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Monteagle Council hears from former police chief

Posted on Friday, August 30, 2019 at 12:20 pm

Virgil McNeece has his say – reads letter to council

After serving Monteagle for 25 years, former Police Chief Virgil McNeece finally had his say in the events that led to his resigning from the position in July, at Monday night’s Monteagle City Council Meeting.
McNeece read a letter to the council and the citizens of Monteagle, explaining his original resignation, his decision to return to Monteagle as the police chief, and what followed.
“As you know, I have spent the last 13 years serving the town that I love, as chief of police. As you could expect, it has had its challenges, but it is hard to call it ‘work,’ when it is something you love. I have spent roughly 30 years in law enforcement. I grew up wanting to be a police officer, and not everyone gets to fulfill their childhood dream, so for that I am thankful.
“Like everyone, I have lived long enough to have made a few mistakes. Regardless, I can say in good conscience I have served Monteagle with integrity. Over the last 25 years, I have served with different councils, mayors, and other town employees. I have always felt I could get along with anyone.
“The last number of weeks have been a challenge, unlike any I have faced in my 30 year career.
“Monday, July 22, I was approached by Tony Gilliam alone, and basically given an ultimatum: resign, be demoted, or fired. This was a shock!
“First of all, for a council member to approach me with corrective action is against the policy and procedures, as I understand it. When I questioned ‘why,’ I was told it was for ‘not doing my job.’ After 25 years with Monteagle PD alone, I had never been accused for such. Still not sure what to do, I was trying to process what happened. I asked if I could clean out my office, and get my four weeks of vacation time, or do I lose it. He said, ‘I will see that Debbie cuts you a check.’
“Contrary to what was said at the last town meeting, I did not in any way, ‘resign.’
“On July 25, I sent a letter to the town explaining the situation. I did this, because I was told by Tony Gilliam that I should not attend the town council meeting. I am not sure why the letter was denied being received, because I have proof it was signed for. This is the reason I did not attend the last council meeting.
“On July 31, a letter was sent to me on behalf of the entire Board of Mayor and Alderman. It was signed by Mayor David Sampley, offering me my job back.
“On August 1, I replied as requested, with a letter stating that I would accept my position back, as offered in the letter I had received from the town. I also stated that I did not want any retaliation from Tony nor any member of the governing body.
“On August 15, I received a letter from the city attorney regarding a recording of me using a word that is considered a racial slur. This recording was over a year ago. I thought back, and remembered this particular situation, where in a moment of frustration and high anxiety, I used a word that I am definitely ashamed I used.
“I am not here to make excuses. I did it, and I owe everyone an apology. I am truly sorry! I currently coach with Tracy Hayworth at Grundy County. I couldn’t be more honored to do so, and anyone who knows – really knows me – knows that I am not racist. I am not perfect, but this was unusual of me, and unbecoming of a professional.
“If the people of Monteagle and those in this room who support me, feel like I should resign over this, I will do so. This is embarrassing for me, and it isn’t easy for me to do this.
“I do have some concerns about this whole situation. After 25 years serving Monteagle, I’ve never had an official complaint or corrective action taken against me. To date, I am not aware of anything of this nature in my personnel file. I know, for certain, there was nothing at the time Tony Gilliam threatened to demote or fire me.
“I am here to endure this humiliating moment, because I have a conviction about what I feel is wrong.
“The letter seems to state that if this audio is brought to the public’s attention, it could be detrimental. The interesting thing is this is over a year old, and now it is being brought up in what feels like a form of ‘blackmail’ to me.
“Then, the letter expresses concern about my wife’s job in a neighboring county. If they were concerned about my wife’s safety, then I would think there would be no chance they would publicize such a thing, unless they wanted to use it to bully me into resigning. This seemed to be their motive, before this became what appears to me to be a tool of convenience.
“Lastly, I was also shocked to read that the attorney had talked with Mayor Sampley about my psychological examination, that I was requested to take after a shooting incident. The attorney says, ‘I understand you told David that you had taken the test, but in reality you had not.’
“The statement, and I quote, ‘in reality you did not,’ is a very direct statement, and insinuates me lying. I could only assume the mayor gave this information to the attorney, since the conversation was between him and the attorney. However, this is another un-factual statement. I have a copy of the letter issued by Wanda Denton, where I did go for an evaluation, and received a good report and approval to return to work.
“The attorney’s letter ends by stating, and I quote, ‘which will be brought to the attention of the public.’
“My question is, ‘why?’ Why, if you think my wife’s safety is at risk? Why, if you know it will hurt others in the community? My opinion is this looks, smells, and feels like a dirty manipulative tactic to get me to re-sign, or else.
“I swore an oath to serve and protect the citizens of Monteagle. Even though this is embarrassing to me personally, I feel I am doing just that at this moment. If they would do this to me, who else would they do it to? I feel it would be appropriate for a few others to offer their resignations.
“I will always love Monteagle, and would be honored to retire someday, as your chief of police. God bless you, and God bless Monteagle,” concluded McNeece in his letter.
The council did not offer McNeece his job back. It was offered to acting Chief of Police Jack Hill who turned it down.
The Herald has obtained both a copy of the letter sent by the city’s attorney to McNeece, which McNeece referenced on Monday evening. This letter will be available on our website at www.grundycountyherald.com.
The Herald has also obtained the letter McNeece referenced from Wanda Spencer, a Senior Licensed Psychological Examiner, in which she states that she met with McNeece in April 2017, for several sessions. These sessions related to the debriefing from a traumatic situation which had occurred in the police district. She further states that never received a psychological examination request by Monteagle administrators. In her determination, there was no evidence of any psychiatric or emotional issues that might impede McNeece’s performance in a law enforcement position.