Watch footage at center of Covington controversy involving former city manager, police chief

Mayor says dispute is only part of why Douglas was fired

COVINGTON, Va. – For the first time, we're seeing the body cam footage that played a role in the departure of the former Covington city manager and former police chief.

As previously reported, the city wanted to wait seven days before sending 10 News the body cam footage at the center of a controversy in Covington involving the former city manager and former police chief. 10 News was able to obtain it from someone else who had a copy. 

The footage shows your classic neighborly dispute over cars left on the street, and it could have stayed between neighbors.

But once the police were involved it escalated everything -- the merits of the parking situation aren't important in this case and could be argued by lawyers for years.

No one broke any laws, but certainly, no one was acting neighborly either.

The question is, is former city manager Richard Douglas' behavior appropriate for a top city official?

"He said I'm going to put a no parking sign here and he said I'll have the (expletive) towed tomorrow," said the neighbor. 

Police were called to a neighborhood in south Covington in September 2018 for a dispute between Douglas and a couple across the street, whose faces are blurred because they didn't break any laws.

It's their Bronco in question, parked in front of Douglas' house.

"Last year it didn't move at all, it had weeds growing around it. I had to try to push my lawnmower around it," said Douglas.

The debate is over who has the right to the easement where the bronco sits, and whether it's technically abandoned.

Police ended up deciding it was unclear and they were going to let it be for now.

"City manager or not, he can kiss my a--," said the neighbor. "I just want to know and just like I told you, I told him if I'm in the wrong and I'm parked illegally I will move it. I'll be more than happy. I don't want any trouble with the cops or anything like that."

But before police decided to let it be, the two went at it. 

In what Douglas now calls a regrettable series of words, he persisted that the Bronco was parked on his property.

"You know what somebody told me I ought to do, because I have a right to maintain the weeds under there, pour gasoline on them weeds and light it up, that's what I'm thinking about doing," said Douglas. 

Then when talking to police separately, Douglas suggested how he could take care of the Bronco himself.

"I was about to come out here with a sledgehammer yesterday morning," said Douglas. "If I didn't go to church, that's what I would have done. I'm at a boiling point over this, and I'm a calm fella."

But Douglas' next proposed solution would have used his city position of authority as leverage to put no parking signs in front of his house.

"In the code I have the right to do that, it's at my discretion," said Douglas. 

"Where do you obtain the equipment from?" asked the officer.

"Public works," replied Douglas. "All I got to do is direct public works to put a sign up, they come out here tomorrow, put two signs up, I call the wrecker and off she goes."

In a phone conversation Friday, Douglas apologized for his behavior but says he didn't do anything he wouldn't do for any other citizen who had the same complaint.

"How's it look? I try to lead by example, I am big on code enforcement ... and everyone sees this sitting in front of my house," said Douglas.

Covington Mayor Tom Sibold says it was a fine line whether Douglas was abusing his power, but the situation could have been handled differently. He maintains this was just a part in a series of other circumstances that led the council to ask Douglas to quit.

The September event sparked an investigation by the police department and put Chief Anthony Morgan in an uncomfortable position, investigating his boss.

Morgan says the incident was not the sole reason for him choosing to leave, but there were issues he, unfortunately, could not work through. He says he has no other issues with anyone outside of city hall, on the council or in the police department.

Sibold says this incident triggered counseling for Douglas and that he thought they were past this. While Morgan says the incident was only a small part of his issues in Covington, he did choose to leave. Sibold says that played a factor in asking Douglas for his resignation too.

Douglas was with the city for about three years and his severance terms are still being worked out.

Previous published reports indicated Douglas was fired from a city leadership job in North Carolina as well before coming to Covington. 10 News is working to learn more about those reports. 

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