EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Councilman asks police to lock up process server as members receive $30 million lawsuit

NOTE: This post has been updated.

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: editor@warrencountyreport.com

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  1. Hahahahahaha I have read this article three times and it is still amusing the shit out of me on so many levels. Thank you so much for actually covering the real news, Mr. McDermott.

    • I actually was inspired to send an email to the editor about this outrageous article.

      • Yes, I agree it is completely outrageous. Don’t buy their paper… wait… it’s FREE… what the hell is wrong here… The other papers cannot compete.

      • Wait, you have to adjust the time zone on this site, Mr. McDermott.

  2. Thank you Dan! Your quick thinking and timely reporting made it possible for the Town Citizens to get a rare glance at how our “Ethical” Councilman behave when faced with the consequences of their actions. Good Job and keep up the good work.

  3. wow….I dont really know what to say…our elected councilmen should be ashamed at how they handled themselves while being legally served…..it looked like it was a reality TV show with Tom Sayre running around the table. Is this what good ‘ol front royal has become??! Tharpe saying ” LOCK ‘EM UP! “.. just seemed to add to all the unnecessary drama ( and was kinda funny in a way….he must have been trying to make light of the situation, right??)….kudos to Mr. Lauder for seemingly having a good sense of humor with things. It will be interesting to see what comes out of the lawsuit…i mean…..we have a great whodunnit mystery here right?? whoooooo leaked the files….i would place a bet on Sayre based just on his actions of running around the table like the processor had cooties or something…..very interesting soap-opera….can’t wait for the next installment of “As Front Royal Turns”

  4. You know, the only thing that was missing was the 4th stooge performing the eye poke or the nose whack! I was trying to be optimistic that a new group of guys might mean a new council, but I watched the video. Maybe, just maybe, if our representatives practiced a little more transparency, and a little less good ole boy closed session work, they wouldn’t have so much to hide. It’s Front Royal guys, not the CIA! Just exhale. I truly believe it is time that the taxpayers and residents were duly represented by people who have the communities best interest at heart and not their own. You are laughing stocks and you make a mockery of the offices that you hold. We deserve better. Man up to your mistakes, make amends, and learn something from the experience. Follow procedures, remember what your job is, and try in the future to actually do the right thing!

  5. I have to say how impressive Mr. Arena was in that video. Calm and collected, completely un-cowed by the tantrums of the elected officials.

  6. With Sayer and Robinett being seasoned Lawyers one would think these two would have been the wiser of the group. It’s obvious we had poor decision making from both and one reason the town now faces this situation. When will we as citizens of this samll community get it right and elect the right people to represent our best interests instead of their own agenda. It appears the departing counsil memebers had an opportunity to put the TOFR on the map for renewable power and they let their own interests dictate their decision making. Lets hope the incoming council leads this community in the right direction for growth and prosperity.

  7. The only person that looks foolish in this charade is the man at the center who directed this whole charade!! Silek alerted the press of exactly what was going to happen and didn’t have the common courtesy of doing business in an appropriate manner. People talk about best interests and people with their own agendas?? My finger points at Silek. What a disgrace to all hard working people in the legal field!! Shame on you!!

    • Let’s point the finger directly at the parties who are responsible for this mess. One Member of Council decided to break the trust of the People. He chose to leak a confidential memo to the press. If not for that one action we would not be discussing this mess today. Silek is a man who cares about this town and it’s citizens. He was right to serve those men in front of the cameras. And for that he should be thanked. He was right to shine a spot light on those three men who have kept this disgrace in the spotlight. Shame on the the man who leaked the memo and congrats to Silek for having the courage to do the right thing. it is imperetive that the town and it’s citizens seperate themselves from the clowns who have brought this shame down upon us and our town.

      • If you think that Silek cares about the citizens, then I have a bridge to sell you. The reason we are discussing this mess is greed. Silek is not bringing this law suit for free. Ask him what his take is, or maybe that is confidential. Seriously, grow up. Two wrongs doesn’t make a right.

      • Kudos – Mr. Wines!!! Silek and a few others have made it their mission to make the Town of Front Royal look like a bunch of clowns! When you are a person in the public eye it is very hard to defend yourselves against predators hell bent on ruining you. Tarnishing reputations? That is exactly what Silek and his co-horts are doing.

      • Grand-standing is better used in the court room, not a Council meeting. Once again, Silek thinks he can make the rules up as he goes along. I can’t believe that anyone would congradulate him for causing this disruption. As for caring about the citizens of the Town, we are the ones that are going to pay the $30 million, which Silek will walk away with his share. If Silek cared about the citizens, then he should do this pro-bono and sue the coucil members directly and not include the Town. The Town has deeper pockets. I see a man with a personal agenda making a mockery of the Town. There are procedures in place to deal with the alleged bribe and leaked information. But, Silek doesn’t have to follow those rules or procedures, does he?

      • Emma dear, they don’t need Silek to make them look like a bunch of clowns, they can and continue to do that all by themselves.

      • I still stand by my original reply. As Mr. Silek has pointed out time and time again he gave those three councilmen plenty of chances to “Man up” and accept responsibility for their actions. They refused to do so. I say to any of those men who are named in the lawsuit, “Please, if you had nothing to do with the leaking of the confidential memo and the accusation of bribes offered SEPERATE yourselves from the rest of the clowns!! And for the record the only ones making the three members of council look like clows are the council members themselves. We do not have to do anything. But the time has come to do something. This unethical self serving crap needs to stop and it needs to stop now. The Reputation of the town is at stake. We should all demand better of our town and of our Elected officials. Loyalty to certain Council Members should be put aside and the good of the town and it’s reputation put it its place.

  8. Having just viewed this wonderful piece of journalism, the following comes to mind:
    Ring around the rosey,
    Pockets full of rosaries,
    Ashes, ashes,
    The Town falls down.

  9. The Next Town Council Meeting is Monday. Let’s get the word out and flood the council chambers with “concerned” citizens of Front Royal and let the Council know that we will no longer sit idly by and allow a few Elected Councilmen tarnish the good name of our town. It is time for the citizens to demand action. Demand the resignation of all three councilmen involved in this 30 million dollar slap in the face of Front Royal. Good People have been slandered. Good Business Men Reputations have been tarnished. Front Royal is soon becomming the laughing stock of the State if not the Nation. It is time that the Town and it’s citizens seperate themselves from the three clowns!

  10. Well, look on the positive side. Now that the AP news group has gotten hold of this flap and now circulated in some leading national and worldwide magazines that maybe just maybe the Tourism may pickup. Maybe that could put us on the map “Oh look honey, isn’t that the councilman/Lawyer who is getting sued that we read about in Forbes magazine. Maybe Lindsay may give Sayre or Robinett a call. She’s having a tough time keep Lawyers.

  11. I miss the good old days when men like Walter Duncan, Charlie Russell, Doug Hamner, Paul Hockman, and Mayor Lillard ran this town! You didn’t have to look hard for example of ethics and decency. It was evident in everything they did.

  12. Yep, no in depth knowledge or wisdom is what we’re seeing in our leaders. I miss the old days as well.

  13. Emily and a few others seem to be victims of this modern belief that those who seek to hold others accountable for their actions are, or in this case, Silek, is the wrongdoer. What freaking planet do you live on? Silek didn’t start this fight or cause the problem. Sayre, Holloway, Lauder, and Robinett started the fight, which as it turns out is a fight i bet they wish they had not started . Poe and Horton did as they ought to have done, they hired a lawyer, who just happens to be far more articulate than Sayre and the others and who will stand up for his clients. Who cares what Silek is paid? It is nobody’s business but Poe and Horton what they pay him. I would not want a pro bono lawyer. Remember, you get what you for.

    What the Town and these councilmen did was wrong. Maybe they should have apologized months ago and this could have been avoided, but they didn’t. Did they? Put the blame where the blame is due, right on the shoulders of the Town, Sayre, Holloway, Lauder, and Robinett. To Messers Poe, Horton and Silek – Go get ’em. Hold the good ‘ol boys accountable for once. They have insurance.

  14. Again it is good to see these comments. But please consider putting them into real action. Come to the meeting on this Monday. The Council Members only understand one thing. What the Public thinks of them. And if enough members of the public shows up to complain and let their voices be heard it will have a impact. So please consider comming and voicing your displeasure at the council members named in this suit and spread the word around and let’s flood the council chambers.

  15. “I see a man with a personal agenda making a mockery of the Town. There are procedures in place to deal with…”

    What procedures? Who in Front Royal actually follows procedure? I would like to know. From potential new homeowners getting tied up in Town Hall red tape to council elections to whatever, the idea that The Outside World might actually operate on Rules That Apply to Everyone doesn’t fly in Front Royal. Closed meetings when they should have been public; misinterpreting words in binding legal documents; twisting conversational words around; making business deals on the side of legal arrangements; arguing over who’s going to get the best benefit from housing developments, the Winchester corridor and/or refitting Avtex; putting in sidewalks without notifying business owners of a tax for the cost, blah blah blah. There is no such thing as procedure in this town.

    Even if Silek has a personal agenda, he doesn’t have to make a mockery of the town council. They do it for him.

  16. Was that the chief of police picking up the served papers? Guessing he was thinking that by doing that the process would be null and void? What is wrong with these people?

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