County attorney Whitten cleared in Front Royal criminal investigation

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: November 11, 2019 | 12:30 p.m. 

PRINCE GEORGE – Just over a month after Prince George County’s new county attorney was among over a dozen people charged in connection with an ongoing investigation in northwestern Virginia, Daniel Whitten has been cleared of any wrongdoing as a judge dismissed the misdemeanor charges against him.

Court records confirmed Whitten and 13 others charged with misfeasance and nonfeasance, both misdemeanors, had their cases dismissed as the judge overseeing the case found that both charges were not crimes based on the state’s code.

In September, only days after beginning his time as Prince George County’s new county attorney, Virginia State Police Sgt. Brent Coffey announced Whitten and 14 others had been charged with misdemeanors in connection with an active investigation into the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority. Those individuals were charged based on their alleged “knowledge of and inaction of the EDA’s mismanagement of funds.”

The investigation, which was conducted at the request of the Front Royal Police Department, dates back to August of 2018 as Virginia State Police’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation office out of Culpeper began looking at the business practices of the EDA. According to Coffey, since the spring of this year, multi-jurisdictional grand juries have handed down nearly three dozen felony indictments against Front Royal resident Jennifer McDonald, a former EDA employee, including multiple counts of embezzlement, obtaining money under false pretenses, and conducting an unlawful transaction. She was released on bond in July.

Following state police’s announcement regarding charges being levied against Whitten, both the Prince George Board of Supervisors, who the county attorney reports directly to, and Whitten declined to comment on the case, while Whitten’s attorney William Dinkin said his client was one of the people who helped investigate and bring the alleged wrongdoing to the surface.

“It is my understanding that Mr. Whitten’s actions in connection with this McDonald embezzlement were just the opposite of the allegations in the indictments,” Dinkin said in a September interview with The Prince George Journal. “He was instrumental in initiating the investigation into McDonald’s conduct and vigorously pursuing the matter, doing what he could to protect the interests of the county and the EDA.”

After a hearing in Warren County Circuit Court, Whitten offered his first comments on the case, saying he will be able to move forward now that this case is behind him.

“This is my seventh week here and I look forward to serving the board of supervisors and representing them, along with working with the citizens of Prince George County,” he remarked. “I think this definitely is good news and I think the judge made the proper decision.”

Echoing his attorney’s remarks in September, Whitten detailed his role in investigating the alleged misused funds involving the Front Royal-Warren County EDA.

“I actually hired the forensic auditor as an expert witness to assist me,” he remarked. “I worked with them for over nine months on the investigation to help uncover the fraud and embezzlement that had been committed up there. We then hired outside legal counsel to file civil litigation against the defendant and I assisted the outside counsel – Sands Anderson – for approximately nine months with filing the litigation and going to court.”

“I was working on trying to investigate what was going on and trying to recover the funds for Warren County and the EDA up there,” Whitten said.

When asked, he said he did his best to not let the then-active litigation or other aspects of transitioning jobs from one part of the state to another affect the work he is doing for Prince George County, which has included providing insight on the use of tannerite in the county, the county’s noise ordinance and how it correlates to barking dog complaints, and helping lead the county’s efforts to recover costs related to opioid addiction response through the litigation of those involved in the drug’s production process.

“When you transition jobs, you are going to have the normal issues when you are moving from one part of the state to the other but I try not to let it affect me and do my job and the work necessary for the different departments,” he said. “Luckily, I have a good office here and everyone has been great to work with and I have tried to not let those charges impact me in any way in providing the necessary legal services.”

As for the charges, with their dismissal, they cannot be brought against him or the other defendants again. Whitten said he is seeking to have them expunged from his record.

Copyright 2019 by Womack Publishing
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