Final Lawsuit from Purcellville’s Failed Investigation Dismissed

The last lingering lawsuit stemming from the Town of Purcellville’s 2017 tainted investigation and subsequent controversy has been dismissed.

United States District Court Judge Liam O’Grady on Friday dismissed a lawsuit brought against the town by former police officer Kristopher Fraley, in which Fraley claimed the town, through the actions of several employees and contractors, conspired against him and harmed his body, emotions and reputation. Fraley sought $1 million in compensatory damages for each of his 13 claims against the defendants, along with $350,000 in punitive damages for 12 of them.

The lawsuit details events that happened in August 2017, when then-interim town manager Alex Vanegas and Georgia Nuckolls, an outsourced human resources consultant, led an investigation into now-discredited claims of misconduct against Police Chief Cynthia McAlister. At that point, Fraley reported that a former police sergeant had attempted to spread a rumor that McAlister was having an extramarital affair with a town employee. According to his lawsuit, Fraley was unaware that Vanegas and Nuckolls were in on the alleged conspiracy to unseat McAlister.

Northern Virginia Pre-Employment & Polygraph Services owner Daryll DeBow then conducted a lie-detector test on Fraley that was rigged to ensure the results would show signs of deception, the lawsuit alleges. Fraley was subsequently suspended from duty and McAlister was fired.

A few weeks later, the Town Council learned that Nuckolls and Vanegas were involved in a personal relationship. Vanegas was placed on administrative leave as the original investigation was investigated. Eventually, the law firm of Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker, which was hired to investigate, concluded there were serious flaws in Vanegas’ and Nuckolls’ investigation. Fraley was reinstated after 10 months in August 2018. McAlister was also reinstated that day.

Fraley’s lawsuit included 13 complaints against the defendants, including three violations of the 14th Amendment and a violation of the Fourth Amendment. O’Grady asserted that Fraley failed to present valid claims in each of the 13.

Fraley has up to 30 days to amend those claims.

This is the last outstanding lawsuit stemming from the 2017 failed investigation and aftermath.

A lawsuit that McAlister brought against the town in July 2019—in which she alleged that Vanegas, Nuckolls, the town and multiple police officers conspired to defame her and take her job—was dismissed on Jan. 3 at the request of McAlister’s attorneys after the parties reached an “amicable resolution of all claims,” according to the motion.

Another, unnamed town employee also settled with the town after pressing for financial relief.

On Feb. 11, the Town Council voted to ratify those two settlement agreements for undisclosed amounts.