Economic Development and Tourism director returns to work 10 weeks after resignation with $8,000 raise

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By Randy Arrington

LURAY, Jan. 9 — Just 10 weeks after leaving the position, Nina Fox returned to work last week as Page County’s director of Economic Development and Tourism. Fox left the position on Oct. 21 with an annual salary of $77,200 and returned Jan. 3 with an annual salary of $85,000 — an increase of 10.4 percent.

County Administrator Amity Moler stated that nothing had changed since Fox’s departure, other than an “important position being vacant.”

“I’m happy Nina chose to come back and finish what she started,” Moler told Page Valley News. “I’m not sure there’s any person more pro-Page County than Nina.”

Although the position is heavily geared toward attention to economic development issues, Fox’s salary is entirely paid for with Transiency Occupancy Tax (TOT) funds, which are mandated by state law to be spent on tourism efforts. It was this argument that lead to the formation of a new TOT committee dominated by cabin owners soon after Fox’s initial hire on March 8, 2021 because the county had not been properly allocating TOT funds to “put heads in beds,” as Fox often argued when those changes were being made.

With Fox’s rehire on Jan. 3, “there is no change to the responsibilities of the position,” according to Moler, and there were no changes to the benefits package offered, which included standard benefits of health insurance, retirement program, vacation and sick leave.

Following Fox’s departure on Oct. 21, Page County received only four applications to fill the position, according to Moler. The county administrator noted that several important projects were in limbo without Fox’s leadership, including an effort to locate a beef processing plant in Page County, which is currently the focus of a subcommittee of the Page County Economic Development Authority.

Moler also noted that the potential conflict of interest with Fox retaining her Realtor’s license and selling real estate in the county while also serving as the county’s economic development director was revisited.

“The issue was resolved before she left and issues which could be perceived as a conflict were again reviewed before her reinstatement,” Moler said.

When directly asked if Fox would continue to sell real estate, Moler simply referred to a statement provided in the fall when the issue arose prior to Fox’s resignation.

“Per our legal counsel, the County has not found, nor is there reason to believe, that Ms. Fox engaged in any inappropriate behavior while employed with the County,” the previous statement declared.

Although it was disclosed to county administration and members of the Page County Board of Supervisors upon her hiring in March 2021, local realtors and citizens have complained about Fox’s decision to maintain her Realtor’s license since she started working for the county. Some believe that continuing to sell real estate locally, while also acting as the county’s economic development director, could present a potential conflict of interest.

That belief prompted an inquiry after complaints were lodged about Fox handling a seven-figure sale of local rental cabins for a member of the TOT committee. That group recommends to supervisors how $1 million-plus in transient occupancy tax revenues are spent in Page County. Fox’s salary accounts for nearly 10 percent of TOT allocations.

The inquiry around Fox’s ability to profit from real estate transactions lead to her notice of resignation, which was submitted to Moler on Sept. 19.

“There is no reason why we don’t have more development other than we don’t have land ready for development,” Fox said during her final presentation to the Page County Board of Supervisors on Oct. 17. “It doesn’t make any sense to keep hiring economic development directors without any land to develop.”

Fox encouraged zoning properties to allow for more by-right uses, as opposed to the sometimes lengthy and cumbersome process of securing a special use permit, which she said can discourage private investment. She also touted that, “Shenandoah and the southern end of the county are prime for commercial and industrial development.”

The personal relationship between Moler and Fox became evident during the Oct. 17 board meeting, when both women shed tears after commenting about the other during open session.

Fox was provided an opportunity to comment for this story, but she declined to do so.

In reference to inquiries for this story, Moler provided sections of county policy regarding employment with the county while holding “secondary (outside) employment.”

“County employees shall not engage in secondary (outside) employment during regularly scheduled work hours, while at the County’s facilities, or when using the County’s supplies, equipment, materials or personnel,” the policy reads. “County employees shall not engage in any employment, activity, or enterprise which has been or may be determined to be inconsistent, incompatible, in conflict of interest with, or have the appearance of conflict of interest with the duties, functions, or responsibilities of County employment.”

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27 Comments

  1. She should not be selling real estate and at the same time potentially showing outside business interests property in Page County, too much potential for conflict OR the PERCEPTION of conflict…Page County looking like fools once again, what’s new?

  2. HAHA Good Ol’ corrupt Page County, Virginia. One of poorest Counties in the State of Virginia but yet the ones in charge are sitting high on the hog. Got a Sheriff that is is being paid double than the state average. $90,000 for a person to talk about tourism. Shall I keep going?

  3. The County is long overdue for a professional County Administrator, mistake after mistake for this one, enough is enough.

  4. After reading your article, I see there are a few mistakes. I am not going to elaborate here in public, so not to discredit your opinions. I am an ethical person and I know what is right and wrong, this issue has been discussed with many decision makers and the case is settled. Any questions from the public can be answered if they reach out directly; the public deserves accurate and factual information.

    • You could clear something up very easily right now, do you intend to keep selling real estate while being employed by the County? Yes, or no?

    • Innuendo and pointing suspicion in news coverage Is wrong. Why is this poll so vague, specially when I read some facts are wrong?

      • “Innuendo….suspicion…wrong…vague..” So why not simply set the record straight here? What’s wrong? What’s vague? What about the online poll is vague? Seems pretty simple to me, the majority of people who voted in this poll simply don’t believe that selling real estate as a “side hustle” is appropriate given the nature of the position that Ms. Fox holds, is this a hard concept to understand? It would be easy to blur the lines between her day-job, and he side hustle it would appear, see the previous situation with the cabin owner on the tourism committee. This is not an attack, but stating a simple fact, and it could be easily resolved. All she would need to do is simply say “I will not list or sell any properties in Page County while employed as Page County’s ED Director…” 85K is a nice salary, especially in a County where the average household income is around 50K, surely you can see the logic here. Problem solved, does this make any sense to you at all?

  5. Why would anyone want to work for the public sector around here when they get accused of wrongdoing before they even start. Really how would anyone like to be called a thief before they even start a job and that’s exactly what is implied especially by the comments. And the salary of 85k isn’t that much for a college educated (assuming this, don’t know her at all) professional, many tradesmen are knocking out more than that out there driving to the city. I would give her a chance and see the results, mind my own business about her private life before the pitchforks come out.

  6. I think it is a mistake to allow full time County employees to have outside jobs. This should be basic policy. Further, if only 4 applications were received for such a good paying job, it must be asked how seriously the opening was publicized. Were recruitment strategies the same for this position vs others? Was there a real effort to find a new employee or was this just an effort to restore Ms fox. And whose idea was the big pay raise?

    • You need to read the rules and regulations of the Federal Government, which by the way, allows it, and in case of questions, it’s the supervisors who have the discretion to accept, reject, or make exceptions on the specific issues; legally, this issue was clarified before, why so much insistence to hurt others?

  7. Is this the person responsible for bringing in this abomination called the Luray campground… tearing up prime farmland, overlooking and probably dumping in the river, and creating strains on our infrastructure ?… not to mention the eyesore and the impact on property values……..(and you were worried about a solar farm.) Wow.

    • Susan, incorrect. A staff member is not responsible for “bringing in” any industry or new business, it’s the BoS which ultimately decides that..sure, staff may be supportive, but again big difference. My issue is not how Ms. Fox performs her job, but the potential for conflicts if she remains active selling real estate , real or perceived.

  8. Here is how conflict of interest could occur. A large company plans to create a business in the county that will look for funds from public entities. They look at area real estate agents and determine that one who also is responsible for tourism and economic development would be a good choice, with a goal of building a favorable relationship for the future when they may need special treatment. So they select Ms fox, rather than other agents or their companies. She and her firm receive business benefits because of her relationship with the county. It means little that page county legal said it’s fine…this is the same firm whose legal advice allowed the cape solar application to go forward during a moratorium.

    • Or behind closed doors, she finds out about a new company wanting to build in a certain part of the county which gives her a leg up on other realtors. Are here any limits to what she can and cannot do with as a real estate agent? If her side job was selling homemade quilts, this would be a different story. The entire job of an Economic Development is real estate.

  9. It is also important to note that there is a serious lack of information regarding the economic development and tourism efforts available to the public. No minutes for the economic development group are posted on the county website for all of 2022, just vague agendas. We can’t even see who attended. There is one meeting per year for the tourism council, responsible for a lot of money in page county. This year’s meeting is today at 4. There is no notice on the county FB page or other attempts to inform the public. Transparency? Please.

  10. The new website developed by the Tourism council is live. Shockingly, prime placement in photos and text is given to venues owned by council members.

  11. As one of the four applicants, I A. Appreciate the update since no response was ever received B. Find it hard to believe that there was not another qualified ‘pro-Page County’candidate for this role C. Am not clear on the determination to have a specific individual serve in this capacity.

    • Would you be willing to comment at the upcoming BOS meeting on Tuesday evening? It seems clear that the county administration did not plan on hiring a new candidate for this position but sought to leave it vacant for a short time and then just rehire Ms fox. Please help demand transparency in county matters.

    • To Disappointed – thank you for posting! That is awful, you should speak out about your experience to the BOS members – or at least contact the chairman. It really does show how narrowly Page County is controlled by a few and makes the rest of us also wonder why that is the case. This has been kept in darkness and needs to be brought to light!

  12. Would you be willing to comment at the upcoming BOS meeting on Tuesday evening? It seems clear that the county administration did not plan on hiring a new candidate for this position but sought to leave it vacant for a short time and then just rehire Ms fox. Please help demand transparency in county matters.

  13. @TransparencyNeeded and @WorriedAboutTheProcess – I am happy to provide any communications sent in response to the posting. Please advise where to send.

    • I would suggest that you email your initial application and resume, with a very brief explanation of what happened…you provided an applications received no response….to kweakley@pagecounty.virginia.gov he is the chair of the board of supervisors. Thank you.

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