The former police chief at Richmond Public Housing, the subject of an 8News investigation into misuse of public funds, recently sued his old agency, claiming he was fired as retaliation and publicly disgraced.
But new evidence uncovered raises questions about the accuracy of some of the claims made by the chief in his lawsuit.
A six-page lawsuit for $500,000 claims former RRHA Police Chief Hal Hazelton was fired as a “conspiracy” because of his reporting of “improper activity inside RRHA.” RRHA leadership has given no official reason for the chief’s firing.
Since his firing, 8News has exposed a taxpayer funded vacation to Las Vegas the chief took with his wife in 2012 – expenses that included a rental car, gas, airport parking and airline luggage fees for the chief’s wife.
“It’s our tax dollars that fund what they’re doing,” says Rick Tatnall of Better Government Richmond.
When the chief was placed on unpaid administrative leave in September 2013, he was still in possession of his department issued SUV. It was parked outside his Dinwiddie County home. Two days after our report, the vehicle was taken back by RRHA.
In his lawsuit, Hazelton claims “he was confronted at his home by multiple armed law enforcement agencies seeking the vehicle and other property.” He claims his home was “surrounded by police vehicles.” he also claims officers had been warned his “mental state” might make him a “threat” and multiple units were involved in seizing the property.
To see if former Chief Hazelton’s description of events was accurate, 8News obtained Dinwiddie Sheriff’s dispatch records and recordings. These records paint a somewhat different picture than that described in the lawsuit.
The records show RRHA Sgt. Francis Dumansky and officer butler are traveling to pick up RRHA property and per normal police protocol, request a deputy in the jurisdiction they’re visiting to go along.
Two other deputies who happen to be in the area also respond.
Radio recordings show no urgency or concern about the chief’s mental status or that Dinwiddie even knew who they were getting property from.
While Hazelton’s lawsuit contends multiple armed agencies seized items from his home – while it was “surrounded” by police vehicles – the dispatch records show only RRHA and the Dinwiddie Sheriff’s Dept. Were there and according to multiple sources, only two officers even entered Hazelton’s property. The other three officers were staged some ways up the road out of sight so as not to make a scene.
The incident report shows officers arrived at Hazelton’s home at 3:50 p.m. and by 4:12 p.m. had left.
Hazelton’s attorney, Paul Buckwalter, says “multiple things including the seizing of the vehicle were done to discredit the chief” and, specifically, in regards to the law suit’s claims that officers had been warned Hazelton’s mental state might make him a threat, the attorney says “that information comes from the direct conversation between the chief and law enforcement officers on the scene.”
They recently filed a response with the court which in essence asks the judge to dismiss the case before it even goes to trial. RRHA management claim Hazelton’s lawsuit lacks legal basis to even proceed.
Copyright 2014 by Young Broadcasting of Richmond