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What's going on in Covington? Police chief resigns, city manager asked to leave

City manager told quit or be fired, chief won't say if pressured to be unethical

COVINGTON, Va. – There's a growing controversy in Covington as the city manager is out effective immediately after resigning Thursday, and the police chief is in his last week on the job because he resigned too. The two resignations are connected; however, while both are resignations on paper, the two couldn't be more different and now there are two top positions in Covington that need to be filled. 

The news comes just two days after Covington Police Chief Anthony Morgan Jr. submitted his resignation after about a year on the job. Morgan announced his resignation effective the following Friday, citing personal reasons. Morgan accepted a job as chief of the Mount Rainier, Maryland Police Department. His last day will be February 8. 

Thursday, City Manager Richard Douglas announced his resignation effective immediately, citing council's request of him to either resign or be fired. Douglas chose to leave on his own and said that his contract requires a severance package equal to five months of salary for this action and that he'd like an extra three months salary on top of that. 

WATCH: COVINGTON CITY MANAGER TOLD QUIT OR BE FIRED

Covington Mayor Tom Sibold said Douglas' management style didn't work with the city and that the city has not agreed to all of Douglas' severance requests. Sibold said Douglas had to be counseled by city leadership a number of times. This time however, the council had no chances left to give. Douglas submitted his resignation Thursday in a closed session with Covington City Council, and it was accepted by a 4-1 vote.

"Some things that we had asked to happen, didn't happen, so I guess Chief Morgan's leaving did bring that back up, and I guess it did facilitate this process a little bit," Sibold said. "But it's a culmination, it's not just one incident."

Douglas' role in Chief Morgan's resignation may be the most damning. After what became of one of his final city meetings Tuesday, two days before his resignation, 10 News asked Douglas about Morgan's resignation and Douglas said he and Morgan were on good terms.

"We were disappointed to see him leave, I don't think it's fair to say something fell apart," Douglas said Tuesday night. "An opportunity presented itself and he has to make decisions that are in the best interest of his family."

That same night 10 News asked Mayor Sibold about the situation with the city manager and the police chief, and the city manager's employment status.

"It's nothing right now, we're, you know, we're working with him and talking to him and working through this making sure everything was handled right, we'll go from there." Sibold said Tuesday night.

10 News then asked the mayor what specifically he was talking about when he said everything was handled right.

"With his interaction with the chief, make sure nothing happened there that we're not hearing about, right now I think everyone's being up front with us," Sibold followed up. 

Despite Sibold saying it was nothing, Douglas cited the same day as that interview as the day he was informed he'd need to resign or be fired.

WATCH: WAS COVINGTON'S POLICE CHIEF ASKED TO DO THINGS HE FELT WERE UNETHICAL?

Chief Morgan cited family and personal reasons in his resignation letter, but when asked by 10 News about his relationship with the city manager, and if city officials above him had ever pressured him to do things he felt were unethical, Morgan declined to comment.

While Morgan declined to go into detail, police records and comemnts from Mayor Sibold help fill in the gaps that paint a picture that some may view as Douglas abusing his power. Last fall, Covington Police responded to an incident involving the city manager and it was all caught on officer's body cameras. Mayor Sibold has seen the video that shows Douglas feuding with his neighbor, although 10 News is waiting to see it.

"I don't want to say it got out of hand, they were both passionate, they were both angry," Sibold said about what he saw in the video. "Not terribly angry, it wasn't like they were out in the middle of the street slapping each other and cussing and hollering, they were having a hearty discussion."

Whether it was because of the incident with the neighbor, or a culmination of differnt issues, Douglas is now out of a job and Morgan has elected to leave his position as police chief. While continuing to cite personal reasons, interviews with other people show the chief was clearly put in an uncomfortable position with the city manager, who was his direct report.

Thursday, Morgan posted a message on the police department's Facebook page to address rumors that the city manager "ran him out," which he said is not true. But when questioned by 10 News if a city official above him ever tried to make him do something unethical, he did not want to comment.

"I'm going to focus on a lot of the positives, I can't answer that question I'm sorry," Morgan said.

Then again, later in the interivew, 10 News asked him if he'd ever been asked to do anything unethical.

"I know where you're going here and I wish I could, but I'm going to take the high road here and just move on and what happens, happens outside of it," Morgan said.

 

Letter to the Community from Chief Morgan: I know that there is rampant speculation about my decision to resign as...

Posted by Covington Police Department on Thursday, January 31, 2019

10 News requested the body camera footage in question and other emails between the police chief and the city manager, as well as other internal notes. The assistant to the city manager is the representative for those requests and told us the city needed seven working days to produce what we requested. According to Virginia law, seven days is the maximum allowed time to produce the records before requesting an extension.

Dear Mayor and Members of the Covington City Council,

On January 29th you informed me that I could resign my position as City Manager or face possible termination. It is my full intent and desire to remain as your City Manager and continue the positive work that has been accomplished over the past few years, and if it is the desire of a majority of City Council, I agree to remain in my position. However, if a majority of the City Council requests and accepts my resignation, then I am providing it effective Friday, February 1st.

As stipulated in my employment agreement, such requested resignation requires severance pay, at the current time five months of my salary, and payment of the balance of unpaid leave;  but I respectfully request that you provide an additional three months of severance pay. I have enjoyed working with City Council, our great staff, and numerous organizaitons over the past three years to accomplish much, and know that Covington and the Alleghany Highlands are in a position for future success.

Sincerely,

Richard Douglas


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