Egger calls out FRPD on alleged budget misrepresentations
3 May 2016 News
FRONT ROYAL, Va. – What had been a routine Front Royal Town Council Budget work session discussion, took an UNEXPECTED turn on Monday night.
Moving to the Town Police request for a new position in Investigations as part of a half-million-dollar increase over its current budget of $4.3-million dollars, first-term Councilwoman Bébhinn Egger stated that Council had been given “Absolutely False” information as justification for both the new position, and the overall Police Budget – “I am not happy we were presented with false information,” she told her colleagues.
“It is misleading; it is not true … I feel very disrespected,” Egger said of references to past spending decreases in annual police budgets she asserted had actually increased every year for two decades.
Mayor Tim Darr asked if perhaps the Police Budget “CUTS” Egger referenced, referred to past PROPOSED department budgets, versus what had finally been approved?
After listening stone-faced to Egger’s assertions without comment, Front Royal Police Chief Norman Shiflett asked if she would like to come by the Department to discuss the points she raised. She indicated she would – “Yea, I love talking to the Chief,” she later told our reporter Roger Bianchini.
In addition to her questions about misrepresentations about past Police Budget cuts, Egger questioned the workload attributed to the Department’s five-person investigative unit. She said the budget proposal alleged detectives carried “10 to 15 active felony cases per month”. She said her research could find no more than 41 open felony cases in a given month.
She also wondered at seeing FRPD traffic stops with anywhere from 2, 3 or 4 backup units on the scene – “Don’t those officers have anything better to do?” she wondered.
Some Councilmen seemed uneasy with Egger’s litany of accusations of misleading information in the FRPD budget request. Fellow first-term Councilman John Connolly suggested his colleague take more care in raising whatever questions she had about the police budget request.
“I think you should be careful in how you portray this – I’m going to hold off on being offended and ask for more information,” Connolly said.
Despite Egger and Chief Shiflett’s proposed meeting on the FRPD budget request, Mayor Darr asked Councilmen Bret Hrbek and Jacob Meza to liaison with the Police Department in order to bring a clear understanding of the department’s request and budget proposal language back to Council.
Later Darr, who has been in office for 12 years, the last six as mayor, wondered whether referenced department “budget cuts” might be accurate descriptions of specific internal department requests that could occur while the overall police budget did increase.
Questioned about her comments following the meeting, Egger backed off the aggressive tone she struck earlier. The Councilwoman said she felt the discrepancies were more an oversight than intentional misrepresentation – “But it shouldn’t have gotten through the Chief’s hands; it shouldn’t have gotten through [the Town Manager’s] hands. Both of them should have vetted the document better,” she said.
Egger was the lone Councilperson to oppose construction of a new Police Headquarters, stating she preferred to maintain the current $3,000 dollar a month rental arrangement with Warren County on the old Sheriff’s Office headquarters on Jackson Street.
She also brought forward the initiative to remove security cameras from the Gazebo area placed several years ago to try and deter a rash of petty criminal behavior in the Village Commons area at the center of Front Royal’s Historic Downtown Business District. During that discussion, Egger commented, “… it’s not the job of local government to keep bad things from happening to people – we have our police department to investigate crimes that do happen – but it’s not an expectation of the government to keep people safe.”
Fortunately, according to the Councilwoman there are never more than 41 active felonies under investigation in any given month in the Town of Front Royal.
Submitted by Roger Bianchini