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Judge finds possible criminal wrongdoing on part of Stanardsville mayor, another Greene County man

STANARDSVILLE — A judge has upheld a 2019 decision ruling that the mayor of Stanardsville and another Greene County man are personally liable regarding actions taken by a homeowners association in Greene.

The Dogwood Valley Citizen’s Association, which has faced numerous court battles since its incorporation in the late 1970s, was shuttered in May 2019 by Judge Dale Durrer, of the 16th Judicial Circuit. Last month, Durrer upheld his previous ruling from Oct. 3, 2019, stating that Stanardsville Mayor Gary Lowe and Dogwood Valley resident Matthew Brown were personally accountable for funds collected through the DVCA.

Brown and Lowe were the only members of the DVCA board of directors from 2010 to 2018, according to court records.

Neither Brown nor Lowe, nor their attorney, was available for comment after repeated attempts.

Six homeowners from the 300-lot residential development in Stanardsville testified in August 2019 that when they asked how they could serve on the DVCA board, both Brown and Lowe “attempted to sell DVCA board memberships for $5,000 and the DVCA for $300,000,” according to court records.

In his April 23 opinion, Durrer said each lot owner possessed a vote for each lot owned when the association held an annual meeting and that membership to the board of directors for the association is voluntary.

“The attempted sale of board positions and the DVCA rises to the level of a violation of several criminal statutes,” the judge wrote in his decision.

“In this case, Brown and Lowe attempted to sell memberships on the DVCA board and DVCA itself. There is no evidence that either Brown or Lowe possessed even implicit authorization to sell any membership to DVCA. The defendants’ evidence demonstrations that there is probable cause to believe that Brown and Lowe violated several Virginia penal statutes, including, without limitation, obtaining money by false presentences, solicitation/attempt to commit embezzlement and solicitation to enter into a conspiracy to commit embezzlement and money laundering.

“Further, had the witnesses accepted the offer of $5,000 or $300,000, they would have been co-conspirators, accessories before the fact or principals in the second degree to Brown and Lowe’s attempts to commit various crimes,” Durrer continued.

The judge further discussed in his decision what the commonwealth would have to prove to sustain convictions on the above criminal charges.

Greene County Commonwealth’s Attorney Edwin Consolvo said he was looking into whether to bring charges. He said that because the case involves another elected official, a special prosecutor would need to be assigned.

Durrer also upheld his decision that the corporate veil had been pierced and no longer held personal protections for Lowe or Brown.

“Evidence the court received in the previous hearings indicated that Brown and Lowe prominently represented the alter egos of DVCA,” Durrer said. “The evidence is also undisputed that Brown and Lowe comingled personal funds with DVCA funds, including, without limitation, the payment of attorney’s fees from Brown’s personal checking account.

“The comingling of funds buttresses the finding that the accounting records of DVCA were not properly maintained. Further, the comingling of corporate and personal funds is a factor to consider when assessing the piercing of the corporate veil.”

The case has required multiple hearings since 2018 in three different circuit courts — Greene, Madison and Culpeper — stemming from a 2017 warrant in debt case against Samuel Miller for nonpayment of dues.

Durrer ruled against the DVCA in 2019 in that case due to the fact that in 2004, a Supreme Court of Virginia ruling said the DVCA was not a proper homeowners association and could not levy special assessments. It also ruled that the DVCA did not have the authority to put liens on property.

The DVCA continued to collect regular assessments, which varied by lot and have included a 10% increase each year since 2006, according to meeting minutes found within older court cases. However, work on roads was sparse, if done at all, according to residents who testified in the warrant in debt case in 2019.

Durrer noted in 2019 that Lowe and Brown did not do basic research before allowing the warrant in debt to be filed and “pierced the corporate veil,” making them personally liable for funds, bringing about the shuttering of the corporation with the State Corporation Commission.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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