Alexandria Sheriff Michael E. Norris said yesterday he welcomes the special grand jury investigation into how city officials handled a drug inquiry that involved him, but he expressed doubt that it will end all the questions about the matter.
Norris, a Republican, accused Democratic City Council member Donald C. Casey and, to a lesser extent, Mayor Charles E. Beatley, of using the controversy to tighten their party's grip on the city government.
The sheriff said in an telephone interview that he believes he is being attacked because he is innovative, not "a puppet" of City Hall, and "because I like all people.
"I like white people. I like black people . . . .I have homosexual friends and I've gone out with them and they've decided that's a major problem."
Asked if he thought the drug investigation was aimed at him because of his friends, Norris said: "I would not want to say it. I don't know what their motivation is."
The sheriff made the comments during an hour-long interview from Virginia Beach, where he is attending a legal conference. One day earlier, a former police investigator released an internal memorandum on the drug probe, saying he wanted to investigate allegations that Norris may have been involved in drug use at an Alexandria restaurant. On Monday, an Alexandria Circuit Court judge agreed to appoint a special grand jury to study allegations that city officials halted that investigation after Norris' name surfaced -- a charge several city officials have denied.
Norris repeated his earlier denials yesterday in strong language. "I have never done illegal drugs," he said. "I don't currently do drugs, and I don't anticipate doing them. I've never sold them . . . or seen them in my presence except for the times I arrested people. How do I defend myself against nothing?
"I feel that the investigators working on me are probably telling the truth from their own perspective, but they are getting misinformation, probably from people who don't like me," he said.
Casey, the sheriff said, "has been after me for two years." While Norris said he was happy to have the grand jury investigation, he said he was "not so sure that's going to be the end of it until some particular council people have it their way."
Council member Carlyle C. Ring, another Republican, also criticized Casey yesterday during a morning news conference. He called the Democrat a "peril to the city" for his attacks on city employes.
Ring charged that Casey, who brought the matter before council in a closed meeting Dec. 11, had done little to help resolve the issue. "As he has so often, Casey has used the tactic of personal attacks instead of reasoned discussion," Ring said.
In an interview later, Beatley defended Casey, calling him "a very valuable member of council who has a cleansing effect for the city . . . he is a compulsive whistle blower." The mayor said Norris' comments about Casey were "totally incorrect and unfair."
Casey and Ring have been on opposite sides since the controversy began. Casey, suspecting wrongdoing on the part of some city officials, pushed for an outside investigation into the allegations. Ring, characterizing allegations of wrongdoing on the part of Public Safety Director Charles T. Strobel, City Manager Douglas Harman and Norris as nothing but "manure," has opposed further outside investigations.
Casey raised questions about the drug investigation in a closed council session more than a week before the Alexandria Port Packet, a weekly newspaper, raised them.
"I'm not the source of the Packet story," Casey said yesterday. "What started the whole thing was allegations that the drug investigation was prematurely terminated. The question is whether those allegations came from me or from someone else. . . . The allegations did not come from me."
Casey said he did tell a Packet reporter about what happened in the closed session when the city officials were questioned about the investigation. "When you're dealing with a criminal investigation, I think the rules of secrecy have got to be bent, especially when you have reason to believe you are receiving incorrect information," Casey said.
Casey has also accused Ring of leaking information from council's closed session. He claims Ring told Harman the name of a federal prosecutor who had begun a preliminary investigation into how Strobel handled the drug investigation, jeopardizing that federal inquiry.
Ring claimed Casey was "a major factor" in the resignation of six unnamed city officials since summer.
"Ring's acquaintance with the truth is brief and fleeting at best," Casey said.
Beatley said that the so-called "Six" Ring declined to name left for personal reasons. To say that Casey was the cause was "totally unfair," the mayor said.
Last night, the City Council passed a resolution unanimously supporting Commonwealth's Attorney John E. Kloch's referral of questions about the handling of a police drug investigation to the special grand jury. The council urged Kloch to do all he could to make sure that as much as possible of the special grand jury's report be made public, in order to put to rest allegations about city officials.
Kloch told the council that it would be up to Circuit Court Judge Donald H. Kent to decide how much, if any, of the report would be made public, but he said he would encourage the judge to be as open about it as possible.
In other action, the council asked the city attorney to draw up guidelines for new rules to ensure stricter confidentiality in closed council sessions. Democrats Casey and Lionel Hope voted no.