Town Attorney Martin Crim

Interim Town Manager Chris Martino and Town Attorney Martin Crim during a Town Council meeting in December.

Update: Feb. 27, 4:58 p.m.

Warrenton Town Attorney Martin Crim said the town has released all correspondence between former Town Manager Brandie Schaeffer and Amazon representatives related to the Amazon data center and claims no additional communication between the two parties exists, according to a press release.

On Feb. 17, Town Manager Chris Martino said in a press release that 13 of the 3,142 documents withheld by the town reference the Amazon data center special-use permit, but none include correspondence between staff and Amazon representatives.

Martino’s statement appeared to contradict Crim’s account during a Circuit Court hearing the month prior when Crim told Judge Alfred Swersky the documents withheld from the nonprofit included emails regarding “next steps” about a special-use permit to build a data center.

But Crim said in the release he was referring to the additional 419 documents the town released, which contain emails between town staff and Amazon. He noted Citizens for Fauquier County “used the 3,142 number repeatedly and inaccurately in its communication with the court and the press.”

“When I told the court that the withheld documents included communications between Ms. Schaeffer and Amazon representatives, I was referring to the entire set of documents covered by the two FOIA requests, not simply the documents withheld in response to the second one,” Crim said in the email.

Kevin Ramundo, president of Citizens for Fauquier County, told FauquierNow it “strongly disagrees” with Crim’s statement in the release.

“Citizens for Fauquier County has communicated accurately about its FOIA requests, and we stand by what we said the last time the town tried to clarify the nature of emails it chose not to share with the public,” Ramundo said. “The court’s transcript is crystal clear regarding what Mr. Crim said to the judge.”


Posted Feb. 21, 4:11 p.m.

Warrenton’s Interim Town Manager Chris Martino stated in a press release Friday that 3,142 emails the town exempted from public disclosure under Virginia's executive privilege clause did not include correspondence between the former Town Manager Brandie Schaeffer and Amazon representatives, and, he said, “the town has never stated that they were.”

But according to an official transcript of the Fauquier Circuit Court hearing on Jan. 6, Town Attorney Martin Crim told Judge Alfred Swersky that the emails included correspondence between Schaeffer and Amazon relating to the recently approved Amazon data center proposal.

“Generically, what I would say is that there were a number of correspondence, exchange of information, discussions about next steps between the previous town manager and Amazon with regard to the proposed data center and the SUP, special use permit, that they were requesting to build a data center,” Crim said during the Jan. 6 hearing at the Fauquier County Circuit Court.

The contradicting statements seem to add further confusion about the contents of the thousands of emails that were withheld by the town after the nonprofit Citizens for Fauquier County filed a Virginia Freedom of Information Act request for all communications between town staff and Amazon on July 7, 2022.

"The town’s press release suggesting that three media organizations misreported the nature of the 3,142 emails withheld from the public is misleading, and raises additional questions regarding the accuracy of what was disclosed to the judge in a January 6th court hearing and a lack of candor with the Warrenton Town Council at its February 14th public hearing on Amazon’s’ application to build a data center in Warrenton," Kevin Ramundo, president of Citizens for Fauquier County, said in a press release Monday.

Earlier this month, Swersky denied the nonprofit's request to obtain over the 3,142 emails, noting he believed the exemption was “appropriate.” Citizens for Fauquier County said its lawyers plan to file an appeal once Swersky has officially filed a written opinion.

The nonprofit, which initially filed its lawsuit against the town in December, argued in the suit that the contents of the emails were in the public interest because of the pending Amazon data center proposal that the Town Council approved last week.

In its initial FOIA request, obtained by FauquierNow, Citizens for Fauquier County requested all communications between various town staff, including Schaeffer, and several named Amazon representatives corresponding with said staff.

Schaeffer left her position with the town last year and went to work for Amazon shortly thereafter.

The town claimed in the release that the 3,142 emails were “sent between Ms. Schaeffer and anyone else, on any subject of Town business. That is town staff, Town Council, Town Attorney, citizens, businesses, or organizations.”

The town's press release stated that when the town sought clarification of the request, Citizens for Fauquier County "insisted on a broad request for all of Schaeffer's emails" between April 1 and July 12, 2022.

But Ramundo said the communications between Schaeffer and Amazon were only part of its request and noted that the nonprofit specified it "was only concerned about communications involving the Amazon data center special use permit."

"The interim’s town manager’s assertion that the [Citizens for Fauquier County's Freedom of Information Act] request was on 'any subject of town business' and was never clarified is misleading," Ramundo said.

During the Jan. 6 Circuit Court hearing, Crim said the 3,142 emails in question meet the state’s exemption requirements because they fall under categories such as personnel, correspondence, attorney-client privilege and trade secrets.

For example, Crim said the majority concern “tons of technical issues” related to how much tax revenue the facility might generate for the town, “criteria that are set out in the [town’s] ordinance,” and a proposal by Dominion for a substation on the property, which was later scrapped.

Crim said the tax information discussed in the emails constitutes “trade secrets,” and Amazon requested the information remain confidential.

The town claims there were only 13 emails exchanged between Schaeffer, town staff, and Town Council members referencing the Amazon special use permit application, but none were between Schaeffer and Amazon representatives.

Martino and Crim have not responded to numerous requests for comment for this story.

Before the final vote on the data center proposal, At-Large council member Paul Mooney motioned to force the town to release the emails to just the council members. Mooney, joined by William Semple, Ward 2, and David McGuire, voted to approve the resolution, which failed on a 3-4 vote.

However, following the final vote and approval for the data center proposal, when council members motioned a second time to see the 3,142 emails, the resolution passed unanimously.

Transcipt of Jan 6 hearing pg 80.jpg

Fauquier County Circuit Court transcript from Jan. 6 hearing.

Transcipt of Jan 6 hearing pg 81.jpg

Fauquier County Circuit Court transcript from Jan. 6 hearing.

Transcipt of Jan 6 hearing pg 82.jpg

Fauquier County Circuit Court transcript from Jan. 6 hearing.

(2) comments


The town's response to these emails and the extent they are willing to go to keep them private, only adds to the suspicion of what they are trying to cover up, SMH

Jeff Allen

The portable bathrooms are already setting up at the entrance across from Giant. Amazon will move on this as fast as they can, might not be any stopping them now. Anyway this is a historical area or location? Anyone find Civil War items on that piece of land?

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