Charlottesville city officials say an information/technology employee with access to public safety accounts who entered the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021, protest and invasion will not face discipline.
Interim City Manager Michael Rogers told city councilors on Monday that the employee, whom he did not identify, has been interviewed by the FBI in regards to his presence in the Capitol and that no related charges have been filed against him.
He said the employee wrote an apology letter to him, which he declined to share.
“I’ve spoken with the employee, who has never been charged with any criminal offense. He’s been interviewed by the FBI three times over the past year and half,” Rogers told the council. “The employee reports no further contact from the FBI. The employee has not been charged with any actions stemming from his presence at the Capitol on Jan. 6.”
Rogers said the fact that the employee has not been arrested and did not commit vandalism or assault during the invasion and left the building when told to do so, led to his decision to not discipline the employee.
“So at this point, having looked at all of these factors and the employee having provided a letter of apology to the city manager, which I will not share, he is very sorrowful of his activities. He’s experienced a great deal of personal loss,” Rogers said.
According to Rogers, the employee admitted during his interview that he was at the rally during which protestors who believed the 2020 election had been “stolen” through widespread voter fraud, stormed the Capitol under encouragement from former President Donald Trump, attacked Capitol police, broke into Congressional chambers, vandalized officers and sent elected officials, including then-Vice President Mike Pence, running for safety.
The employee admitted to entering the Capitol building.
“The employee in question admits he attended the event at the Capitol. He posted his presence on social media page, he shared this information with the FBI and he was not arrested,” Rogers said.
Rogers said he confirmed that the Charlottesville Police Department had notified the Richmond office of the FBI of the employee’s presence at the Capitol on Jan. 21, 2021. He said he was unable to discuss the issue with the FBI agent who interviewed the employee because the agent had retired.
Officials in the FBI office in Richmond said they are not permitted to say whether they had interviewed anyone from Charlottesville regarding the Capitol invasion. They said the FBI’s Washington, D.C., office would be responsible for filing any charges connected to the riot.
The Washington office could not be reached for comment.
“It has been reported that more than 800 people who attended the rally and entered the Capitol on Jan. 6 have been arrested and charged, 80 of them to date have been convicted,” Rogers told the council. “In this group are individuals who are pictured and filmed by themselves and others of engaging in destructive acts and being disruptive. The arrests stem from their criminal activity, not merely their presence in the Capitol.”
“Considering the totality of circumstances, including that it’s been a year and half without any action, I conclude that no further action review or is warranted in this case,” he said. “And I hope this settles this matter.”
The matter is likely anything but settled. Social media accounts buzz with the news, some of which have identified the employee and captured screenshots purporting to be posts the employee made before and during the Capitol protest.
Those posts could not be confirmed because the accounts have been either removed or taken private. The name of the employee also could not be independently confirmed.
Rogers’ decision was derided on Twitter by former Charlottesville Police Chief RaShall Brackney who reported the employee to the FBI. Brackney, who was fired in September 2021, has sued the city for $10 million in connecting with her dismissal.
“Did not realize a private, apology letter was in the Charlottesville employee handbook as an accountability option [for] Jan. 6 insurrectionists,” she wrote. “He requested Jan. 6 off to take his wife to the doctor. I think lying and integrity issues are terminable offenses, even in Charlottesville.”
Tanesha Hudson, a local race and equity activist, warned the council on Monday that having an employee in IT who attended the far-right rally and riot at the Capitol with access to city records is not a good idea.
“This is a major security risk for this city. [The employee] has access to Virginia State Police records, local Charlottesville Police Department records and many other things while working in IT,” she said. “He has access to numerous city data. He has access to compromise your data and anything else.”
Hudson said the council and city seems more concerned with retaining the white employee at his job than they were working with Brackney, former city manager Tarron Richardson, who resigned and former Mayor Nikuyah Walker, who declined to seek election, all of whom are Black.
“Y’all spend so much time firing people for doing their jobs you that even when stuff is right in front of your face, you don’t look to investigate that,” she said. “I don’t see you going so hard after this white man the way you go after black leadership.”
Mayor Lloyd Snook told Virginia Public Media in an email that the city personnel policy does not give them the power “to take disciplinary action against someone who is suspected of having done something 18 months ago outside of the Charlottesville area that has been investigated by law enforcement and has not led to any criminal charges.”
He said the city is considering updating its personnel policy and will monitor the employee in the meantime.