McClenny declares moral victory

Published 12:12 pm Friday, December 7, 2012

Once again a moral victory took place on Nov. 30 in the Franklin General District Court.

I brought a civil action against Phillip Hardison in reference to the withholding of my duty service weapon that should have been issued to me by the chief of police upon my retirement in 2009.

There has been a lot of controversy as to whether I retired or resigned on that night. First, let me say that my time was up on Nov. 1, 2009. Thirty years and 11 months total service and 50 years of age. Those are the numbers needed to receive full retirement benefits, according to the Virginia Retirement System.

Due to me speaking out at a City Council meeting as to the working conditions in the Franklin Police Department, my life was turned upside down. As a citizen of Franklin and a public servant to everyone, I felt that coming forward and giving an inside look at the works of the police department, the City Council would be appreciative and receptive to information that usually goes unsaid until a city finds itself in a situation where they have to explain, “how could this have happened? No one ever told us this was going on.”

On numerous appearances before City Council, I asked to be treated fairly and look into my complaints. Three members understood that the city had wronged in their evaluation of how this should be handled and the other half felt that I resigned under pressure from an internal affairs investigation.

In a statement to The Tidewater News on Nov. 18, 2009, Chief Hardison stated that he did not know why I resigned from the police department. One year later, Chief Hardison is making a statement to the newspaper as to why he sold my service weapon to Town Police Supply and bought it for himself the very same day.

The city attorney took every measure available to him to keep this information under wraps and not release the fact the chief had gone outside city policy and purchased it for his own reasons.

The moral victory comes from Judge James Mathew’s comments during the civil hearing (“McClenny loses battle: Police chief wasn’t required to return service revolver,” Dec. 2). Judge Mathews was very attentive to this case and was not thrown off course when both the city attorney H. Taylor Williams and attorney Stan Clark attempted to get the case dismissed before any testimony could be heard.

The case revolved around the use of “may” in the state statute. I didn’t necessarily agree with the decision he made, but he was fair and explained his reasoning in detail.

What Judge Mathews said in his closing statement and the advice he gave only encourages me to follow through with this fight. Judge Mathews stated, “for the sake of using a word, I will use the word ‘malicious.’ I do not understand how a police officer that has served over 30 years and retired and not released from duty, did not receive his duty weapon. Something awful must have happened to their relationship along the way.”

When both attorneys asked for attorneys’ fees, they were denied do to the angst and frustration I had gone through over the last three years. Judge Mathews thanked me for my service to the community and shook my hand.

RONNIE MCCLENNY is a former sergeant with the Franklin Police Department and can be reached at