Opinion rules no conflict exists in County Administrator’s rental property

By Allen Worrell Editor

August 25, 2013

Dickenson County Commonwealth’s Attorney Joshua Newberry has determined no conflict of interest exists with Carroll County Administrator Gary Larrowe’s involvement with a rental property near the Wildwood Development.

Carroll County Commonwealth’s Attorney Nathan Lyons presented the finding to the Carroll County Board of Supervisors during its August 12 meeting. Lyons said Larrowe asked him to issue an opinion on the matter last year after the topic was brought up by Supervisor Bob Martin in November. Citing that Larrowe “somewhat oversees the physical plant” of Lyons’ office, the Carroll County Commonwealth’s Attorney said he sought a special prosecutor to look into the matter, which is why Newberry was asked to offer an opinion.

Martin made a motion for a Virginia State Police investigation into Larrowe’s involvement with the rental property near the Wildwood Development last November, but supervisors did not carry the motion as it died by a 3-3 count. At the end of the meeting, Martin said he would ask Lyons to launch an investigation into the matter.

Martin’s motion stemmed from a rental property Larrowe co-owned with Grayson County Administrator Jonathan Sweet under the company name Vandalay Investments, LLC. The two purchased a one-acre parcel of property in 2006 on Airport Road near the Wildwood Commerce Park, a major Blue Ridge Economic Development Authority (BRCEDA) project. During a BRCEDA meeting in Sept. of 2010, the two divested themselves of the property to steer clear of any appearance of conflict of interest.

Martin’s motion at the time also stated the investigations should ascertain “the purpose of additional land transactions with an adjacent landowner, Mr. Stone, in which it is alleged that checks passed hands and then were gathered, taken back at the beginning of the next week.”

Martin, also an assistant principal at Carroll County High School, was not present at the board’s August 12 meeting as an Open House was being conducted that evening at the school. Lyons was speaking to supervisors about a day-reporting program when Board of Supervisors’ Chairman David Hutchins asked Lyons if anyone ever asked him to render an opinion on Larrowe’s involvement with the rental properties.

“Gary Larrowe requested a conflict of interest (investigation) based on a real estate transaction. He somewhat oversees the physical plant of my office, so I contacted a Circuit Court Judge,” Lyons said. “Within a week or so he gave me an order for a special prosecutor and he named Dickenson County.”

Lyons said Newberry issued an opinion on the matter within the last three to four weeks.

“He did not find a conflict of interest,” Lyons said.

Newberry’s opinion, dated July 16, 2013, states, “Dear Gary, I have reviewed the packet of information laying out the facts of a land transaction and determined that no conflict of interest exists with your interest in the land transaction and your position as County Administrator for Carroll County.”

Lyons said Larrowe requested the investigation and submitted a binder of materials, including a historical timeline, letters and other things involved with the matter. Lyons said the Circuit Court Judge he contacted for a special prosecutor recommended he not contact any locality that borders Carroll County, which is why Lyons said he contacted Dickenson, Wise and Russell counties. Dickenson was the first to get back to him, so Lyons said he asked them to do the investigation.