‘Retired’ Police Chief Al Thomas Still Employed by Charlottesville City at $135k Per Year

The December 18, 2017, announced “immediate retirement” of former Charlottesville Police Chief Alfred Thomas, was in fact, a deception, foisted on the public by Charlottesville City Hall insiders.

A press release disseminated by former Charlottesville Director of Communications, Miriam Dickler, was unequivocal:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 18, 2017

Police Chief Al Thomas
Announces Retirement

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA – Charlottesville Police Chief Alfred Thomas announced his retirement today after 27 years of law enforcement service. His retirement is effective immediately. A veteran of the United States Air Force, Thomas was appointed police chief in April of 2016 and began his service one month later on May 23rd.

“Nothing in my career has brought me more pride than serving as the Police Chief for the City of Charlottesville,” said Thomas. “I will be forever grateful for having had the opportunity to protect and serve a community I love so dearly.  It truly has been an unparalleled privilege to work alongside such a dedicated and professional team of public servants.  I wish them and the citizens of Charlottesville the very best.”

“Chief Thomas has served his country and three communities here in Virginia with distinction and honor,” said City Manager Maurice Jones. “He is a man of integrity who has provided critical leadership for our department since his arrival. We wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”

Mr. Jones will formally appoint an interim police chief within the next week. Deputy Chief Gary Pleasants will guide the department until the interim chief is appointed.

The City will begin its search for a new chief immediately.

The press release indicated nothing about Thomas remaining on the City’s payroll.

However, a response to a recent open records inquiry tells another story. When asked if Al Thomas was still being paid by the City, Director of Communications, Brian Wheeler replied affirmatively:

From: FOIA <[email protected]>
Subject: RE: Information Request: Al Thomas
Date: September 21, 2018 at 04:55:42 PM EDT
To: “Schilling, Rob”

Rob – Alfred Thomas is a City of Charlottesville employee with an annual salary of $134,513.60.

BRIAN WHEELER
Director of Communications
City of Charlottesville

A subsequent request to the tight-lipped Wheeler yielded additional information on Thomas’s ongoing financial relationship with the City of Charlottesville:

From: FOIA <[email protected]>
Subject: RE: RESENDING FOR RESPONSE #3 Re: Information Request: Al Thomas
Date: September 28, 2018 at 03:33:46 PM EDT
To: “Schilling, Rob” FOIA <[email protected]>
Cc: “Walker, Nikuyah” “Murphy, Mike” <[email protected]>

Rob – Alfred Thomas retired from law enforcement on December 18, 2017.  As part of his retirement, Mr. Thomas voluntarily resigned from the Charlottesville Police Department on December 18, 2017 with an effective date of July 15, 2019.  Mr. Thomas was relieved of his duties as Chief of Police on December 18, 2017 and does not hold an active position with the Charlottesville Police Department.  He will continue to receive his former salary as Chief of Police until July 15, 2019.

One contract exists between Mr. Thomas and the City of Charlottesville.  It is being withheld in its entirety pursuant to Virginia Code Section 2.2-3705.1(1).

This completes the City’s response to this FOIA request.

BRIAN WHEELER
Director of Communications
City of Charlottesville

When questioned at the December 18, 2017, City Council meeting about the surprise “retirement” announcement, former City Manager, Maurice Jones, stated that Thomas had “volunteered” to step down. In reality, there was unannounced incentive to “volunteer,” and Chief Thomas’s alleged incompetence, in effect, had netted him a $200,000 secret payout, which Jones and Council conveniently neglected to mention.

Compounding the deceit is Wheeler’s curious decision to withhold Thomas’s contract, a move reminiscent of the City’s recently failed attempt to suppress the contract of interim City Manager, Mike Murphy.

The referenced code section justifying the withholding makes clear that employment records are not exempt from disclosure, as contrarily claimed by Wheeler:

2.2-3705.1(1): No provision of this chapter or any provision of Chapter 38 (§ 2.2-3800 et seq.) shall be construed as denying public access to (i) contracts between a public body and its officers or employees, other than contracts settling public employee employment disputes held confidential as personnel records under § 2.2-3705.1

The City publicly parted ways with Chief Thomas just weeks following the release of the report “2017 Protest Events in Charlottesville, Virginia,” authored by former federal prosecutor, Tim Heaphy, and the investigative law practice of Hunton & Williams.

The “Heaphy Report” as it is known, was damning of Chief Thomas, specifically, alleging cover up, misfeasance, and obfuscation, as reported by the Daily Progress:

The review alleges that Thomas attempted to hide material from investigators and intentionally allowed the fighting in and around Emancipation Park on the morning of the rally so that an unlawful assembly could be declared.

Thomas’s attorneys have denied such, on his behalf.

Only in Charlottesville can gross incompetence be rewarded by a massive, covert payout, funded by hapless, non-consenting taxpayers.

Only in Charlottesville can an employee be “retired” and simultaneously hold the same position from which he has “retired.”

And, only in Charlottesville can a “smart, citizen-focused government” uphold secrecy as virtue and transparency as vice.