PENNINGTON GAP - A Virginia State Police investigator has confirmed that his department is conducting an investigation into unspecified allegations against former Pennington Gap Police Chief Mike Nunley.
Nunley was hired as a patrolman in December 2000 and had served as acting chief briefly before being appointed chief in January 2004. He resigned his position during a called meeting of the Pennington Gap Town Council on April 4. Although the meeting had been called several days previously for 7 p.m., Nunley's resignation was effective as of 1 p.m. on April 4. Nunley did not offer a reason for his resignation, and council members accepted it on a 4-0-1 vote, with his mother, Councilwoman Connie Nunley, abstaining from the vote.
VSP Capt. Jason Miles declined to elaborate on what the allegations are, citing an ongoing investigation and a number of witnesses he still needs to interview.
Miles said he began the investigation at the request of the Lee County Commonwealth's Attorney's Office, and he understands a special prosecutor has been requested.
"I can't discuss anything further because it is an ongoing investigation and there are more witnesses that I have to interview," said Miles.
Lee County Commonwealth's Attorney Shawn Hines acknowledged Friday that he requested the investigation prior to Nunley submitting his resignation after certain allegations were brought to his attention.
"Once the allegations came to my attention, I have an obligation to look into them, so I asked the Virginia State Police to investigate because I felt like it needed to be looked at by somebody outside the county," said Hines.
He declined to discuss the nature of the allegations other than to say some are "serious" if they are proven true.
Hines said he requested a special prosecutor for the same reason he asked the VSP to investigate. He pointed out that although no charges have yet been placed, he sought a special prosecutor because a special prosecutor does more than prosecute.
"They will review a case to determine if there has been a crime committed and if there's enough evidence to prosecute," Hines explained.
Hines added that he does not know if a special prosecutor has been appointed yet.
Mayor Jimmy Smallwood said Friday that he has heard rumors of a state police investigation being under way and rumors of what is being investigated, but he has not been interviewed by investigators. He declined to elaborate on what rumors he has heard except to say, "I've heard so many lies. I live next door to Mike Nunley, and he's not the wild man I'm hearing about."
Town Attorney Donnie Williams said he was aware of the investigation, but investigators have said nothing to him about the nature of their work.
"I don't know what the allegations are or if there's any truth to them, but the town will cooperate with investigators any way it can," he said.
Vice Mayor Larry Fish also said he is unaware of what allegations are being investigated.
"I'm hoping it ends up being nothing," he said.