Over the past few months, the town of Purcellville, Virginia has come into the spotlight with a number of incidents involving its police chief, town manager, and other town staff.
The town manager, Robert Lohr, was terminated after 24 years by the town council due to a lack of confidence in his work performance. The police chief, Cynthia McAlister was placed on administrative leave after eight sworn officers came forward with complaints involving; acting outside of the scope as chief of police, selective enforcement, violations of general orders, employee intimidation, untruthfulness and violations of town & police procedural policies. As a result, McAlister was given a unanimous vote of no confidence in her ability to continue as chief by the town council with a recommendation for termination. Subsequently, McAlister was terminated by interim town manager Alex Vanegas.
Vanegas thereafter became the target of allegations and was himself placed on administrative leave. Combined with other internal allegations, this placed the town in a position to conduct an independent “audit” the investigation into McAlister. As a result, McAlister’s “termination” was rolled back, although she remains on administrative leave pending the independent audit results.
To date, the results of the town’s investigation into McAlister remain substantiated and already reviewed by independent third-party legal counsel. No evidence or opposition to the contrary has been offered to undermine the actual findings.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, Purcellville Mayor Kwasi Fraser addressed the community in a letter to the editor. Fraser expressed the town’s commitment to complete an independent third-party audit of the investigation on the Chief as well as the allegations against the interim town manager and a top-to-bottom organizational review.
Letter to Purcellville Citizens:
Over time, all communities experience change. During my tenure as Mayor, I have made it a priority to engage all members of the community, to build on our existing assets, and to develop a vision for our future.
Over the past few months, we have passed a budget that reflects the many voices in Purcellville, successfully retained our stellar credit ratings, and restructured our debt to address future uncertainties. Further, recently we moved toward securing a management contract for Fireman’s Field that will reduce the debt burden for taxpayers, adopted new height restrictions in our historic district to retain our historic charm, and adopted civil penalties to help enforce our zoning ordinances to maintain our Town’s beauty and character. More importantly, we moved forward with our Comprehensive Plan review.
With change, however, come challenges.
One such challenge is the alleged significant long-term managerial issues within our police department which were brought to the interim-town manager’s attention. Town Council was briefed as needed, and acting within his authority, the interim-town manager conducted the investigation and hired a consultant to assist in that process.
At the conclusion of the investigation, several significant managerial, communication, and other revelations were revealed to the Town Council. To ensure fairness and to do right by all involved, we have decided to implement an independent review of the former Chief of Police’s investigation and a top-to-bottom organizational review conducted by an independent third party.
As such, the Chief of Police has been reinstated and remains on administrative leave pending the results of the audit of the investigation. Lieutenant Schroeck will remain as interim Chief of Police during this time.
As Mayor, I have a responsibility to residents and business owners to safeguard our town and work with management to ensure the structure of our organization is sound. I have the full confidence of our dedicated Town staff and police officers who work diligently every day for us. I am thankful to our experienced professional and management team, along with a dedicated Town Council. I am confident that we are still on a path to improve our government and move Purcellville forward.
I am very proud of our successes as a community thus far and remain focused on the positive even in the most challenging times.
As additional information becomes available I will keep everyone appraised of it.