Haymarket police chief unsuspended (for now) as mayor vetoes council action

Haymarket Police Chief James E. Roop, suspended for 60 days without pay for "loss of confidence and inappropriate actions." Must undergo counseling for sexual harassment, for which he was suspended in 2005. (Town of Haymarket)
Haymarket Police Chief James E. Roop, had been suspended for 60 days without pay for “loss of confidence and inappropriate actions.” Now he is back on the job. (Town of Haymarket)

UPDATE: Friday, 12 noon: The Haymarket town council has scheduled an emergency meeting for 7 p.m. tonight to consider the mayor’s vetoes. The council can override a mayor’s veto if two-thirds of the council, or four of the six, vote to do so.

ORIGINAL Post: After the Haymarket town council voted on Monday night to impose 60-day suspensions without pay on their police chief, deputy police chief and one officer, the mayor on Thursday vetoed the suspensions, saying the investigation was improperly done and that the penalties on two of the three officers were “harsh and unfair.” And so Chief James E. Roop, Chief Deputy Gregory A. Breeden and Officer Jacob T. Davis were returned to the six-officer force Thursday evening, pending a possible override of the mayor’s veto when the town council meets again.

We still don’t know what the three officers did to earn their two months off, slicing the size of the Haymarket Police Department in half. All six town council members declined to comment, saying the council had a policy of not discussing personnel matters. The council ordered Roop to undergo training for sexual harassment, the same reason both he and Breeden were suspended for 15 days in 2005. Two members of the town council conducted an investigation of something starting in mid-December, and on Monday night those council members appeared to be calling for the (employment) termination of all three. But instead the council voted 4-2 to suspend the three. In 2005, an independent investigator also recommended that Roop and Breeden be fired for sexual harassment, but the council instead gave them 15-day suspensions.

Roop, Breeden and Davis did not respond to e-mails Thursday night seeking comment.

Mayor David Leake does not, by law, have a vote on the town council unless there’s a tie. But he does have the power to veto council actions. The council may then reconsider its actions, and it can override the mayor’s veto with a two-thirds vote, or four votes in this case. The council is scheduled to meet again on Tuesday.

Leake told me on Wednesday that he was dissatisfied with the council’s actions because they had not used an impartial investigtor. Indeed, council member Jay Tobias, one of the two council investigators, was arrested by Roop in October for being drunk in public, a charge which was later dismissed. The council then fined Tobias $250 before he’d even gone to court, but they’ve since rescinded that.

So on Thursday, Leake formally filed his vetoes of the council’s suspensions. “The internal investigation done by council was not performed by qualified personnel,” the mayor of the 1,900-person town wrote. He said the police department’s general orders were neglected and violated, noting that town ordinances call for an officer to be notified in writing of all charges and the officer must be given an opportunity to respond.

In addition, Leake said that the “disciplinary actions taken against Deputy Chief Breeden and Officer Davis were both harsh and unfair,” though he did not make that claim about Roop’s suspension. Leake concluded that the only way to ensure a fair disciplinary review “is by having an outside and independent investigation done as originally requested by our town attorney.” Town attorney Martin Crim did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Upon receiving the mayor’s vetoes, town clerk Jennifer Preli said she informed the three officers Thursday that they were reinstated. At least until the next town council meeting.

Tom Jackman is a native of Northern Virginia and has been covering the region for The Post since 1998.
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Tom Jackman · January 24