Richmond mayor denies asking for Smith's resignation, says he is 'not involved' in firing of police chiefs

Stoney: 'I’m not going to get into back and forth playing Monday morning quarterback on that decision'
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney
Posted at 5:15 PM, Oct 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-26 18:53:08-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney denied any involvement with the resignation of former Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith and declined to explain why Smith stepped down.

“I’m not going to get into back and forth playing Monday morning quarterback on that decision," Stoney said during a news conference Wednesday when asked if there was a reason for Smith's resignation.

When pressed again for an explanation by CBS 6, Stoney said, "All I can say is I respect his decision, Tyler."

Smith resigned Tuesday amid controversy surrounding reported low morale within the department, mounting police officer vacancies, his claims about the scrutinized alleged July 4th mass shooting plot in which no evidence has been made public, and the Richmond Coalition of Police recently telling CBS 6 it was calling for a "change in leadership."

Though multiple city council members have publicly expressed concerns about those issues, the mayor did not address them Wednesday. Instead, he recognized that when Smith came on board in 2020 during civil unrest, he faced an uphill battle as it was a "critical time in Richmond."

“It's not easy being a police officer. Hell, it's not easy being a police chief right now in America, and so for those who step up and take on the job. I'm grateful for his for his help," Stoney said.

When asked multiple times, Stoney initially refused to answer whether Smith willingly submitted his resignation or if the mayor requested it, but he eventually answered the question as reporters continued pressing.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney

"I just want to confirm that you, in no way shape or form, and the [Chief Administrative Officer] did not ask him to resign," one reporter asked.

“All I can tell you, because this is a personnel matter right here, the chief turned in his resignation to the Chief Administrative Officer yesterday. I respect the Chief’s decision," Stoney said.

“Did you ask for it? Yes or no," CBS 6 reporter Tyler Layne asked.

“I was not in the meeting, so I did not ask for any resignation. These were decisions made by the chief," Stoney replied.

The meeting Stoney said he did not attend took place at city hall Tuesday afternoon between Smith and the Chief Administrative Officer Lincoln Saunders, who works directly under the mayor in Stoney's office. Saunders was appointed as CAO by Stoney and reports directly to the mayor. CBS 6 saw Smith leave city hall Tuesday afternoon and asked him what happened during the meeting, but Smith declined to answer. The announcement of his resignation was sent out by the city an hour later.

“But as the mayor, you didn’t want to be in that meeting? It seems like a very significant meeting," Layne asked.

“I don’t get involved in the hiring and firing of police chiefs," Stoney said.

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However, news releases sent from the mayor’s office in 2019 and 2020 gave credit to Stoney for the appointments and a resignation of several former police chiefs since he’s been mayor. At the time, Stoney took credit for:

  • appointing Police Chief William Smith
  • requesting Police Chief William Smith’s resignation
  • appointing Interim Police Chief William Jody Blackwell
  • appointing Police Chief Gerald Smith

In fact, when Stoney appointed Gerald Smith in 2020, he said he directly spoke with several candidates and that Smith "rose to the top." He added he personally called on Smith to take the role.

"This evening, I'm here to announce that I've asked Gerald Smith, the deputy police chief in Charlotte County, North Carolina to serve as the next chief police," Stoney said when introducing Smith to the public in July 2020.

CBS 6 reached out to city spokesperson Petula Burks asking if Chief Administrative Officer Saunders asked for Smith’s resignation. Burks did not directly answer the question.

“The chief submitted his resignation to the CAO and the CAO accepted it,” Burks said.

Moving forward, Mayor Stoney said he is focused on finding a new leader who can help “reimagine” the police department and fill officer vacancies.

“We’re going to move on in a new direction,” Stoney said.

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