calmly and took it like a man. Even calmer, considering he was being threatened with jail by a councilman, being told to leave by a mayor and town attorney and chased–albeit slowly–by the top two officials of the town police department, Arena simply proceeded to slowly walk around the table and drop the last two lawsuits of a lifetime in front of Lauder and where Sayre would be again seated, once Arena had left and it was safe to return.
Arena, followed closely by Lt. Keller, simply slowly walked out of the room and left the building.
Mayor Darr (who is not an attorney and may not have realized that the serving had been completed once the packets were placed in front of the recipients) asked Chief Furr to return the complaints to Arena.
“He’s going to jail. He can’t take them to jail,” offered Tharpe, unaware that Arena had committed no crime and already left the building.
Town Attorney Robinett, realizing the deed had been done, suggested they keep the thick folders.
As the only person in the room with a video camera, I stayed to capture all this, apparently drawing the ire of target 2 Holloway who turned to me and said, “Hey Dan, this is a closed meeting,” while raising his eyebrows almost to his scalp and jabbing at the air toward the door with his pen.
“I’m leaving, chill out buddy,” I said to Holloway as I very slowly packed up my things and kept the camera rolling for a few more precious seconds.
Council then went into closed session to discuss the lawsuit and were perhaps advised on the matter for the last time by Town Attorney Robinett, who’s own packet probably contained a letter from Attorney David W. Silek warning that Robinett would be called as a witness in the case and would most likely be deposed, making it improper for him to offer any further advice or counsel on the case to his clients.
Dan McDermott: firstname.lastname@example.org
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By Dan McDermott
Warren County Report
FRONT ROYAL, VA–Area Republican State Senator Mark Obenshain of Harrisonburg, recently pummeled by Warren County Report readers for his self-declared ‘War with the Eastern Box Turtle’ has set his sights on another slow-moving target, the Virginia Department of Transportation.
In a March 16 press release, Obenshain attacked VDOT for posting videos on YouTube that he says are a waste of tax money.
Obenshain’s release “expressed disappointment at learning that the cash-strapped department, which is cutting essential services to rural areas, is not so broke as to stop producing its own YouTube videos – some legitimate public service announcements, but others unadulterated examples of government waste.”
One example Obenshain cites is a video of kids sledding. Obenshain said that although VDOT officials “have insisted that limited funds give them no choice but to abandon all snow and ice removal on unpaved roads, the department had no trouble finding the resources to film children sledding during a recent snow. Instead of sending film crews to watch kids go sledding, VDOT should be clearing the roads to get those kids to school,” said Obenshain.
VDOT Chief of Communications Jeff Caldwell agrees that some of the videos are not “hard news” but says that they are an effective way to reach out to the masses. “We recognize that these are tough times. We are pulling back on traditional expensive media and are finding that social interactive web sites, like YouTube, are a great way to get our message out. Plus they are free,” he said.
Caldwell went on to say that the ‘kid’s sledding’ video was not shot with expensive “film crews,” as Obenshain claims but rather was taped by an off-duty videographer. The employee shot the video near his home with his own camera, Caldwell said.
Among the videos targeted by Obenshain’s release is one of bridge demolitions set to opera. Caldwell said that video was done using old footage and was created as a training exercise for employees working on a new video editing computer that had just been installed. “These types of videos are popular and cost us nothing to post. They draw in a lot of traffic and we find that some of those visitors will stick around and watch our other informational videos and messages about public safety,” Caldwell said.
The Obenshain release says the senator “unearthed VDOT’s YouTube Channel on Sunday.” Apparently not many people have unearthed the senator’s own YouTube channel. Regardless of who wins this debate, the YouTubers appear to have sided with VDOT. The bridge demolition set to opera video received about 130,000 views in it’s first 12 days. Obenshain’s latest YouTube video of the senator talking about the budget received 140 views in the same period.
“What do you have against turtles?”
Today I did something I never imagined I would have to do when I was elected to serve in the Senate of Virginia. I spoke and voted against legislation to make the box turtle as our state reptile (passed 24-15). That has led to some asking me, “What do you have against turtles?” It’s not a question I anticipated being asked this session, but it’s one I’ve heard more than a few times in the last few days.
For the record, I don’t have anything against the Eastern Box Turtle or terrapins in general, so there’s no need to speculate.
No, I don’t object to turtles; I object to wasting time on trivialities while seriously contemplating pushing back the budget for some later date. I have nothing against the Eastern Box, but I do have a problem with the amount of time we’ve spent this session on bills that have nothing to do with making our Commonwealth a better place, to say nothing of getting our economy back on track. This bill is just one isolated, albeit absurd (okay, even slightly amusing), example of a larger trend.
Is designating a state reptile really worth our time? We already have a state beverage, state insect, and a state gold mining interpretive center – presumably to distinguish it from the pretenders. We even have a state fossil, an extinct scallop.
I concede that Virginia trails other states in designations. We don’t have a state shrub, a state grass, or even a state donut. But if we’re to pick a state reptile, how to choose? Sure, the Eastern Box Turtle is a fine choice, but there’s something to be said for the endangered stinkpot turtle, too. And who doesn’t have a soft spot for other reptilian species, like the yellow-bellied slider, the common five-lined skink (and, of course, some would undoubtedly suggest politicians and lawyers)?
You know, we have a state shell as well. Increasingly, though, I think our state shell should be the one some in government are hiding under they we wait for the economic ill winds to pass us by. One of the counties I represent has an 11.7% unemployment rate, and they’re not alone. People are struggling to make ends meet across the Commonwealth, and they need the General Assembly to redouble its efforts to promote economic recovery, not ignore the problem in the hopes that it will just go away.
So nothing against the turtle – but if I had my way, he’d have to get in line.
Virginia State Senator
Inside this issue:
Also, 2008: The Year in Review
By Dan McDermott
Warren County Report Newspaper
The Warren County County, Virginia Jail had its first escape in years Nov. 8th when an inmate walked out of the “cage” and began a trek through town in search of cigarettes and freedom.
She had more luck bumming the smokes.
According to Jail Captain Steve Barr, Faith McHale, 36, had been brought to the jail and was handcuffed when she discovered that the magnetic door at the Jackson Street entrance had not closed.
Around 4:30 pm “she just walked out with the handcuffs on,” said Barr.
Initial reports that McHale was also wearing leg shackles proved to be untrue.
The sight of McHale walking through town with county bracelets on generated a number of calls to area dispatchers.
The woman apparently borrowed a cigarette from someone at Roy’s Express at the intersection of North Royal Ave. and Chester St. before reportedly entering a blue pickup truck headed toward South Street.
“We did not confirm the pickup,” said Barr.
Authorities converged on Main Street after receiving a call that McHale was standing next to the woodpile at Stokes Mart.
She was found there puffing away and was quickly brought back to the jail where the magnetic lock was presumably double checked.
“She was apprehended after about 15-20 minutes,” Barr said.
Barr, who has been at the Jail since 1991, said it was the first time he could recall someone actually escaping from the jail since an early 1990′s renovation that added central heating and air and sealed off inmate’s windows.
[Just prior to presstime, however, WC Report's crack research staff reports that another female prisoner walked out of the jail about five years ago after disabling the wiring to an electronic holding cell lock near the prisoner transport entrance.]
Barr said most “escapes” are actually work release inmates who either walk off the job or simply don’t return to jail after work.
McHale was a resident of the local women’s shelter and appeared to be intoxicated during the ordeal. According to Barr, McHale was originally charged with child abuse and has now been charged with escape from the jail, where she currently resides.
Barr said the lock appears to be functioning correctly now but noted that a security company has been asked to come and check it out.
The Warren County Jail welcomes about 167 “guests” a month.
[ From the current issue of Warren County Report Newspaper. On stands now. Dan McDermott: editor [at] warrencountyreport.com ]
Read more news free in our back issues.
Did 10th District Republican Congressman Frank Wolf’s elderly assistant Frank Dutton strike a cameraman with his cane?
Democrat challenger Judy Feder is accusing him of that and asking that he be fired.
I am at a loss to figure out why the guy didn’t actually ask the question before the confrontation with the world’s oldest bodyguard.
This video was posted by the Democrat Raising Kaine blog. Perhaps they should rename it Raising Cane?
I saw this on dvorak.org/blog and couldn’t stop watching…