- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 24, 2015

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) - A payout issued to a former Huntington police chief by Mayor Steve Williams is being investigated by the West Virginia State Police.

The Cabell County prosecutor’s office requested the investigation, state police First Lt. Michael Baylous told The Herald-Dispatch (https://bit.ly/1LBkgy1 ). He said he could not provide any details.

City Council member Scott Caserta questioned the payout issued to Skip Holbrook after the former police chief resigned in 2014. Caserta alleged that about $34,000 paid to Holbrook for accrued sick leave violated city ordinance.

Under the city’s personnel guidelines, an employee receiving such a payout must have either worked for the city for more than 20 years, retired at age 60 or retired on disability. Holbrook, 50, served as police chief for nearly seven years.

Caserta presented documents to the prosecutor’s office in May that also showed Holbrook received more than $11,000 for remaining and accrued vacation time. The total payout was $45,340, the newspaper said.

Caserta alleged that Williams’ authorization of the payout demonstrated malfeasance in office.

The newspaper said Williams declined to comment on advice of legal counsel.

The mayor had previously denied wrongdoing, saying he had the legal authority to issue the payout. City Council’s finance committee investigated the payout and concluded that Williams did not do anything wrong.

Caserta was chairman of the council when he submitted the documents to the prosecutor’s office. The council voted 8-1 to remove Caserta as chairman during a special meeting in May. Other council members accused Caserta of not following proper investigative procedure and overstepping his authority.

“I knew I was going to hurt feelings, I knew I was going to upset people and, to be honest, I was fairly sure they weren’t going to keep me as chairman,” Caserta told the newspaper. “You know what? I’m all right with that because it needed to be investigated.”

The newspaper said documents it obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request show 50 employees have had separation payout forms generated between Jan. 1, 2013, when Williams took office, and mid-June of this year.

Seven firefighters’ eligibility couldn’t be determined because of insufficient data. Of the remaining employees, Holbrook was the only one who received a payout for accrued sick leave who did not meet one of the three requirements.

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Information from: The Herald-Dispatch, https://www.herald-dispatch.com

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