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EDITORIAL: Purcellville raising the bar for bad government

Mayor Kwasi Fraser and members of Town Council during a Nov. 1 meeting. Times-Mirror File Photo

Incompetence. Toxic. A mess.

These are a few of the fit-to-publish terms thrown around to describe the ongoing charade in Purcellville.

Some observers have likened the situation – one sparked by the town hiring a convicted felon to investigate its police chief – to a reality TV show. That's tempting, but not quite right: Reality TV producers tend to have some idea what they're doing, and they don't waste at least $13,000 of local taxpayer money. (That dollar figure is likely to rise dramatically in the months ahead.)

Let's recap as concisely as we can: After several members of the Purcellville Police Department's command staff reported alleged workplace malfeasance by Chief of Police Cynthia McAlister to Interim Town Manager Alex Vanegas, Vanegas hired an independent human resources contractor, Georgia Nuckolls, to conduct an investigation into the claims. After a month-long probe, a vague statement released by the town claimed Nuckolls' work found McAlister acted outside the scope of her duties and ran afoul of town policies and procedures. Town Council swiftly voted “no confidence” in McAlister, and she was fired by Vanegas.

Weeks later, after inquiries from the Times-Mirror, the town disclosed something about Nuckolls' past: felony convictions in North Carolina for fraud and forgery. Additionally, town officials said Nuckolls was having a relationship with a town employee involved in the investigation. Vanegas has since been placed on leave.

McAlister has been reinstated as chief, but she's on administrative leave as an audit of the original investigation is ongoing.

Got all that?

We'll concede we don't know all the details in this case – largely because the mayor and members of Town Council are either staying mum or leading the misdirection campaign – but we insist we know enough to declare Purcellville's citizens deserve better. They deserve better than a council that was quick to show Rob Lohr, the former and long-respected town manager, the door earlier this year – bringing on board Vanegas and passing on a respected deputy town manager shortly thereafter. Purcellville residents deserve better than a council that was asleep at the wheel while its town government became a regional embarrassment. Purcellville residents deserve some semblance of accountability from their so-called leaders. Simply, Purcellville residents deserve an apology.

Part of leadership is accepting responsibility and learning from your mistakes. We have no way of knowing how the latter will turn out, but the former has woefully eluded Purcellville Mayor Kwasi Fraser and the town's elected officials.

The current council's fixation on undoing everything from the previous administration – and its less than honest representation of the details – is a disservice to constituents and those who long for sound, open government.

Calling an emergency council meeting on a Friday night for Saturday morning, as council did – and not accurately listing the participants of closed session – is not good government. Failing to notify the public at the conclusion of the closed session, during which the Nuckolls investigation was discussed, is not good government. And throwing away thousands of taxpayer dollars is, unquestionably, not good government.

An attorney for McAlister said last week the town should reinstate McAlister as soon as possible. Such a statement begs some questions: Will McAlister want to continue with the Purcellville Police Department when and if the dust settles?

And what bright young minds will want to work in the toxic environment created by the mayor and council?


Purcellville just got into competition with the BoS for bad government with the vote on the data center last night.

@ Coachmarine, Man of Integrity or not, this is a circus and must end.

Mayor Fraser is a good and honorable man .  I know him personally and he will definitely what is right .  I can assure you he was not giving all of the information .  He is a man of high integrity and anything else is not true .

I am not normally a fan of media these days but, I applaud LTM for digging and bringing all of this out.  They have not said anything that didn’t happen so there is really nothing for them to retract.

What do you expect from a town with a major “Patrick Henry” influence… politics at its finest.

Since we’re already paying for two (2) employees to stay home while their jobs are covered by ‘interim’ staff, why not stop the bleeding by bringing aboard about four (4) additional ‘interim’ folks to replace the mayor and at least three (3) current council members who have led the town into this mess. The next Town Council meeting on Dec 12 should be quite the show. And kudos to LTM for uncovering the corruption AND incompetence. Keep digging, baby!!

I am not sure what LTM has done that they would need to retract?  Bottom line is Town Council chose Alex Venegas over the then Assistant Town Manger (who has since left for another job).  Alex Venegas selected a convicted felon to perform an investigation on a police officer and did other things that lead to the town having to hire another investigator to make sure it wasn’t a corrupt investigation (bye bye $13,000 for that “oversight”).  I suppose the preferred method would of have to not uncovered any of this and just let the possible corruption go unchecked?  As long as we are getting lower water rates (although higher property taxes) we shouldn’t care about the lives affected by councils choices?

it’s corruption not incompetence….hey I’ll give you a 13k no-bid contract and you kick me back a couple….check the interim town managers bank account…

So if the audit shows the investigation to be valid will the LTM editorial staff retract this and issue an apology to the Town Council, Mr. Venegas and Ms Nuckolls ??? Just curious. It seems the LTM editorial is jumping the gun here.

Regardless of the allegations against Ms. Nuckolls and Mr. Venegas the we know 7 serving members of the PD, including 3 Sergeants and the LT, filed complaints against Chief McAlister. From those complaints an investigation was conducted and no less than 7 serious violations were sustained against the Chief including untruthfulness. In any other scenario a substantiated finding of untruthfulness against an officer is a death nail ,,, period end of story. Yet the LTM and other publications continue to gloss over the findings and push this narrative that none of the findings matter and the Town is a mess because they dared to go after Cindy McAlister.

I have a feeling that the LTM is going to have some serious retracting and explaining to do once all the dust settles. Just my opinion of course ,,, but we will see.

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