City investigation mostly clears Asheville police chief, promises changes

Asheville Police Department Chief William Anderson. Photo by Max Cooper.

At a special meeting today, Asheville City Council declared its support for Police Chief William Anderson, announcing that an internal investigation had found no evidence that he had engaged in a cover-up related to a March car crash involving his son, as alleged by Lt. William Wilke.

However, the inquiry did note that Anderson acted inappropriately when he ordered Wilke, the watch commander the night of the crash, to meet with him as the State Bureau of Investigation reviewed the case later that same month.

“I believe we stand here with all the information we could ever muster to make the decision we made here today,” Mayor Terry Bellamy said after Council members came out of a half-hour closed session — the second such session in the past week. “We support our city manager, we support our chief of police. We support our police department,” she said.

Questions about the March 9 car crash involving the chief’s son have been in the forefront for months, with Anderson admitting shortly after the incident that he had made mistakes in the initial steps of the investigation. More recently, Wilke filed a formal complaint, announcing publicly on June 25 that Anderson and Capt. Stoney Gonce had tried to coerce him to “change the facts” during the SBI inquiry.

In his complaint, Wilke also claimed that after he’d raised concerns with city management, he’d seen no action except Anderson ordering him out of a meeting with the SBI and into his office the next day. The lieutenant also asserted that the APD’s rank-and-file have significant, ongoing issues with Anderson’s management.

At today’s meeting, Jackson acknowledged that Wilke had visited his office on March 13 but said that no formal response was needed at that time. He added that senior city staff had directed the APD to fully cooperate with the SBI. Jackson claimed they didn’t hear further from Wilke until the June complaint, which spurred an internal inquiry that took 20 hours of staff time and included interviewing seven people.

Jackson and his staff concluded that Gonce and Anderson hadn’t tried to manipulate or coerce Wilke and that city had management handled the complaint appropriately. “The city manager concurs with the district attorney’s determination that no criminal laws were violated in the course of the investigation of the accident,” the report states.

But as for Anderson ordering Wilke out of a meeting with the SBI and into his office March 14, such “conduct was not appropriate, and this issue has been addressed with Chief Anderson by his supervisor.”

Throughout the meeting, Bellamy repeatedly voiced Council’s confidence in Anderson, asking Jackson at the close of the meeting, “Do we still have a chief of police and is his name Chief Anderson?”

“That’s correct: Chief Anderson is chief of the police department,” Jackson replied. He touted a reduction in violent crime, along with the formation of downtown and public housing units, as accomplishments over Anderson’s tenure.

The report, however, acknowledges “concerns within the department regarding general management practices.” To address those concerns, which weren’t specified, Jackson said he will call in outside experts and rotate captains so that Gonce is no longer Wilke’s supervisor.

Talking to reporters afterwards, Bellamy asserted that any possible criminal charges against Anderson were the DA’s responsibility. She also remarked that Anderson had inherited some challenges, such as the evidence-room scandal, and added that were bound to be tensions between old and new management in the department. “We’ve had issues with [former Chiefs Will Annarino and Bill Hogan] and Anderson,” she said. “Chief Anderson is saying ‘enough.’ Prior to this incident, we were seeing improvements in quality of service, responses from community saying ‘this is working better.’”

As staff investigated and Council held closed sessions on the issue, Bellamy had previously said that the results of the investigation would remain confidential under personnel laws, although state law does authorize the release of normally confidential personnel information if approved by Council and the city manager, as a measure to maintain public confidence.

Facing a barrage of questions from the press, such as whether the city investigation found Wilke’s allegations false and whether Anderson’s overall conduct was inappropriate, Bellamy referred press to a written statement and shot back, “This is too important of an issue to try to trip the mayor up on words. I’m not just going to rattle off stuff to make you feel good.”

Asked by Xpress about any specific actions taken in response to the “inappropriate” meeting between Anderson and Wilke, Jackson replied, “It was addressed as a performance issue with the chief.” He motioned toward the Council dais and added, “That’s the limit of what they’ll allow me to say.”


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20 thoughts on “City investigation mostly clears Asheville police chief, promises changes

  1. D. Dial

    Move along folks, nothing to see here.

    How stupid do they think we are???

    • D. Dial

      City of Asheville has experienced a number of troubling issues in the past couple of years. This announcement from a police officer is just the latest in a long long line of questionable management practices. Again the City employee went through proper channels to handle the issue internally, only to be ignored. Issues that have occurred are: the human resource scandal and what appears to be gross mismanagement, the sexual harassment lawsuit, that could have been nipped in the bud, when the young woman went through channels and then was forced to seek legal action. Amounting to $48,000 to settle a lawsuit that should have been effectively dealt with internally. The human resources dept convictions regarding falsifying medical claims. The Pack Place overruns, Momentum

    • Robert

      About as much as I like my conservative reps over in Raleigh. That’s the problem with politics these days – no more centrists.

  2. Big Al

    So there was no cover-up or attempt at a cover-up, only the APPEARANCE of an attempt at a cover up, which has been dealt with by supervisory counseling. How is this any better?

    The city, in supporting the chief, has in effect called Lt. Wilke a liar. How is he, or any other APD officer with a legitimate grievance against this chief (and apparently there are many) supposed to KEEP their jobs and DO their jobs without the distraction of possible retaliation?

    The Asheville Mayor, City Council and City Manager have all done a great disservice to this community. No wonder Raleigh seeks to micromanage this city. City government is a farce.

  3. JOHN-C

    Mr. David Forbes… I think the Mountain Xpress should look more into this… We need the truth!

  4. Dionysis

    Anderson was the subject of civil rights violation complaints while in Deland, FL, as well as a 22 page complaint by a department police commander. He resigned in the middle of an investigation. He was subsequently faced with a petition from the citizens of Greenville, NC for his removal from office after barely two years, due to “escalating crime rates” and “mistreatment” of officers, among other complaints.

    It’s not too hard to see why those who selected him would want to keep this katest controversy contained. That an apparent honest officer with 13 years tenure would be thrown under the bus to help accomplish it should be a source of deep shame, but don’t bet on it.

  5. Kelly

    It’s not the crime, it’s the coverup. And now the coverup has grown to include the City Council, City Manager, and District Attorney. What a disappointment our leadership has revealed themselves to be. Mayor Bellamy embarrasses me.

  6. zen

    Boy is it popular to be a conspiracy theorist nowadays. It’s probably a good idea to be skeptical, but i’ve found the Mayor and Councilpersons to be generally sincere in their quest for truth. I think the APD is trying to undergo not just true change for the better but fighting a lot of negatives from the past.

    • Dionysis

      Perhaps, but “fighting a lot of negatives from the past” is pretty hard to do when new ones arise in the present.

    • bsummers

      I have to agree with Zen. If there are institutional problems, and a new chief takes over & tries to make changes, there will be any number of people who decide to fight back.

      When we started Asheville Justice Watch 10 years ago, after the abuses by APD during the anti-war protests, you should’ve heard the stories we did, from current or past APD employees, about corrupt or criminal behavior within the department. A decade later, under Chief Hogan & now Anderson, I think there’s been improvement. But anything you or I think of as improvements, there’s somebody who’s not happy.

      As I’ve said before, I’ll call the City, Council or Manager, on their s*** as fast as anybody if I think they deserve it – but the outcry & the scandal & the sturm und drang over this doesn’t seem deserved, IMHO. I get a whiff of partisan attack underlying everything here.

  7. D. Dial

    Three career officers coming forward with similar stories is troubling to anyone not drinking the Koolaid. It is very difficult to take this type of thing public, but lack of proper management to deal with internal issues forces the issue and dirty laundry is going to eventually be aired out in public.

    • Dionysis

      Well, today’s AC-T reports that two more APD officers have filed official complaints. This seems to be a pattern wherever Anderson works.

  8. Dionysis

    ” a new chief takes over & tries to make changes, there will be any number of people who decide to fight back.”

    I agree, but that does not necessarily mean there is no substance to complaints. And a reading of the controversies surrounding his short-lived times at the two previous PDs show similar complaints.

    “I get a whiff of partisan attack underlying everything here.”

    I guess my sense of smell is less discerning, as I don’t smell it. Maybe others do have a partisan bone to pick, but as noted before, I am a left-leaning unaffiliated voter, usually pissed at both parties (for very different reasons). And that includes all levels of government. But that’s just me.

  9. bsummers

    “that does not necessarily mean there is no substance to complaints”

    Absolutely. Unfortunately, how do you conduct a fair investigation when there are people, some with megaphones, who pass judgement & scream cover-up before you even begin, because they have an axe to grind?

    And as for these new complaints, we don’t know what one of them is even about, and the other one is from APD officer Byrd who… hey! Isn’t this him being promoted to Lieutenant by Chief Anderson & Mayor Bellamy just last fall? He can’t be that oppressed…

    Is he related to, and does this complaint have anything to do with, former APD officer Cherie Byrd, who got a $52,000 settlement from the City in the “I must licky you” debacle? It seems I heard somewhere back then that they’re married.

    Again, if there is a genuine issue there for Lt. Byrd, this doesn’t discredit it! But we should be made aware if this complaint is in fact another development in a sad, intractable case that started four years before Chief Anderson took the job.

    • Dionysis

      Valid observations and reasonable points; we’ll just have to wait and see. Whether there is any kind of real cover-up may or may not be revealed. It does, however. look squirrely, at least based upon reporting so far. And regardless, it is yet another controversial issue involving city personnel, certainly unwelcome and unhelpful.

  10. bsummers

    Chad Anderson is going on trial. The AC-T is reporting that his attorney has subpoenaed Lt. Wilke, and all his notes regarding the incident, and his subsequent allegations of being coerced by the Chief. And that’s not all.

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