Isle of Wight sheriff links ‘nasty’ email to Franklin PD

Published 10:35 am Saturday, October 22, 2011

FRANKLIN—City officials are looking into allegations that an email criticizing Isle of Wight County Sheriff Charlie Phelps was sent from the Franklin Police Department.

Phelps said he received the email Sunday, Oct. 9, on his Blackberry. The email, which came from an unknown sender and was titled “your a jerk,” referenced a letter Phelps had published on his campaign website criticizing Smithfield Police Chief Mark Marshall, an opponent of Phelps in the Nov. 8 election, and others, including Franklin Police Chief Phil Hardison.

Phelps, who called the message “nasty,” said Isle of Wight County Information Technology Director Jason Gray traced the IP address for the email to the Franklin Police Department.

“I don’t know who sent it, but it seems to have originated from the Franklin Police Department,” Phelps said.

Gray did not return repeated phone calls from a reporter.

Isle of Wight County spokesman Don Robertson said Gray had indeed traced the email to FPD.

“We are fairly certain the email came from the Franklin Police Department,” Robertson said.

Hardison, when told about the email Thursday, referred questions to City Manager June Fleming.

Fleming said she was aware of the email and would look into it. She said it would be at least two weeks before the city could be certain where the email originated.

“We are in the process of verifying where it came from,” Fleming said. “Research into that has not been completed.”

Fleming said the email, if generated on a city-owned computer, violated the city’s email policy.

Franklin City Councilman Don Blythe said Phelps contacted him about the email.

Blythe said he notified city officials and asked for an internal investigation.

“I think it’s inappropriate and unprofessional,” Blythe said of the email.

Robertson said the email was sent to Phelps’ campaign email address and didn’t come through the county’s email system. He said the county would not pursue the matter any further.

“From our perspective, there is nothing to further investigate,” Robertson said. “If the sheriff feels compelled to investigate it, that’s his prerogative.”

Phelps said he is not interested in investigating the incident further.

Phelps, who is in a heated re-election battle, posted a “testament” on his campaign website on Sept. 27 blasting opponent Mark Marshall, police chief in Smithfield, and others, including Commonwealth’s Attorney Wayne Farmer and Hardison. Phelps wrote that Hardison “has a number of problems on the job in Franklin as chief” and “is expecting to return to Smithfield as chief if Marshall is elected sheriff.”

Following is the text of the email sent to Isle of Wight County Sheriff Charlie Phelps:

From: unknown []
Sent: Sunday, October 09, 2011 2:41 PM
To: Charlie Phelps
Subject: your a jerk

Mr.Phelps, I just wanted to give my opinion on this letter. I found it to be very ugly and immature being that you decided to “bash” other people in different county’s/cities. Does it make you feel better to try and get the attention on other people, when your the one in the wrong? It makes you sound like a very spiteful person to do such a thing. The people who are serving the City of Franklin and Smithfield are worthy citizens and are doing there job very well. I think you need to back off and focus on your own problems. This meathod you are using is not doing anything but turning people against you. The citizens of IOW county are not going to have a negative outlook on you if your going to continue to be ugly and talk trash about other people. They are supposed to look up to you and your supposed to be a role model. All of this negativity that is coming out of your mouth is not the way to get your votes. Its very rude and why dont you just shut the —- up about your family, we dont care about your issues. you deal with it!