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Lies, Damned Lies, And Statistics

By Greg L | 29 January 2007 | Rack & Roll Scandal | 33 Comments

Current view of Manassas Park Mall[image: Manassas Park Shopping Center furniture store, proposed gambling site] The 2004 referendum in Manassas Park on an Off-Track Betting Facility was presented to the voters as an opportunity to gain some additional tax revenue with the only change to the center of the city’s business district being a change of occupants at one space in Manassas Park Shopping Center. Citizens were told that the plan was for a furniture store at the mall to be replaced by a betting parlor.

It appears that was a deliberate and intentional lie by the Manassas Park City Council and Colonial Downs.

Proposed development[picture: proposed development, as presented to the voters] I had the opportunity to speak with former member of the planning commission Gene Crabill this weekend, who sat on the board for eleven years. He told me that he was shown a set of blueprints before the 2004 referendum showing the complete demolition of the mall and the construction of a parking deck and expanded facility that encompassed a much larger area than the current mall. An audio recording of the president of Colonial Downs confirms this story. Interestingly enough, Gene Crabill happens to live just behind that mall on Scott Drive, and related a story where a representative of Colonial Downs visited him and offered him $900,000 for his house — about three times it’s value at the time — if the referendum passed. This sort of offer was also extended to other residents on Scott Drive as well as part of a plan to expand the size of the parcel and provide the opportunity to entirely transform the center of the city. The full development plan added several development phases to the current mall, culminating in a huge facility entirely devoted to gambling, complete with parking structures and several hundred thousand square feet for food service and entertainment, as well as gambling.

The real development plan, not the one shared with the voters, appears to have made it’s way to members of the planning commission and certainly to members of the city council who must have been fully briefed on the Phase 3 development plan which would have transformed Manassas Park into a locality centered on a huge gambling facility. The entire character of the city would have been changed had the referendum passed, but in order to not frighten the voters it’s pretty clear that a lie was presented which made the off-track gambling facility a relatively innocuous renovation of a furniture store into a small betting parlor. A small change in the character of the city might have been tolerable, whereas a complete transformation of the city into a Northern Virginia version of Las Vegas on the cheap certainly would have not. ‘When you can’t possibly win on the truth, try to win on a lie’ appears to have been the plan.

The deliberate misrepresentation of material facts involving a referendum by public officials is an enormous breach of the public trust. It is not only unethical to lie to voters about the results of referendum being approved, but it may well be illegal for public officials to present a set of false “facts” surrounding a ballot initiative knowing full well that those “facts” are false. Opponents of the 2004 referendum noted that much of the evidence presented by Colonial Downs and city officials in support of the referendum — issues like parking requirements, tax revenues, and business revenues — didn’t make complete statistical or financial sense. But if we consider the whole-scale redevelopment of the center of Manassas Park as a component of this project, some of these inconsistencies do start actually making sense. The evidence seems to support a conclusion that a different reality was intended for the city, and this different, secretly held reality dovetails with the statistics and information that referendum supporters have provided. That city officials and representatives of Colonial Downs appear to have deliberately lied to voters about the scope of the planned off-track betting facility planned for Manassas Park is the only conclusion that appears to fit the facts.

And those of you out there talking about slots in Virginia? Take heed of the results of even proposing gambling in Manassas Park. You tread a very dangerous path.

UPDATE: The name of the parcel has been corrected.



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33 Comments

  1. park'd said on 29 Jan 2007 at 11:19 am:
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    What kind of repercussions could this have to existing park residents and home values? Would this lower the already highest real estate taxes in the state to something approaching fairfax county or the surrounding areas? Will these officials be sued and/or jailed for lying to the public in an obvious attempt to push this through for their own personal gain? There are a lot of unanswered questions and consequences for the average citizen in this fiasco. Just another scandal to make our already soiled town look even worse…

  2. Anonon said on 29 Jan 2007 at 4:15 pm:
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    Since Mr. Ruttenberg was trying to make his own deal with Colonial Downs at the time, which one was he signed on to? The furniture store or the larger development? If I remember correctly, as I watched the meeting, Noreen Slater and at least one other spoke in favor of this development, but many did not? Why characterize the whole Governing Board as proponents, when just a few spoke?

    Again, I still find it a little insulting that you think the voters would have gone for this… I circulated a petition against it last time (as part of that larger campaign) and got many signatures in my neighborhood. I would do the same today.

  3. Greg L said on 29 Jan 2007 at 4:34 pm:
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    I don’t believe Mr. Ruttenberg had the opportunity to sign on to any sort of deal in regards to the extent of the development that would have been undertaken. What I do know is that in order to vacate the building so it could be demolished, they would have had a hard time evicting him since his was the only lease that didn’t have a “clause 51″. That clause in the lease allowed the property management company to kick out all of the tenants soon after a referendum was passed. To evict him without that clause, it would have required either a lengthly and expensive legal process, or a big cash payout.

    That cash payout was tagged at $5 million in 1996, for Mr. Ruttenberg and a couple of other folks. In exchange for helping to get the referendum passed and participating in the betting facility project, he would have gotten a big payoff. In 2004, no one at Colonial Downs seems to have been aware of the earlier deal, and they took a different tack. Instead of buying him off, they decided his business could be ruined and he would be forced to close. That’s where the raids, the police sponsored drug dealing, the attempts to fabricate evidence, the harassment campaign and the threats come into play. Colonial Downs couldn’t by themselves make that happen, but they could possibly find some folks to help them.

    All it would take is a few people on the city council and some of the leadership of the local police department. Who they are will wait for another day, but I think you might have an idea or two already about who that may be.

  4. Anonon said on 29 Jan 2007 at 5:14 pm:
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    I was incorrect. Noreen Slater didn’t endorse, per se…. the minutes of the 10/19/04 Governing Board meeting that I referred to are at http://www.cityofmanassaspark.us/Public_Documents/ManassasParkVA_CouncilMin/2004Archives/S004A19CE if anyone cares to look.

  5. Mr. Anonon said on 29 Jan 2007 at 7:51 pm:
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    You are making mountains out of non-existance mole hills.

    Before the vote, my wife and I attended the informational cook-out Colonial Downs held in the parking lot of Manassas Mall. I inquired about the plans as I live within walking distance of the center. Specifically inquiring about what types of businesses that are adjacent to other Colonial Downs facilities. I was pleased to find that Joe’s Crab Shack, and Outback Steakhouse were likely to be my new neighbors. As limited parking is a problem in my development, I then inquired about parking, and was informed about plans for a possible parking structure.

    Colonial Downs provided this information to anyone who asked, and the plans were certainly in flux, as the referendum had yet to be passed. The most important knowledge I learned from our stop that day was that Manassas Mall, now a crappy strip mall with check cashing places, and rental furniture outlets, would most likely be replaced by high end franchise restruants. Other than the Radio Shack, there isn’t a business in that mall worth keeping in Manassas Park.

  6. Greg L said on 29 Jan 2007 at 7:59 pm:
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    The public position of the referendum supporters was that the furniture store would be vacated and that colonial downs would take it’s place. That’s evidenced by the graphics included in the post, as well as all of the press articles on the proposal. While you may have heard additional information about the development plans Colonial Downs had in store for Manassas Park, those were never shared with the voters.

    It’s also worth noting that the plans which Gene Crabill caw at the planning office were never seen afterwards, and all records about the true scope of this development appear to have been destroyed. If this was common knowledge to anyone who asked, why has all the evidence about it disappeared?

  7. Anonon said on 29 Jan 2007 at 8:03 pm:
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    But he was a voter. I was too. He went, he asked. I went, I listened. As you can see, we had different opinions, but they were informed opinions. That what you do when something important is going on - you ask questions. Is that what this is all about?

  8. Greg L said on 29 Jan 2007 at 8:09 pm:
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    Anonon,

    Isn’t it fascinating how all of the city council members maintained that they didn’t have a position on the referendum, but were just bringing it to the voters? Did anyone buy that at the time, especially after seeing how eager they were to defend the proposal if anyone should criticize it?

  9. Anonon said on 29 Jan 2007 at 8:28 pm:
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    You know, I am looking back. I reread that meeting’s minutes. Three members commented and didn’t explicitly endorse it, but there are at least two people on the Governing Board who I have a hard time believing would ever support it. Noreen Slater’s son worked for Colonial Downs (he was interviewed in the Post article), so you knew where she stood. Obviously the two others that commented on it at that meeting - from reading the transcript, Frank Jones and Kevin Brendel wanted the revenue, but most importantly wanted Manassas Park voters to make the choice. We did. It died.

    Going back to a point I have made in the past. I think six people showed up to this event (and I am not counting the kids.) My husband didn’t wait in line for a hot dog. They gave away free food and couldn’t get people to care enough to show up. The apathy is insane - 421 signatures in a city of, what, 15,000? Three people show up to citizen’s time to speak against it? Six people at a free event to get information about a referendum? With free food and door prizes? People buy it? It most likely didn’t register at the time. Think about it - they cared enough to show up to vote in a presidential election, but probably didn’t put much thought into how they voted on OTB, unless their pastor or neighbor said something. Nothing that I saw, listed above, indicated that people put any time or thought into this particular vote.

  10. Greg L said on 29 Jan 2007 at 9:09 pm:
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    And doesn’t that make a little locality like Manassas Park the ideal spot to try to ram through a gambling initiative. If the voters don’t keep a close eye on what’s going on, someone with a strong financial interest is going to step in and try to use that apathy to his advantage.

    Vigilance by the citizens on their servant government is the only way to prevent that servant from enslaving it’s master. Hopefully pointing out a few more of these incidents, as relate to the Town Center development and a few other things that I haven’t had time to dig through will help convince Manassas Park residents that they need to keep a closer eye on their public officials.

  11. I LOVE TV said on 29 Jan 2007 at 9:50 pm:
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    After reading the post submitted by Mr. Anonon on 29 Jan 2007 at 7:51 pm, I had to comment!

    Quote: “You are making mountains out of non-existance mole hills.”

    So let me get this right…a small off track betting parlor which secretly becomes an entire complex complete with parking garage & high end restaurants while “getting rid” the then current business owners using any means necessary- all unbeknownst to the voters - qualifies as an non-existent mole hill?

    Quote: “Before the vote, my wife and I attended the informational cook-out Colonial Downs held in the parking lot of Manassas Mall. I inquired about the plans as I live within walking distance of the center.”

    Obviously you had a lot to gain if this deal went through because your home would be bought out (unless you habitually walk 2 miles to a cook-out.). I’m just trying to determine your perspective.

    Quote: “Specifically inquiring about what types of businesses that are adjacent to other Colonial Downs facilities. I was pleased to find that Joe’s Crab Shack, and Outback Steakhouse were likely to be my new neighbors. As limited parking is a problem in my development, I then inquired about parking, and was informed about plans for a possible parking structure.”

    Since when would a betting parlor and two restaurants require a parking structure in the suburbs? I have never needed to park in “a parking structure” to eat at an Outback! The existing parking lot is sufficient for an Outback, a Crab Shack and a betting parlor. Also, why would you believe that this particular location would even support an Outback AND a Crab Shack with a betting parlor anchor, unless the betting parlor was something MUCH bigger. I seriously doubt that hundreds of Manassas Park residents would suddenly drop $100.00 for dinner every day! Certainly history does not support that view. Something smells fishy and it’s not the crab house!

    Quote: “Colonial Downs provided this information to anyone who asked, and the plans were certainly in flux, as the referendum had yet to be passed.”

    I’ll say the plans were in flux!!!!

    Quote: “The most important knowledge I learned from our stop that day was that Manassas Mall, now a crappy strip mall with check cashing places, and rental furniture outlets, would most likely be replaced by high end franchise restruants. Other than the Radio Shack, there isn’t a business in that mall worth keeping in Manassas Park.”

    As you know, the present mall is what the market will bear WITHOUT a huge mall anchor like a large betting FACILITY. Also, please don’t belittle the hardworking businesses at this mall. They all had visions of the “American Dream,” trying to make small businesses work. Or are you the arbiter of who should run a business and who shouldn’t? Should Mr. Ruttenberg be ruined so that you could eat crab cakes and lay a couple of bets? Most Americans do not trust their elected and appointed officials. They DO NOT feel that the public interest should take a back seat to the private interests of a few. It is clear that all Mr. Ruttenberg asks of you, me, and the good citizens of Manassas Park is to run a business without harassment from a hierarchy of public servants. Remember, their job is to SERVE the public, not take from it!

  12. Mr. Anonon said on 29 Jan 2007 at 10:24 pm:
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    I LOVE TV said on 29 Jan 2007 at 9:50 pm:

    “Also, please don’t belittle the hardworking businesses at this mall. They all had visions of the “American Dream,” trying to make small businesses work. Or are you the arbiter of who should run a business and who shouldn’t?”

    Have you been to Manassas Mall? Check cashing places, a crap furniture store that is in the middle of a 2 year going out of business sale and Rent a Center don’t need belittling, it would be redundant. There are some restruants trying to do business, and that’t fine. Guapo’s is a great place. The point of the OTB would have been to bring tourism to Manassas Park- folks who would have supported some higher end businesses, and spent their money to provide revenue for better schools in Manassas Park.

    And no, I don’t live on the correct side of 28 to have benifitted from a buy out.

    This is all besides the point. This topic is deader than Barbaro.

    The grand conspiracy of the Manassas City Council, failed due to the diligence of a bunch of Bible beating neighbors of Manassas Park that suceeded in keeping the park a near slum in the middle of prosperous northern Virginia.

    [Ed note: comment edited]

  13. Aint no moose said on 29 Jan 2007 at 11:11 pm:
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    So…it ends the way it began. Imply drug use at the business that’s in the way.

    Mr. Anonon, Why not go on down there, plant some meth under an ashtray and call the JNTF.

    Next time you get pulled over for speeding they’ll probably let you off too.

  14. I LOVE TV said on 29 Jan 2007 at 11:34 pm:
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    Response to Mr. Anonon:

    I think you are missing the whole point of this series of posts on BVBL. The issue is not whether Colonial Downs would have been a fantastic addition to Manassas Park. If done properly, it would have injected a wealth of tax revenue and could have anchored a large influx of businesses. That is not what these posts are trying to demonstrate. Nor should it be. It is the last sentence in you most recent comment about the “meth addicts at Rack and Rule (sic)” that is a large part of the problem that Mr. Ruttenberg is facing. Exactly how can you back up that gratuitous assertion? I would love to see your answer. I think how you answer is important to your credibility.

    The point of these posts is to show that Colonial Downs was NOT following proper protocol. It appears that this whole project was flying under the radar - not to gather big publicity - but to get the proverbial “foot in the door.” I believe that Colonial Downs analyzed the situation poorly and went in overconfident and anticipated a victory. I also believe that they were involved either directly or indirectly with the failed drug & alcohol raid at Rack n’ Roll. And I also believe that certain Manassas Park Officials played the politics game - telling the majority of voters what they wanted to hear but had ulterior motives kept secret behind closed doors.

    I believe that there were shady deals going on and the assassination of Mr. Ruttenberg’s character was part of these shady deals.

    And I believe that your meth comment proves my point.

  15. I LOVE TV said on 30 Jan 2007 at 12:14 am:
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    It appears that Mr. Anonon’s comment at 29 Jan 2007 at 10:24 pm was edited; specifically, the last sentence of the following paragraph was deleted, referencing the meth addicts at Rack & Roll. I do not want to disrespect the editor, but my last comment won’t make sense without that sentence.

    “The grand conspiracy of the Manassas City Council, failed due to the diligence of a bunch of Bible beating neighbors of Manassas Park that suceeded in keeping the park a near slum in the middle of prosperous northern Virginia. Boy won’t the meth addicts at Rack and Rule be proud.”

  16. Greg L said on 30 Jan 2007 at 12:38 am:
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    If you feel it’s absolutely necessary to make your point by quoting that, I’ll allow it. But I have been in Rack & Roll on many occasions at different times, and based on my personal experience I believe that statement about Rack & Roll to be an outrageous and inflammatory lie.

  17. a nonny mouse said on 30 Jan 2007 at 10:09 am:
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    Why is this shopping center being referred to as Manassas Mall?

    Manassas Mall is something else entirely.

  18. Greg L said on 30 Jan 2007 at 11:09 am:
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    I’m calling it Manassas Park Mall, which I believe is the correct name.

  19. park'd said on 30 Jan 2007 at 3:06 pm:
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    I’ve always hated this little mall too since there are some questionable people that always hang out there. It has always been this way too even before the illegals took over the town. I don’t try to imply that there are druggies hanging out there but it just ‘looks’ that way to the casual observer. The mall is an eyesore and having a nice mall in there with some nice restaurants would be good for the community and hopefully clean some of the rift raft out of this town. It should be done properly though with the consent of the voters and not rammed down our throats by crooked politicians and cops who stand to make a fortune on back alley scheming deals with the developer. I hope they nail all these guys to the wall along with all the illegal aliens that they turn a blind eye to, but alas I digress…

  20. Anonon said on 30 Jan 2007 at 4:38 pm:
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    The Mr. has seen our former neighborhood drug dealer run in and out of the pool hall and hang out in front in his frequent trips to Radio Shack. So it’s not a lie to say that there are dealers as customers - I doubt this person even knows Mr. Ruttenberg and since I haven’t been in there, I don’t know that they do deal in there. I will give Mr. Ruttenberg the benefit of the doubt and say no they don’t. But let me tell you, this person was doing land office business around here. Maybe you all live in nicer neighborhoods, but cleaning ours up was and is a real struggle. Does seeing this person formulate our opinion of the pool hall? Absolutely.

    And yes, he meant Manassas Park Mall as in the shopping center.

    I am starting to question everything about this case… I hate the fact that you assert that everyone down the line is corrupt. I highly doubt that. There are so many good employees in this city, so many good people here. I believe many, if not all, of our elected officials are good people as well. I am also willing to accept that they may have made mistakes.

    I do feel like a public statement needs to be made by the city. Even if this is in litigation. In many respects, their silence is making this the only argument, the only explanation. I want the city’s. A statement, a countersuit, whatever. The longer this goes unanswered, the worse it gets. There it is, my plea to the city.

    Greg, you have put a lot of effort into this and feel very passionately. You have made me think about what has gone on, but, for now, I’m tired. Tired of seeing my community maligned by people in and outside of it. Tired of being a part of the negativity myself. I want the FBI to come. I want the State Police to investigate. It seems like it is happening. If they find people guilty of illegal activity, fine. If they don’t, fine. I just want an end to this and my community, my city to move forward. You can be sure that I will be part of that move forward, regardless of the outcome of this.

  21. Greg L said on 30 Jan 2007 at 5:05 pm:
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    Keep up an attitude like that, and you’ll be a serious contendor for mayor, even though I’m sure you wouldn’t have time for the job.

    You’re on the right track — let’s get this story fully investigated, deal with the problems that are found, and then help the city move forward so it can finally be the place the residents really want it to be. I’m sick to see all of this just as you are, as this affects more than what happens strictly within the confines of the city’s limits. A better Manassas Park will help everyone.

    And let David know about that guy you’re talking about. I’m sure he wants to know about this.

  22. AWCheney said on 30 Jan 2007 at 6:50 pm:
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    Anonon, if your husband saw that drug dealer running in and out of Rack N’ Roll, is it not possible that the drug dealer was told to leave. If he had actually been dealing in there, he would have stayed for a bit, would he not? And insofar as loitering in front of the establishment, there’s not much that David could have done about that from inside. If you have any doubts whether this person had been ABLE to deal, I suggest that you and your husband go talk to David Ruttenberg, as Greg suggested, and view the recordings from the security cameras which cover the inside and outside of the Club. David has ALWAYS displayed due diligence in trying to keep these people OUT, which may be why he’s been having so much trouble with the police for so long.

    BTW, you might also want to identify yourself privately to Greg, because I’m quite certain that the FBI would want to talk with your husband.

    Note to Greg: I’ve ALWAYS known it as Manassas Park SHOPPING CENTER…and that’s been since the day it was opened.

  23. anon said on 30 Jan 2007 at 7:28 pm:
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    How old is that shopping center? I’d guess late 60s-early 70s.

  24. Golem said on 30 Jan 2007 at 8:44 pm:
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    “Stand up and demand a thorough, objective, impartial investigation of this entire matter, OTB and all, or wait for your turn to be thrown to the wolves in the name of due process.” (Golem, 28 June, 6:23 pm).

    Thank you Anonon.

  25. Golem said on 30 Jan 2007 at 8:47 pm:
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    Ooops, 28 Jan.

  26. David Ruttenberg said on 30 Jan 2007 at 9:22 pm:
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    Mr.& Mrs. Anonon,
    As a small business owner I face the same challenges and issues that every business in town faces that opens its doors to the public. All I’ve ever asked is to be treated the same as the others.

    As you said yourself, this was YOUR neighborhood drug dealer. I wish you had dealt with him when he was affecting you and your neighbors. Since you did not and as you claim he later ended up on my doorstep, you are as responsible as you say I am …if not more…because you knew and did nothing.

    Did you contact the police?
    Why is he still on the street?

    That said, this is not just your problem or mine. It’s ours..as it’s our community. I will stand up to bring this drug dealer down…as I’ve always done. I’ll help you protect your family even though I don’t believe you would help me protect mine.

    All you have to do is send an email to BVBL with the name, description, and timing of the situation and person you described in your comment. I will be forwarded the information anonymously.

    I will take it from there.

    PS. When they’ve gotten rid of me, and they will…who will stand up for you then?

    (The Manassas Park Shopping Center was built in 1962.)

  27. ApsuVictoria said on 30 Jan 2007 at 10:47 pm:
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    In reply to Annon….

    First of all you cant even see Rack -N- Roll from Radio Shack. So in some degree your statment is completely bogas. I can’t really see anyone sitting outside wasting their day to watch drug dealers walk in and out of the local pool hall. Unless you have an agenda.

    Let me tell you what I have seen what these so called honorable city officals are capable of first hand. Bet you never thought an elected Manassas Park City Counsil men a married man would try to lure young woman into letting him take photos of them in his basement nude or partially nude would you. Guess what Ive talked to some of the girls he has done it to and he tried to do it to me.

    Mistakes like that are unforgivable!!

  28. ApsuVictoria said on 30 Jan 2007 at 10:52 pm:
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    and yes my spelling sucks lol

  29. a nonny mouse said on 31 Jan 2007 at 10:22 am:
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    “Bet you never thought an elected Manassas Park City Counsil men a married man would try to lure young woman into letting him take photos of them in his basement nude or partially nude would you.”

    There is only one guy who has been on city council within the last 4 years I could think of who would do that.

    Does he by chance drive a late-model Ford Mustang with personalized tags?

  30. Loudoun Insider said on 31 Jan 2007 at 1:24 pm:
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    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” certainly applies here. When are more people going to get fed up with this kind of BS?

    BTW, in searching for that exact Edmund Burke quotation I cam across this interesting essay about the many versions of that quote floating around - interesting stuff:

    http://www.tartarus.org/~martin/essays/burkequote.html

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