Cheriton Mayor Says Harassment Allegations Led To Firing Police Chief

By Stefanie Jackson — Nearly two months after firing the town’s first and only police chief, Marc Marshall, Cheriton Mayor Larry LeMond broke his silence on the reason for Marshall’s termination.

LeMond stated at the Oct. 24 town council meeting that Marshall was dismissed due to “accusations against him regarding sexual harassment of town employees.” 

Two female town employees made the accusations on Aug. 15 during an interview with a committee of two council members who were compiling job descriptions for inclusion in the town’s personnel policy, LeMond said.

On Aug. 16, the accusers signed written statements accusing Marshall of “extremely inappropriate behavior,” he continued.

On Aug. 17, Marshall was placed on paid administrative leave pending further investigation.

Neither the mayor nor the council stated that an investigation had been completed before voting on Aug. 29 to terminate Marshall’s employment and pay him through Sept. 28.

LeMond indicated the decision to terminate Marshall was based on employee tenure. Marshall’s two accusers respectively had 15 and 12 years of experience as town employees, but Marshall had served as the sole member of the police force for less than a year, LeMond said.

“Based upon the town’s excellent experience with these two long-term employees, council found their statements credible,” he stated.

Marshall had no recourse. According to Virginia law, an at-will employee can be terminated for “any reason or no reason,” LeMond pointed out.

LeMond said he decided to address the rumors surrounding Marshall’s termination because Marshall had filed for unemployment benefits, which “required a response from the town.” Marshall is ineligible for unemployment benefits because he was fired for “misconduct,” LeMond said.

During the public comment period, Cheriton citizen Nancy Brauer repeated her question from the previous meeting – why was there no investigation of the accusations against Marshall?

“We’re not going to answer any questions. I made my statement,” LeMond answered.

“As far as this whole story we’re hearing about how and why Marc Marshall was terminated, I’m not fully buying it,” Brauer said. 

“Since three months after the department was created, you three have been trying to get rid of him,” Brauer said to the council’s senior members – Barry Downing, Norma Spencer, and Robert Lewis.

Brauer said a Freedom of Information Act request revealed that Cheriton has more than $225,000 in various bank accounts, and she asserted that any claim that the town cannot afford a police department is “B.S.”

The council has not decided if it will disband the police department or sell the town police car.

Councilman Matthew Yancy stated, “I can guarantee you one thing: If indeed the police department is reactivated … it will be a permanent police department and it will be a police department that we can all be proud of.”

The council also has not appointed a replacement for former Councilman Wesley Travis, who resigned as of the Sept. 26 town meeting. He agreed Marshall should not have been fired without an investigation, and he cast the only vote opposing Marshall’s termination.

Four candidates expressed interest in the open council seat: Scott Berger, Greg Hardesty, Bruce Nutter, and Jason Van Marter.

Van Marter is the only candidate with public supporters who bought newspaper ads and circulated a petition requesting Van Marter’s appointment to the council.

“Ultimately, it’s humbling,” Van Marter said of the support he has received. He ran for council before and lost, but he would run again or accept an appointment to the council.

“Anything I can do to help Cheriton move forward” is a welcome opportunity, Van Marter said.

Hardesty was the only candidate not present and prepared to speak at the Oct. 24 meeting.

The council decided to postpone the appointment until Nov. 28, giving the candidates time to prepare statements of their qualifications.

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