Former police chief still on city payroll

Former Police Chief Al Thomas is still collecting a paycheck. Photo by Eze Amos Former Police Chief Al Thomas is still collecting a paycheck. Photo by Eze Amos

Former Charlottesville police chief Al Thomas may have left last year, but it hasn’t stopped him from collecting a paycheck.

Although the city said in December that Thomas’ retirement would be “effective immediately,” it turns out, as first reported by WINA’s Rob Schilling, that Thomas has continued to receive his $134,513 annual salary, and will do so for another nine months.

Though Thomas was largely assumed to have been forced out after criticism of his handling of August 11 and 12, city spokesperson Brian Wheeler’s explanation comes in the form of a distinction between “retirement” and “resignation.”

“Alfred Thomas retired from law enforcement on December 18, 2017. As part of his retirement, Mr. Thomas voluntarily resigned from the Charlottesville Police Department…with an effective date of July 15, 2019,” Wheeler said.

Thomas did not have an employment contract, and the settlement agreement is exempt from FOIA, according to Wheeler, who offered no further justification for Thomas’ parting gift.

Local attorney and City Council gadfly Jeff Fogel questions the legality of that FOIA exemption, and criticized the city for not making the terms of Thomas’ leaving clear.

“This is typical of the city,” says Fogel. “Release as little as you can get away with.”

Before Thomas’ sudden retirement, he disputed many of what Fogel calls “the most damning” claims made against him in former U.S. attorney Tim Heaphy’s independent review of 2017’s white supremacist events.

“He’s still on the payroll, and yet he’s never answered any of the questions about what happened on August 12, 2017,” says Fogel. “We need to know the truth.”

Adds Fogel, “If Mr. Thomas is still employed or still receiving money, we oughta get him to come here and explain what happened. That’s the least he could do for [$135,000] a year.