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HELP Center update next week

The question of who actually altered a 2010 Rappahannock Community College (RCC) letter expressing interest in the proposed HELP Center project in King George still has many shaking their heads.

Thoughts of who altered the letter, and for what purpose, will likely linger at next week’s meeting of the Board of Supervisors when Project FAITH executive director Froncé Wardlaw is scheduled to appear at the June 25 meeting to make a report on the project, at her request.

As The Journal reported last week, Wardlaw is continuing to attempt to diminish the fact of a date change made on a letter of interest written three years ago by RCC’s President Elizabeth Crowther to make it appear to have been written in 2012 instead of 2010.

She had said, “Whether the change in the letter originated with me or not, is irrelevant.” She also said, “Obviously it was in error. I will take full responsibility.”

The three-year-old letter had been provided to King George Supervisor Ruby Brabo last month, who then passed it on to others, including The Journal, to indicate that RCC still intended to be a major part of the proposed project.

But when the letter was scrutinized, it was discovered that the date on the first page had been changed from 2010 to instead read ‘March 30, 2012,’ while the date on page two remained unaltered.

SO, WHY CHANGE IT?
Last week in an email to Brabo on June 11, Wardlaw expressed her regret for not looking at the date on the altered letter before giving it to the Dahlgren supervisor and further dismissed the fact of the alteration of the document referring to it as being an “update.”
 
But King George County Attorney Eric Gregory had told The Journal, “We would like to know how the alleged letter was created and for what purpose.” He also stated, “This is a serious allegation.”

Altering documents and using them to obtain financing is one example of what can be construed as fraud.

But in her email to Brabo last week, Wardlaw again excused the alteration, stating, “The letter has passed so many hands with funders and others that I cannot tell you exactly when the update occurred.”

She also said, “I know for a fact it was not done maliciously or for Project FAITH’s gain. However, I regret that the copy that I gave to you was not the original date. Again I accept full responsibility for it all.”

SECOND ALTERED DOCUMENT
So far, the only other document that has been discovered to have been altered is one provided by Wardlaw to Arlene Jacovelli on June 5. It’s a copy of an Internal Revenue Service 990 filing for 2009 that differs slightly from the one on public file with the IRS.

Jacovelli was provided that and a few other requested documents, but when she pressed for more documents at Wardlaw’s office, she, her son and Rich Lorey and Virginia Lorey were asked to leave the building and the Sheriff’s office was called. A deputy responded and Jacovelli told The Journal, “It is my understanding that Froncé Wardlaw told the Officer I was intimidating and harassing her.”  

Jacovelli said that later last week, on June 14, she was served a civil letter issued by Project FAITH signed by Wardlaw stating it was a trespass notice and she was not to return to the office again.

Jacovelli is not the only one who has been put off by Wardlaw, despite her statements at public meetings of various boards that her records are open to anyone interested.

‘Vision’ documents about the project are floating about, but such things as concrete details about actions by the Project FAITH board, required annual audits and financing details for the proposed HELP Center are not available to members of the public nor supplied to the county.

LETTER TO CROWTHER
Wardlaw’s email to Brabo provided an attached letter, also dated June 11. Wardlaw wanted Brabo to see what she was sending to RCC’s President Crowther that addressed the alteration of her letter.

But while she had emailed Brabo that the letter had “passed so many hands with funders and others,” Wardlaw appears to contradict that contention in her letter to Crowther.

There, she states, “Financing has not been sought or solidified based on a date of the letter from RCC.”

Wardlaw also made statements in her letter to Crowther about the current Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) application under review. The focus of the CDBG application is to request a grant award of up to $700,000 toward construction of a 1,500 square-foot free clinic that would be a portion of the 30,500 square-foot proposed facility.

Wardlaw told Crowther, “There was nothing related to education or the College contained in the grant submission.”

But the submitted application itself contradicts that statement in several instances. In addition to its mention and listing in numerous attachments included in the 150-page application package, the basic 21-page application itself begins with several questions that elicit responses citing RCC’s participation.  
Question #3 asks for a brief overview of the proposed project, where RCC is prominently listed. Likewise it is contained as an answer to #13, where it lists the names of non-profits and state agencies, saying it has secured from them “commitments to lease.”

Only ‘interest’ or ‘intentions to support’ can be provided in advance by state and local government agencies. That’s because they meet competitive requirements for obtaining leased space as spelled out in the Virginia Public Procurement Act.

FLATTERY ATTEMPTED
In Wardlaw’s email to Brabo, she used flattery in an obvious attempt to win back her support.

She stated to Brabo, “Most of all, I regret that your trust in me has now been tainted. Fighting devils and mean spiritedness is one thing, but I would hate to lose you as a friend; forgetting the politics. You’re about the best thing that has ever happened to King George County. Never before have they had to cross the “t’s” and dot the “I’s” because no one ever questioned their actions.”

Wardlaw closed the email to Brabo, saying, “Thank you for all of your support, genuine concern and for just being you. Please don’t change.” Time will tell whether Brabo was persuaded by Wardlaw’s praise.

And it’s also unclear whether Wardlaw will also retain the other two solid votes in favor of the project. In addition to Brabo, firm support has been previously exhibited by Cedell Brooks and John LoBuglio who all voted on Feb. 19 to grant a six-month extension for commencement of construction.

Dale Sisson and Joe Grzeika voted against the extension saying they had reservations about the viability of the project. That was the same split that took place on May 1, 2012, when the Supervisors passed the motion to give of 5.53 acres of prime real estate fronting on Route 3 (Kings Hwy) to Project FAITH for the proposed facility.

In that Feb. 19 vote, Wardlaw got the contract extension she wanted to push date for commencement of construction from Feb. 28 to Aug. 1, 2013.

REPORT AT NEXT WEEK’S MEETING
That deadline is coming up soon. It can be presumed that is the reason why Wardlaw wants to appear before the Board of Supervisors, to see if she could get another extension.

Commencement of construction is defined in the performance agreement as “at least the pouring of all footers.” The completion date for construction of the facility is set as Aug. 1, 2014.

SITE PLAN APPROVED
The site plan for the HELP Center project was approved by the Planning Commission on June 11, with no one present representing the applicant. The Planning Commission had little choice but to follow a staff recommendation and vote approval because the plan met all technical land use requirements under its purview.

The site plan is dated May 28, 2013, and certified as current by the engineer. It shows three separate buildings and a fourth future pad site for a multi-purpose room and commercial kitchen. One of the three buildings is a large “L” shaped building that is connected with an atrium area.

The site plan also indicates the tenants proposed to occupy the building space.

RCC is very prominently displayed as a major tenant for the project in the HELP Center site plan. The layout of the proposed buildings indicates space for RCC would comprise nearly half the square footage, at 15,000 sq. ft. of the total 30,500 sq. ft.

Some questions were raised by Chairman Tony Scaramozzi about intended tenants. Jack Green, director of Community Development, responded that the tenants could change from those noted in the plans, but the site plan would only be required to come back before the Commission if the footprint changed or if any changes in use required more parking spaces. 

(See related article elsewhere in this issue exploring recent Project FAITH documents that indicate potential service providers to be housed in the proposed facility.)

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