Gate City officials went behind closed doors on Thursday afternoon for approximately 30 minutes before they unanimously voted to fire Kim Birchfield as the town’s chief of police.
The special-called meeting was scheduled and local media was not notified of the special meeting until hours after it ended.
Town officials reportedly placed a notice on the front door of the Gate City Town Hall to notify the public of the special-called meeting.
According to Section 2.2-3707 of the Code of Virginia related to public meetings, “D. Notice, reasonable under the circumstance, of special or emergency meetings shall be given contemporaneously with the notice provided members of the public body conducting the meeting.”
Sources confirmed that Birchfield was the employee who was terminated at the meeting. He reportedly has not worked for the town since late summer after he suffered an accident on the job.
Town officials refused to give any details about the actions taken after they deliberated in closed session during the Jan. 16 meeting. They also refused to state which employee had been terminated.
According to Greg Jones, Gate City Town Manager, he could not comment because it involved personnel matters and would not confirm or deny that the police chief had been fired.
“I am sorry I can’t comment on any personnel issues,” Jones said.
He did acknowledge that as the town’s personnel manager he had appointed Gate City Police Officer Scott Fink as the town’s acting police chief. That action, Jones said, was taken around the first of November 2013.
According to draft minutes provided by the Gate City Town Council, all five members of the council, Robin Richards, Wallace Ross Jr., Roger Cassell, Walter Salyers and Vice Mayor Allan ‘Cotton’ Roberts, were present at Thursday’s meeting. Mayor Frances Perry, the town manager and the town’s attorney, Michele Brooks also attended the meeting.
Shortly after the roll call was taken, Roberts made the motion at 2:01 p.m. to go into closed session. Richards seconded the motion. The council returned from closed session at 2:32 p.m.
Ten minutes later, Roberts made the motion to terminate Employee No. 8764 effective Jan. 16, 2014. Salyers seconded that motion, which passed unanimously.
Birchfield was hired as the new police chief by the Gate City Town Council in March 2011 after former chief Thomas Smitley spent less than six months on the job.
In 2008, Birchfield retired as a master officer from the Johnson City, Tenn. Police Department. He also mounted an unsuccessful bid in 2010 for sheriff in his native Carter County, Tenn.