VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The independent investigation into the tragedy in Virginia Beach is expected to soon get underway now that the City Auditor has selected Chicago based Hillard Heintze from the 15 applicants.
The announcement was made Wednesday, but now 10 On Your Side is learning about ties the company has to a former Virginia Beach police chief.
The problem is the decision is getting bogged down in theories on why this firm was chosen. The man who chose the firm says one major reason was the firm’s expertise in toxic workplace issues, and Hillard Heintze was the only firm that brought that expertise to the table.
It is also the only firm with a tie to a longtime former Virginia Beach police chief.
“To me it is a moot point,” says Virginia Beach auditor Lyndon Remias.
Former Virginia Beach Police Chief Jake Jacocks served 38 years on the Virginia Beach force before retiring. He has done consulting work for the company chosen to do the independent investigation into the May 31 tragedy.
“Number one, he is not an employee of the firm that was selected. He is not part of the team that was selected. He will not be involved in the investigation,” Jacocks said.
“I think there is a big conflict there,” says Jason Nixon, whose wife Kate died in the tragedy. He disagrees with Remias. “I don’t think it is appropriate for him to work for a firm that is going to investigate the city of Virginia Beach. I don’t know the connections, and I’m trying to figure it out.”
Is Jacocks’ consulting work for Hillard Heintze a disqualifying factor for the company to get the independent investigation contract?
“No. No, not disqualifying at all. No. Absolutely not,” Remias says.
Nixon counters, “I still have it in the back of my head, why is this former Chief of Police having any connection or ties to the company doing this investigation?”
10 On Your Side reached out to Former Chief Jacocks, who texted: “As an independent contractor who occasionally does work for Hillard Heintze, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on any of their projects, most especially one I’m not involved in.”
Nixon is also concerned of the 15 firms who submitted bids, Remias chose the only one with ties to Jacocks. Remias insists the most well-rounded company was chosen.
“They have attorneys, secret service, law enforcement, certified fraud examiner and a mental health expert.”
Nixon is also concerned the Virginia Beach Police investigation will obstruct the independent one.
Remias says his job is to make sure that doesn’t happen. “Let me be clear about this … if they (Hillard Heintze) needs the access, and they are not getting it from the Police Chief James Cervera, then we will go to the next person to ensure they have what they need to provide (for the investigation.)”
Remias is adamant his assumption is the Virginia Beach Police Department will not be a road block to the independent investigators. He hopes to sign the contract with Hillard Heintze on Friday, and for work to begin immediately.