The Purcellville Town Council has retained the Wilson Elser law firm to audit the original investigation of Police Chief Cynthia McAlister. The firm specializes in electronic discovery, an important factor in the case, and has experience working with municipalities. The vote to hire the firm at the Dec. 7 Purcellville Special Town Council Meeting was 6-0-1 with Council Member Doug McCollum abstaining.
Thierry Dupuis was hired by the Town to work with Wilson Elser on the original investigation. Dupuis, who is a retired Chesterfield County Police Chief and former president of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, took a job as Charlottesville’s Interim Police Chief and started that job Jan. 2. The Town of Purcellville will be hiring someone to fill the vacancy sometime in the coming week.
On Dec. 29, John Anzivino, Interim Town Manager for the Town of Purcellville, announced that in consultation with Wilson Elser, the Town has placed Town Attorney Sally Hankins and Human Resources Manager Sharon Rauch on paid administrative leave.
Interim Town Manager Alex Vanegas has filed a complaint against Hankins, accusing her of sexual harassment and discrimination. According to town sources, Hankins has allegedly also made several administrative mistakes by failing to meet deadlines and exposing the Town to financial risk. Rauch is on leave for allegedly making personal charges on a Town credit card, and also making numerous mistakes with human resource records and files. She allegedly failed to file critical information with an insurance company causing the Town to make extra payments for an extended period of time. Other instances of financial mismanagement are also alleged.
Vanegas was hired by former Town Manager, Rob Lohr in 2005 as a superintendent of waterworks. In 2007 he was promoted to Capital Projects Manager, then Assistant Director of Public Works in 2008. In 2013, he became Director of Public Works. The Purcellville Town Council appointed him Interim Town Manager in 2017, based on his years of experience and knowledge in running the largest department in the Town.
McAlister and Vanegas are also on paid administrative leave.