To the million tourists who visit each year, Harpers Ferry is the quaint and historic old town where John Brown made his famous 1859 raid on the U.S. arsenal.
There are restored buildings, art shops, historic displays and an old hotel, Hilltop House. The National Park Service owns and maintains some of the buildings. Other properties are privately owned.
Harpers Ferry is also the only town in the United States, as far as the park service knows, whose municipal police force was created with a park service grant.
This coup, involving $90,000, was engineered last year by Bill Brawley, political aide to Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D-Wash.) from 1970 to 1976. Brawley is the town's mayor. His son-in-law, and attorney for a Senate subcommittee Jackson formerly headed, is town attorney. And a former subcommittee investigator was installed by them as police chief in December.
The political clout that got the money came from Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), who put the $90,000 into the 1979 park service appropriation at Brawley's request.
Brawley thought he was doing the town (population 429) a civic service when he created the six-member police force and started drafting traffic, littering and plumbing codes.
But the campaign for law and order has infuriated some local residents and set off a festering conflict pitting Brawley against Dixie Killam, longtime influential property holder whose family was born there, who bought and restored Hilltop House and who owns the wax museum and other properties.
"We don't object to a police department. We object to a police state," Killam said in interview.
Killam charged that Brawley is trying to run the town like a dictator and has put in stiff local ordinances with "heavy" penalties which are turning a friendly, neighborly and charming little town into a place of harsh regimentation.
Killam said Brawley and son-in-law Keith Adkinson, the unpaid town attorney, have been drafting local ordinances imposing not only fines but also jail terms for plumbing violations, minor parking offenses, littering, refusal to admit building inspectors and even for parking trucks in the streets -- with penalties in some cases of up to 30 days in jail and a $200 fine.
"Tourists are not bad people -- not the kind that should be fined for having a kid throw out a paper cup," said Anita Brown, an aide to Killam at Hilltop House.
Brawley says he is simply trying to set up legal machinery for a town that had none when he came and that needed a police force. All the traffic, parking and plumbing regulations approved by the town council at his suggestion are based on standard codes in use in many other places, he says.
The problem, he says, is that Killam for a long time has had things his own way, dominating town affairs as the richest man around.
"He closes off public streets to serve his hotel, Hilltop House... he's been one-man rule, he's hell-bent to destroy everythng we're doing," Brawley declares.
"This is not the little town that looks so peaceful in the daytime," the new police chief, Bill Gallinaro, added in an interview.
When Brawley moved to Harpers Ferry a few years ago at the urging of his son-in-law, who already resided there, he found signs of juvenile narcotics. There, were motorcycle gangs. Officials said some fugitives wanted by the West Virginia state police were quietly holing up in some of t8e shabbier buildings a bit off the main tourist trails.
Brawley, an energetic man of 61, was elected mayor -- a $200-a-year job. Ironically, Killam at that time backed him for mayor. Before long, Brawley concluded that the town needed its own police force -- the state police and sheriff's office could not provide enough protection.
Casting about for funds (the town budget was only $28,000, Brawley said), he decided to mine the place he knew best: the U.S. Senate.
He wrote Majority Leader Byrd, who chairs the Senate Interior appropriations subcommittee that handles park service funds.
Byrd eventually pushed through an amendment adding $90,000 to the park service appropriation in fiscal 1979 for a grant to the town to create a police force. The town controls the money, hires the police and has control over them. The park service did not object, reasoning, according to a spokesman, that since the town and the historic buildings were intermingled, a town police force would help keep order and maintain the historic quality of the area.
Brawley takes pride in the fact that not many small town mayors could have done that well. But then, Brawley is no ordinary small town mayor.
A savvy, experienced Washington politico, he was staff director of the Senate Post Office Committee for more than a decade.
For two years after that he was deputy postmaster general under President Kennedy. Then, fired in a dispute with the postmaster general, he became deputy director of the Democratic National Committee. Later he was vice president of Genesco, a conglomerate, and then a political aide (1970-76) to Jackson.
Nor is his son-in-law just a small town attorney. He is assistant counsel on the Senate permanent investigations subcommittee, which Jackson headed until this year.
And the man they recruited as their police chief, Gallinaro, was a longtime investigator for the Jackson subcommittee who had been involved in some heavy criminal investigative work, including the hunt for former Teamster chief Jimmy Hoffa's body.
Gallinaro, at Adkinson's suggestion, took the job as Harpers Ferry's top policeman at $15,000 a year. He also draws a $13,500 Senate pension.
Although Brawley, Adkinson and Gallinaro had all worked for Jakson, the senator asserted in a telephone interview, "I had no role in any of these activities.I had no knowledge of it at all until a few hours ago when someone told me about it."
When Gallinaro became police chief in December over protests of some residents that state law required hiring of a local resident, he energetically set out to create an effective police force. It enforces the law both in Harpers Ferry and adjoining Bolivar (population 1,033).
"I have five fullltime cops at $8,500 to $8,600 a year, plus equipment... This is the only really professional police force in the county," the chief said.
The hiring of Gallinaro helped fan the feeling among some residents that Brawley, a relatively new resident of the town, was bringing in more outsiders to run the place.
Killam says this does not bother him as much as the "emergency" ordinances that are killing the neighborly atmosphere and, in some cases, making it harder for him to run his businesses. He himts darkly that some people feel he is being harassed because others want to run him out and buy up his property to speculate on future rises in value.
Brawley indignantly denies he is harassing Killam or seeking to pick up any of his property. He says he and his wife own only their Harpers Ferry residence and that his son-in-law owns only his residence and half-interest in another property there.
Brawley says the town council has been supporting him solidly on the ordinances and other matters and suggests that Killam does not like Brawley's new codes because "he wants the town to run down. Then the park service will buy his hotel." Killam says this is absurd.
The dispute between the two men could be resolved in May when Brawley is up for reelection, though he says he has not decided whether to run again. Killam does not intend to run for mayor, but said he might run for town council.