The Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority filed a civil lawsuit Tuesday, claiming the Authority’s former Executive Director stole more than $17 million from the organization.
Also named in the lawsuit: Warren County Sheriff Daniel McEathron, ITFederal developer Curt Tran, and principals of Earth Right Energy Solar Commercial LLC Donald Poe and Justin Appleton, among others.
The suit accuses Jennifer McDonald of taking money from the EDA for her personal benefit, including paying off her credit card debt and buying real estate. The EDA’s Interim Executive Director John Anzivino says board members had no idea this was going on.
“The board was surprised at the breadth and the depth of the indiscretion, that the financial indiscretion was as deep as it was,” said Anzivino, who took over as Interim Director in January, after McDonald stepped down.
He says board members first became suspicious of mismanagement of funding last summer.
In 2016, Warren County Sheriff Daniel McEathron and McDonald formed a joint business venture called DaBoyz LLC. The suit alleges McDonald used over $2 million from the EDA and to purchase several properties under DaBoyz.
Mceathron declined to comment, but in a press release, he wrote in part: “I am in shock of the allegations and want the public to know I have done nothing illegal, either personally or professionally. Those that know me know who I am and what I stand for and that I would never do anything to compromise my position.”
The Warren County Board of Supervisors also released a statement which read in part, “The Board of Supervisors has faith that the current EDA Board of Directors, the forensic auditor, and Sands Anderson will get to the bottom of these issues, make sure that all of those responsible are held accountable, and make every effort to recover the money that has been embezzled.”
The Anzivino says the board is taking steps to make sure this doesn’t happen again. According to a press release published by the board, new policies have been put into place, such as expense approvals and screening of employees. The board has also reinstated a loan committee and appointed a budget committee for additional oversight while expanding the scope of the audit committee.
Anzivino knows it will take time to regain the public’s trust, but he hopes residents can see the work the volunteers on the board are trying to do, beyond the allegations the board has made.
McDonald declined to comment on this matter, and emails and phone calls made to Tran, Appleton, and Poe were not returned.