Suspended Portsmouth Police Chief Charles Horner has responded to charges of engaging in conduct unbecoming a law enforcement officer and abuse of power in the search of a vehicle owned by Edward Lee Scott of Portsmouth; dishonesty, in that he told subordinate officers to fabricate a story in regards to that investigation; That he ordered investigators to maintain a log of the individuals who were present at the vehicle search, compounding the matter by indicating he wanted to know the names and actions of individuals associated with local Web sites; Ordered officers not to pursue drug paraphernalia charges against a suspect in the Michael Layne case (Layne stabbed a woman, then burst into his estranged wife's classroom and shot and stabbed her, eventually committing suicide); Failure to recuse himself from investigations involving personal friends; Being insubordinate when, after being told by Kalb not to have contact with officers, attended a meeting of the Fraternal Order of Police to discuss the investigation; and creating a hostile work environment.
Horner brought the 17-page response into the office of Portsmouth Mayor James Kalb Thursday.
Horner not only responded but went on the attack against what he called a "fishing expedition or witch hunt."
Horner began the response by saying, "First, I must say that I am totally amazed at the development of events since February of this year. At that time, the mayor informed me that he thought I was 'an excellent chief,' had 'no issue with my performance,' and stated 'I would have come to you if I did.' I have received no oral or written reprimands. I have had no evaluations documenting any concerns or suggestions."
Eight issues were outlined in the finding by the two independent investigators, and Horner responded to each of them, saying, aside from the Lee Scott case there are no specific charges.
Horner said it is "incredible that a 4-day investigation resulted in the allegations presented."
Horner also said it took a long time for Portsmouth City Solicitor Mike Jones to get the allegations to his (Horner's) attorney, then Horner referred to the allegations as general in nature, "not citing specific conduct..."
Horner said his attorney had been told by Jones to make all public records requests to him (Jones) - "However, when my attorney made a records request, the solicitor refused to provide any documents or records beyond what was previously provided (the seven page report), Horner wrote in his response. "I did not know what the city was trying to hide, but that placed me in a position where I was supposed to respond without even being able to know exactly what it is I was responding to," he continued.
In response to the charges, Horner's letter said, in part, "I did not engage in conduct unbecoming a law enforcement officer and abuse my power when I ordered a K-9 unit to the scene of a vehicle with the intention for a search without probable cause. It is fully within my discretion to call the K-9 out anytime," Horner said in his response. "Further, the K-9 Unit was called out at the recommendation of the United States Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), the lead agency in the aggravated arson investigation of the Columbia Theater."
Horner also said he did not engage in conduct unbecoming an officer and dishonesty, saying he did not tell subordinate officers to fabricate when asked the reasons why the K-9 Unit was called out to search Scott's vehicle.
One of the original accusations in this case was made when Horner told the Portsmouth Daily Times Lee Scott threatened to "burn me out or up."
That was denied in the investigation, but in Thursday's response, Horner reiterated - "The threat was witnessed by both of the mayor's assistants, Crystal Weghorst and Wendy Jones, the wife of Solicitor Mike Jones."
Horner also called attention to a message on Kalb's cell phone Horner considered a threat, and said when he and current acting chief Capt. David Thoroughman asked to record it, the mayor "closed his phone and said he wasn't going to let me record the message because Lee Scott wouldn't talk to him again when he found out."
Horner said the message was then erased.
Horner's response continued with more specifics surrounding the investigation of Scott's truck, including a controversy over a statement Scott was quoted as saying he smoked a joint in which one officer corrected another, saying Scott said he "smoked one."
Horner said he did not engage in conduct unbecoming an officer and an abuse of power by ordering investigators to maintain a log of the individuals who were present at the search - "I did not further compound this matter by indicating that I wanted to know the names and actions of those allegedly associated with local Web sites."
In response to the accusation he improperly ordered an officer not to pursue drug paraphernalia charges against a suspect in the Michael Layne case, Horner said, "Michael Layne was the only suspect in the Michael Layne case, I speculate the 'suspect' is actually one of the victims in the Michael Layne case."
Horner said one of the victims who was stabbed had drug paraphernalia (Horner said it was the first stabbing victim), and he discussed the issue with the investigator as to whether to pursue charges, "and I thought, based on our discussion, we agreed that it would be best for everyone concerned that we not 'mess' with charges at this present time."
In tomorrow's edition of the Daily Times Police Chief's response to allegations of misconduct, Horner talks about the controversy surrounding photos taken of a dead Michael Layne.
FRANK LEWIS can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 232.