PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) - A Special Grand Jury found no illegal activity in the resigning and rehiring process of former Fire Chief Don Horton.
Horton resigned under the Family and Medical Leave Act July 2012, announcing he was moving to Richmond.
WAVY.com learned Horton stayed on the City of Portsmouth's payroll through October 2012, even though he did not say in his resignation letter that he was leaving due to a medical matter.
In October, it was announced City Manager Ken Chandler had named Horton the city's new deputy director of emergency management , receiving a salary of $98,000 a year. City council members like Bill Moody said the move was unwarranted because the position was not advertised.
Chandler resigned one month later because he refused to provide a written explanation to Portsmouth City Council as to why Horton continued receiving pay after he resigned. A few days later, Horton resigned as well.
A Special Grand Jury was called to look into the legality of matter. Thursday, Portsmouth Commonwealth's Attorney Earle Mobley announced the jury found no evidence of illegality.
"It seems to me like a big waste of effort to have a Grand Jury to go to that expense," Moody said. "We asked the city manager for an explanation and we really didn't feel that we got one that was adequate or that explained the goings and comings of the former fire chief."
Portsmouth Mayor Kenny Wright agrees with Moody that the Special Grand Jury was a waste of money. He said it should never have gone that far. However, he says Moody and former Vice Mayor Charles Whitehurst created a media fire storm, and blew the incident out of proportion.
"Moody caused a bad deed for the citizens, the city manager and the former chief," Wright said. "[Moody and Whitehurst] worked to get rid of the guy. Mission accomplished."
Moody said he is not surprised the mayor is pointing a finger in his direction.
"If my memory was correct, the mayor wasn't satisfied with that explanation for Chandler," Moody said. "For him to say otherwise... he's not being forthright."
Wright said the situation with Horton was a personnel matter, something council doesn't get involved in.
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