Hoax or History?

By: Erin Tate
By: Erin Tate

It happens all the time. Local governments make decisions that make some people unhappy. Like in Front Royal, where the town council voted to approve a new Wal-Mart at a controversial site on Route 55.

But what doesn't happen often in Virginia is a citizen attempt to oust their mayor and council. Betty Molchany is Coordinator of Front Royal's Ad Hoc Committee on Petitions for Removal.

She has gathered about 2,000 signatures to extract Mayor Bob Tennett and council members Dusty McIntosh, Joe McDaniels and Hollis Tharpe.

"This petition isn't about the way they voted on the Wal-Mart issue. It's about the manner in which they conducted themselves," she explains.

Molchany is upset about how the council scheduled meetings and approved a Wal-Mart despite the protests of planning commissions and concerned citizens.

She says she doesn't want to wait until the next election to remove the officials, so the former attorney has turned to a rarely used Virginia law which says elected officers can be removed by the court for neglect of duty, misuse of office and incompetence.

But political analyst Dr. Bob Roberts says Molchany's petitions are highly unlikely to proceed in court.

"We never use the courts to remove officers in this country for policy disputes," he says.

In this case, the policy dispute in question is puzzling to some Front Royal folks. They say they will welcome the convenience of Wal-Mart despite its location.

"I don't even know why there's a controversy. Everyone I talk to says they want a Wal-Mart," says Charles Goode of Epictone Painting.

He says he would be in favor of Wal-Mart moving to near-by Riverton Commons, the designated site where most people who are disputing the Route 55 Wal-Mart would prefer the supercenter build.

Wal-Mart has said it is only interested in its original proposed location - the controversial site on Route 55.


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