“Small town America thinking big" -- Purcellville mayor delivers State of the Town address

Times-Mirror/Chantalle Edmunds

Events in the Town of Purcellville over the past week have caused a domino effect that is calling into question the town's staffing levels and its ability to administer core government services.

On Sunday, after an emergency Town Council closed session on Saturday, the town issued a statement that revealed a human resources contractor hired to investigate claims of misconduct against former chief of police Cynthia McAlister has a prior criminal record -- calling into question the integrity of the investigation, according to town officials.

The contractor, Georgia Nuckolls, has not responded to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, as the events continue to unfold and administrative vacancies begin to have an effect on town management, the Times-Mirror has learned Purcellville Mayor Kwasi Fraser contacted both Loudoun County Supervisor Tony Buffington (R) and County Administrator Tim Hemstreet Sunday night to request the county's assistance with "two strong managers with human resources and project management background during this period of operational change." Purcellville requested county personnel for the next two months.

The mayor has also asked for additional support for the Purcellville Police Department to be considered.

Buffington indicated he would like to support the town, and he has spoken with Hemstreet about a process for the Board of Supervisors' approval. Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) and Vice Chairman Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) were also included in the email request.

The town's request for county resources was confirmed through a Freedom of Information Act request by the Times-Mirror.

The town's pressing needs for assistance comes after McAlister, who was fired following Nuckolls' investigation Nov. 3, formally notified the town she is appealing her firing on Nov. 16, Interim Town Manager Alex Vanegas said Saturday. McAlister is alleged to have acted outside the scope of her duties and run afoul of town policies and procedures, among other violations.

Adding to the ongoing saga, the town's statement on Sunday also said Nuckolls had a relationship with a town employee involved in the investigation. The identity of the town employee has not been revealed.

"With this knowledge, the town recognizes that the integrity of this investigation may be called into question, and will promptly hire an outside independent firm to audit and review the investigation," a town statement reads. "The employee involved in the relationship will be disciplined in accordance with the town's personnel manual and procedures. Further, the town will implement measures that will govern all future contract awards, designed to prevent the recurrence of these issues."

Town Attorney Sally Hankins said Monday she is not able to comment on the pending investigation.

Mayor Fraser did not respond Monday to the question of whether Vanegas is still in charge of day-to-day operations as interim town manager.

Nuckolls - who previously went by Georgia Herron -- plead guilty in the Onslow County, N.C., court system and was convicted on Nov. 18, 1997, of counts of felony financial card fraud, felony financial card theft, forgery of instrument, common law forgery and larceny. She was sentenced to 60 months of supervised probation.

The contract with Nuckolls was an administrative action by Vanegas and not signed off on by Town Council, according to Councilwoman Karen Jimmerson.

Saturday's emergency Town Council meeting was called with less than 14 hours public notice.

Beverly Chaisson, a former Town Council member on hand for Saturday's meeting, was surprised by the way the session was called and the ensuing confusion.

"It never would've happened unless the water tower was falling down," said Chaisson, referring to the 12 years she served on council and the "emergency" meeting. "It just never " we always put the public's ability to know something above the town's convenience."

Times-Mirror Managing Editor Trevor Baratko contributed to this report.

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