Two Alexandria police investigators and a former investigator, who have said that Director of Public Safety Charles T. Strobel prematurely ended a police drug investigation, said yesterday the review of their allegations by the city prosecutor will be "meaningless and misleading to the citizens of Alexandria."
After the City Council failed Thursday night to formalize an earlier, tentative decision to hire outside counsel to investigate Strobel, Sheriff Michael E. Norris and City Manager Douglas Harman in connection with those allegations, Harman said he would refer the matter to prosecutor John E. Kloch.
Yesterday, speaking through their attorney, Mary Craig, investigator Joseph Morrash, Sgt. Morton Ford and former investigator Charles Cox said that Kloch has already seen much of the material he was asked to review by Harman.
"He has already reviewed the evidence and he's already ruled criminally and said there's nothing there, therefore it's a meaningless investigation from this aspect," Craig said.
"It's very questionable that he's going to go over the same material and come up with a different answer."
"But when you add to that he is the handpicked choice of one of the targets of the probe Harman . . . you have to wonder what's going on."
Kloch made an initial investigation of the handling of the drug probe after the police investigators, upset at how it was handled, complained to him last October. As a result of that investigation, Kloch said he found no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of either Strobel or Norris.
The council has been struggling to decide what to do since a newspaper, the Alexandria Port Packet, published allegations last month that the drug investigation was ended prematurely by Strobel after Norris' name turned up on a police informant's tape recording.
When the council met Thursday night to formally hire an outside investigator and set up the format and scope of the investigation, some of the council members had second thoughts. The three Republican members said they preferred to have Kloch, a Democrat, investigate the charges against Strobel because they were of a possibly criminal nature.
The four council Democrats could have prevailed if a vote had been taken, but one of them, Mayor Charles E. Beatley, said he would abstain, preferring no action unless a broader consensus supported it.
Harman, who gave the council a seven-page memo Thursday night that argued against an outside investigator and criticized the council's initial move to review his own actions in the case, formally asked Kloch yesterday to review the allegations that have been made.
Craig said her clients are prepared to cooperate with Kloch and take lie-detector tests. "We are not asking for anybody to be arrested or fired. We are simply asking for an impartial, objective, open hearing," she said.
Kloch said yesterday that although he reviewed the investigators' allegations last fall and found no wrongdoing, now there "are more allegations flying around that were not dealt with in my first review."
He said he expects to complete his work in three weeks and will not make public the interviews he conducts, although he hopes "to give as detailed a report to the public as possible."
He said he may call in a special prosecutor if he thinks it appropriate. "I have many alternatives and one would include a special prosecutor," he said.
"I have in the past and I would in the future if I deem it appropriate," he said, adding that at this point it was "premature" to make that decision.
"Insofar as to what I have now there are no allegations of a criminal nature relating to Harman," Kloch said, but added that he would follow up on any "new information" about anyone.
Democratic councilman Donald C. Casey, who brought the allegations about the drug investigation to the City Council's attention, and Beatley said yesterday they believe the council will eventually have to call in an outside investigator.
"I feel the allegations will come back to bother us later on if we don't tackle them now," said Beatley, adding that he did not believe the inquiry should be conducted by Kloch because "it's not his bag, this kind of thing. His is criminal investigation.
"There may be some crime here, but I think the large amount of chaff floating around in the air is not going to lead to a criminal conviction, Beatley said. "It's the kind of stuff that may be some form of wrongdoing but it's not a crime . . . but it is sufficient for council to look at."