Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority leaders are firing back against the former police chief who was fired under a cloud of controversy and is now suing. Lawyers for top executives filed a response to Hal Hazelton's lawsuit, in which he claims he was publicly disgraced and fired from RRHA as retaliation.
The response comes almost a month after Hazelton filed suit. It basically asks a judge to dismiss the case and have Hazelton pay them for legal costs.
The two filings take almost a dozen pages of complex legal language to say something simple on behalf of RRHA CEO Adrienne Goolsby, General Counsel Michelle Waller, HR Director Karen Jones and then-Board of Commissioners Chair James Carleton.
"What the defendants are saying with this response is 'So what? Even if we accept everything you're saying as being true in your lawsuit, you haven't alleged sufficient grounds to make out a legal case against us,'" NBC12 Legal Analyst Steve Benjamin explained of the response.
NBC12 was first to tell you Hal Hazelton is suing RRHA leaders because he says he was fired as retaliation for making complaints and was confronted about supposed "leaks of information." The response counters.
"What they're saying is you can't sue under the state whistle blower act because you're not a state employee," Benjamin relayed. "It only applies to state employees."
The former chief also claims he was defamed and publicly disgraced.
"You haven't alleged any false statement that you say we made maliciously, other than the kind of statements that employers are allowed to make to employees as part of a disciplinary action or termination," Benjamin described the position in the filing.
There is no argument of fact in the documents. Nothing in there confirms or denies what Hazelton is alleging. At this point, it is still a "he said, she said" situation, in terms of exactly why Hal Hazelton was suddenly fired from the agency police department.
"It remains, of course, a matter of public interest and public concern," Benjamin added.
Hazelton's attorney says this is a pretty standard response and he'll hold off on commenting on the merits of the filing until a hearing. No date for that has been scheduled just yet.
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