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Board says Stanley is a good hire despite previous issues

Prince Edward County’s new county administrator comes to his new position with lots of professional baggage, but the chairperson of the Board of Supervisors says he is confident Douglas P. Stanley is the right man for the job.

In the past two years, Stanley was indicted and the charges were later dismissed in an embezzlement case in Warren County, he involuntarily resigned from his county administrator position in Warren and then held a job as city manager of Lynchburg for 10 days before abruptly resigning prior to his start date after an email controversy.

Prior to hiring its new country administrator, the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors conducted an investigation into alleged misdeeds by the candidate that was resolved to the board’s satisfaction.

“The Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors completed a thorough due diligence process on every candidate to ensure we made a well-informed decision for selecting our next county administrator,” Board Chair Jerry Townsend said of the board’s Thursday, Oct. 22, decision to make Stanley its new county administrator.

“Mr. Stanley was very transparent and discussed with the board, in detail, the charges that had been brought against him and subsequently dismissed. The board has complete confidence that Mr. Stanley had no connection with any of the events that transpired in Warren County.”

Stanley had not responded to calls Monday, Oct. 26, from The Herald by press time.

A Thursday, Oct. 22, county press release highlighted Stanley’s many achievements and what it was that made him the board’s choice.

“The board recognized that Mr. Stanley’s experience and leadership serving for over 20 years as county administrator of Warren County, as well as his accomplishments during that time, made him the standout amidst a field of very qualified candidates,” Townsend said. “Mr. Stanley has been a public servant his entire career, working in local government for over 25 years. He earned the respect of his employees and the community during his time in Warren County.

“The Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors is unanimous in its decision and excited about the leadership Mr. Stanley will bring to our community.”

After narrowing down the initial pool of candidates for the county administrator job to two, the board opted to seek more candidates to add to those two, as announced Aug. 4. The deadline for these new applications was Aug. 28.

Townsend confirmed Stanley was among that second pool of applicants, with his application coming in between Aug. 4 and 28.

Thursday’s county release stated that during his time as county administrator in Warren, Stanley worked with the Board of Supervisors to maintain one of the lowest real estate rates in the region, while addressing capital needs deficiencies. He worked with the county’s financial adviser to improve the county’s credit rating from unrated to a strong investment grade. During his tenure more than $1.25 billion in new investment and more than 2,500 jobs were added to the local economy.

“I want to thank the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors for their faith in selecting me to be the next county administrator for Prince Edward County,” Stanley said in the release. “I am honored that the board has entrusted me with this responsibility to lead the staff in carrying out the board’s goals and vision. Prince Edward has a rich and culturally diverse history and is a community with tremendous potential.

“I look forward to working with each of the board members, staff, the Town of Farmville, Hampden-Sydney College, Longwood University and other community leaders in the coming years to broaden the local tax base, create employment opportunities and improve the quality of life for the entire community.”

Prior to serving as Warren’s county administrator, Stanley was the zoning administrator and subsequently, planning director, the release continued. He served as board chairman on the Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren Regional Jail Authority from 2012-20.

He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in geography from Mary Washington College, as well as a master’s degree in urban and regional planning from Virginia Commonwealth University, the release stated. Additionally, he earned a graduate certificate in public administration from Shenandoah University and attended the Senior Executive Institute at the Weldon Cooper Center.

The release noted that Stanley also holds the distinction of being an International City/County Management Association Credentialed Manager. During his tenure in Warren County, he served as a volunteer youth soccer coach and as a member of numerous community organizations.

A story by Josh Gully in The Winchester Star reported that Stanley was forced to submit his resignation as Warren County administrator July 8, according to an agreement between him and the county.

Warren County Board of Supervisors Chair Walt Mabe had not responded to a Friday, Oct. 23, phone call request for information from The Herald as of the writing of this article.

Later in his story, Gully wrote that the separation agreement adds that Stanley’s resignation is an “involuntary separation,” which the Virginia Code states “means any dismissal, requested resignation or failure to obtain reappointment, except in case of a conviction for a felony or crime involving moral turpitude or dishonesty.” The code section states that involuntary separations are available to county administrators with 20 years of “creditable service.”

Gully added that the code states, “Such member may retire without the reduction in retirement allowance.”

As stated by The Northern Virginia Daily, Virginia State Police reported Sept. 24, 2019, that 14 people, including Stanley, had been indicted by the Warren County special grand jury in its investigation of potential criminal activity involving the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority (EDA).

As published on InsideNova.com, Josh McCaslin, with the Rappahannock News, reported the same day that the grand jury had charged each of the individuals with two counts of misfeasance and one count of nonfeasance (Virginia Code Section 1-200) based on their alleged “knowledge of and inaction of the EDA’s mismanagement of funds.”

The charges against Stanley were later dismissed.

Later in the same article on InsideNova.com, McCaslin stated that last March, it was discovered that millions of dollars were missing at the EDA, which in turn sued its former executive director, Jennifer McDonald, as well as former Warren County Sheriff Daniel McEathron, who had just resigned from office, and others.

Three days after McDonald’s arrest, McEathron took his own life, McCaslin wrote.

McCaslin added that the alleged embezzlement figure had grown to $21 million, if not more.

In The Winchester Star article by Gully announcing Stanley’s involuntary separation, Stanley is quoted, speaking frankly about the EDA scandal.

“Without doubt, the past year has been the most difficult and challenging in my career,” he said in the article.

But he also indicated he was entrusted to be part of the effort to correct the situation.

“That said I believe we have made strides in bringing those responsible for the EDA embezzlement to justice and to recover what has been stolen as well as supporting the current EDA board and staff to clean up the mess,” he said in Gully’s article.

Stanley also faced scrutiny for at least two emails including vulgar language claimed to have been sent by him in his capacity as county administrator in Warren County.

No evidence was found that one of the emails had been sent, opening up the possibility it was fabricated. The other email is one Stanley publicly apologized for while in Warren County.

These emails were brought up again on social media shortly after Stanley was appointed to the city manager position in Lynchburg Aug. 11.

In an Aug. 21, 2020, article by The News & Advance’s Sarah Honosky, she wrote about how no evidence of the first email existed on the county servers.

She noted that the second email, a 2014 email correspondence between Stanley and then-EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald was confirmed to be authentic. It was brought to the attention of the Warren County Board of Supervisors in April 2019, at which time Stanley issued a formal apology to the board of supervisors.

Honosky wrote that Stanley said the following in the 2019 email apology: “The email included what was intended to be a funny reference to a movie line but also included very insensitive, vulgar language. I went entirely too far with what I intended to be a joke with someone I thought of as a friend. … I have reached out to the person who I was referring to in my comments and offered my sincerest apologies.”

In his Aug 21. Lynchburg resignation letter, Stanley referred to the turmoil in the community brought about by the emails as his reason for withdrawing from the Lynchburg city manager position, which he had been set to start Sept. 1.

On the day of Stanley’s appointment to that role, Lynchburg Mayor Mary Jane Dolan spoke about the city’s investigation into Stanley’s possible involvement in the Warren County EDA embezzlement scandal and offered a clear explanation of why he was cleared.

As quoted from a City Council meeting in an article by Dan McDermott with the Warren/Frederick County Report, Dolan said Stanley and the entire Warren County Board of Supervisors and county attorney were charged for lack of oversight of the Front Royal Warren County EDA.

“After further analysis by the court, the charges were dismissed on the grounds that the EDA is a separate unit of local government and that Mr. Stanley’s role of county administrator had no supervisory authority over the EDA executive director,” Dolan said.

“Council considered the situation very carefully, and we are convinced that in addition to lacking legal responsibility for oversight, Mr. Stanley had no connection to any wrongdoing, even indirectly, and we are confident that he has satisfied all his management responsibilities with integrity,” she added.