At the July 10 ”Continuation Meeting” of the Haymarket Town Council, the members unanimously accepted the resignation of Police Chief James Roop and instated Greg Smith in his place for the interim.
Interim Chief Smith is a retired Prince William Police Captain. He will be serving as Haymarket Police Chief part time and will be paid $55 per hour. Roop made $78, 977 annually in his last year. Smith would be assuming all Chief duties, including those assumed by the town manager for a period following Roop’s suspension.
Details of Chief Roop’s resignation were discussed in closed session and are not being shared publicly.
However, according to Town Clerk Jennifer Preli, the Town Council is responsible for the hiring and firing of charter employees including herself, the Town Manger and the Chief of Police. Five of six new town council members assumed their offices July 1, and upon doing so, gained the ability to evaluate Roop’s employment.
Roop had previously been suspended for inappropriate behavior last January, along with two other Haymarket officers. The nature of the inappropriate behavior was not made public.
And Mayor Leake had previously vetoed Roop’s suspension, pushing for his termination.
“I think I’ve been very vocal and gone on record that, in my opinion, he should have been terminated, but that wasn’t the will of the Council,” Leake said in late March.
Leake had told Haymarket Beat back in January that “the internal investigation done by the Council was not performed by quality personnel.” As a result, he said in his opinion it was a “flawed investigation.”
Leake even tried to block the Chief’s suspension with a mayoral veto. However, the Town Council had the ¾ majority vote to override Leake’s veto. As a result, Roop, Deputy Chief Gregory Breeden and Officer Jacob Davis served the terms of their unpaid suspensions, returning to work March 22.
When Roop returned, it was in a limited capacity. He was unable to hire, fire or penalize his staff.
Former Vice Mayor Jay Tobias said that, “Given Mayor Leake’s public comments about Chief Roop that he should be fire, it comes at no surprise that Mayor Leake and the new council created a hostile work environment for Chief Roop, leaving him very few options.”
Tobias explained that in his opinion, the new Council did not have sufficient time to formally review the employment matter and come to their own conclusions.
“I would say that is absolutely no way that the new council could have been provided all of the details of the last 9 to 12 months of the police departments issues as clearly and as unbiasedly as they should have been.”
However, new Council member Chris Morris explained that Tobias can have his opinion.
“I believe there are no aliens, but my son believes there are aliens on other planets. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I also believe that the past Town Council did a good job, but that’s just my opinion,” Morris said.
Morris explained it was not much of a decision on the part of the Council.
“If someone submits a resignation, you have one of two choices,” Morris said.
Roop’s resignation was accepted by the Council, despite the Council accepting Mayor Leake’s veto of the previous Council’s decision to fire Deputy Greg Breeden, who was also suspended for misconduct at the beginning of the year. Breeden is continuing on full-time in his position.
Morris rejects the idea that the two situations are comparable.
“The old Council voted to terminate without an investigation,” said Morris, who explained it was an issue of providing “due process.”
Morris believes that Roop was treated fairly.
“I would think so. He’s the one who resigned,” Morris said, adding, “(Roop) seems like a decent guy to me.”
James Roop started his employment in Haymarket as a patrol officer in March 1997, having previously worked for the City of Manassas and Frederick County. He was promoted to Sergeant and then appointed Chief of Police in 2000.
Now, Morris is looking towards the future.
“I think right now we are geared to start walking in a brand new direction, and I am totally excited (to do that,)” Morris said.
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