Editor’s note: The article referenced was published online Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019. It has a different title in the Aug. 16 print edition of the paper.
By Parksley Mayor Wayne Marshall
I am troubled by the fact that your recent article (“From Restroom Closures to Police Harassment” – August 13, 2019) detailing the Parksley Town Council Meeting on Monday August 12 was inaccurate, incomplete, and implied – among other things – that quotes attributed to attendees were made during the meeting that were, in fact, not. I want to set the record straight as to the events as reported, details about the incident in question, correct your timeline, and defend myself and the town against an incomplete story that overly sensationalized the events.
For the sake of clarity, I will address the article point by point, in the order published:
-No police harassment has ever been, or will ever be, condoned by myself, the police chief, any member of Council, or any employee of the Town of Parksley. To make a statement to the contrary is insulting, and illustrates a profound lack of understanding involving such issues in a public setting. Each and every complaint is treated professionally and privately, ensuring a thorough investigation takes place. As a result, no complaints are discussed publicly, neither are details of the complaint and/or resolution – particularly in an ongoing, active investigation. This policy is in place to protect all parties, including the town, legally, and with respect for privacy.
-If Dr. Nash believes that, “many of the councilmen and others don’t want her in their boy’s club,” then she can address that specific issue with myself, or members of Council, go through proper channels for grievances, and we will address this. However, this quote did not happen during the meeting and this was not discussed Monday in either the Public or Executive portions of the meeting. If this quote that you attribute to Dr. Nash was gleaned through another interview or conversation, it needs to be clearly stated as such in your paper. In the first paragraph you imply a willingness of Council to ignore complaints of police harassment, and in this instance you are subtly implying – without basis – that Dr. Nash is being disregarded because of her gender. In a best case scenario, this is sloppy journalism.
-It is accurate that Dr. Nash is the only female member of the Parksley Town Council. She volunteered to fill a vacancy on Council in 2017, and was unanimously appointed (by an all male Town Council) to her current position. During the most recent Council election in 2018, no females ran for office. Her being the only female member of Council is due to nothing more than circumstance. Municipal elections for the town will be held next year for three council seats and the office of mayor. Dr. Nash will be eligible to run for any of those positions if she wishes. As always, anyone is welcome to run that is a citizen of the town.
-Regarding the details of the incident between Dr. Nash and a town officer on August 2nd, we were then, and are now, limited as to what we can discuss regarding this open investigation, but I will do my best to address this here in this forum. The events, as she presented them, seem accurate, but only constitute one side of the events. You do indicate in your article that you attempted to contact the officer in question without response. While that does represent a modicum of journalistic due diligence, you make sure to publish the name of the officer even after pointing out that Dr. Nash and the rest of Council made sure not to mention his name, completely negating the privacy being afforded the officer by Dr. Nash, myself, and Council and opening the possibility of legal recourse by the officer regarding comments made towards his character. The remainder of Dr. Nash’s recollection is stated as fact – again, without any investigation or questioning of anyone other than Dr. Nash.
-Additionally, while Dr. Nash made sure to not mention the name of the officer involved in the public meeting, his name was mentioned in my text message, which was distributed to the public and published in this paper. Was the text message presented to you and the public before the meeting took place? If so, it would seem that the lengths to which everyone was going to keep the name private were for the sake of press coverage – as the information had already freely been distributed.
-“Nash said she had been to both with no remedy and wanted to get things out in the open.” This statement is, based on Dr. Nash’s other remarks during the meeting, incomplete at best, and directing a false narrative at worst. Dr. Nash has followed correct protocol in filing a written complaint against an officer of the law. She is correct in stating that no remedy has come of this incident, but – again – this is an ongoing investigation and we have not come to a conclusion on the merits as of yet. Dr. Nash omitted that she had done what she was supposed to in reporting the incident, omitted that the town is investigating this as requested and required and did not impede her complaint in any way, and took it on herself to bring a private matter to a public setting without a full discussion of the facts, and knowing that we were limited as to what could be disclosed.
-As stated in the meeting, the text I sent to members of Council and Town Employees at 11:12 pm on August 2nd (the evening of the incident) was done with poor judgment on my part, and a knee jerk response to the situation. I said in the meeting, and repeat again, that I should not have sent that out in that manner. It’s distribution to the general public and it’s subsequent publication in your paper is the result of one of the recipients sharing it with you.
-“Get rid of the bully,” said Nash. “I think we should let him go.” On a note of order, Town Council does not hire or fire any police officers in the Town of Parksley other than the Chief of Police. Hiring decisions are made by the chief.
-““It was also mentioned that the town relies on $12,000 of revenue from fines to balance the budget. Last year it was $10,000.” This quote is inaccurate – and does not represent the actual conversation or facts at all. As explained in the meeting, when the town budget is agreed to, we make an estimate as to what we think the police and public works departments might collect in fees. That amount is in no way a quota, and the fiscal success of the Town of Parksley does not rely on this. Multiple Councilmen explained that to the audience after the question was raised. If you are going to change topics so suddenly in your writing, you need to provide a full reporting of the events. Again – lazy reporting.
-“Nash later said that she has brought in lists of jobs for the maintenance department to do and “rocked the boat. If you bring it up, you get in trouble.” She also noted that she and Russell recently voted against a $6,000 raise for Chief Greer.” As above, you seem to be conflating multiple conversations you may have had with Dr. Nash and falsely attributing these quotes to the meeting on Monday. None of these items were discussed at the meeting on Monday. They were discussed in the past, but not at this meeting. Your writing does not clarify this. On the specifics, if Dr. Nash has an issue with the Maintenance Department she needs to discuss that with the public works director or myself – which she has actually done and we have been addressing all the issues she has presented to us.
-The pay rate for Chief Greer is public record, as is the vote on the issue – which was made at a previous meeting, not this one, and the amount listed is incorrect, as a check of public records would show. Again, sloppy and inaccurate reporting.
As pointed out in the meeting several times, and in your article, Dr. Nash has done a great deal of positive work promoting the Town of Parksley, and works hard to make sure we are shown in a positive light. Members of Council, and myself, are appreciative of all the work Dr. Nash puts into promoting our town and establishing the annual Railway Festival. That she would choose this manner in which to put Parksley in a negative light, and your paper’s willingness to participate, is troubling. Parksley is grateful for the work put in at the Eastern Shore Post, as it has been a good neighbor to all the communities of the Eastern Shore of Virginia. The Town of Parksley is happy to be an advertiser and promoter of the work of the paper and its staff, but in this instance the paper, and this reporter, have done a disservice to everyone. In your original Facebook post advertising this story this morning, you mentioned that the full article with details would be published on Friday, Then an internal editorial decision was made to push up publication to just a few hours later. I am assuming that the rush to publication (for whatever reason) contributed to the poor presentation, sloppiness of reporting, and mistakes of fact.