The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Culpeper to meet on probe of officer
BY DONNIE JOHNSTON
Just what will happen at a special Culpeper Town Council meeting Tuesday night has become a matter of much speculation.
The agenda of the 6 p.m. closed session at the Municipal Building contains two items: the demotion, discipline or resignation of a specific employee; and personnel matters relating to Town Manager Kim Alexander, who came to Culpeper in August 2011 from Dumfries.
Both appear to be connected to the investigation of town police Capt. Chris Settle, which has been going on for more than four months and landed Alexander in hot water with four council members.
On Thursday, Settle’s attorney, John Carroll of Fairfax, hand-delivered a letter to Alexander demanding that she provide legal grounds for placing the veteran officer on paid administrative leave on Sept. 13. Carroll also demanded legal grounds for Alexander’s pursuing an investigation that, if warranted, the attorney argues should have been conducted by the Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division.
The letter also states that Settle has been deprived of his rights under Virginia law (the Police Officer’s Bill of Rights) and was not informed of the allegations against him until two months after his suspension.
According to a report in the Culpeper Star–Exponent, there were 39 original complaints, three of which were found credible by an independent investigator hired by the town.
Carroll’s letter states that Settle met with the investigator on Dec. 18 and, according to a source close to the situation, spent about four hours answering questions. It was only then, the letter states, that Settle learned the specific allegations against him.
“We can conclude, based on the questioning, that many of the complaints had previously been investigated and declared to be unfounded,” Carroll’s letter states.
The Virginia State Police were reportedly also contacted about investigating the allegations, but no information has been released from that department. There is no evidence that the FBI, as once reported, was ever involved in the investigation.
As a result of the three allegations found credible (which have not been made available to The Free Lance–Star), Alexander has reportedly recommended that Settle be disciplined. That recommendation appears to be part of the first agenda item.
Some council members, however, have asked the town manager to lift Settle’s suspension and let police Chief Chris Jenkins decide whether disciplinary action is warranted.
Sources close to the town government say that Alexander has refused.
The fact that the context of the private investigator’s confidential report was leaked to the local newspaper before council members saw it may also be a topic of discussion Tuesday.
The second agenda item may determine Alexander’s future as town manager. In a closed session earlier this month, the council came up one vote short of firing her.
Two of her reported detractors, however, are not expected to attend Tuesday’s meeting, which was called by Vice Mayor Mike Olinger and Councilmen David Lochridge and Jim Risner.
Councilman Dan Boring is out of the country while Mayor Chip Coleman will be undergoing surgery. Since both reportedly voted for Alexander’s removal two weeks ago, her job seems secure for the moment.
Settle, meanwhile, remains on paid administrative leave, perhaps pending Tuesday night’s meeting.