GATE CITY — The Virginia State Police confirmed that an investigation is under way of Gate City’s recently fired police chief.
VSP spokeswoman Corinne Geller said in an email that former Gate City Police Chief Kim Birchfield is being investigated for allegations of possible insurance fraud.
Geller said the investigation began late last year when special agents in the VSP’s Bureau of Criminal Investigations Wytheville Division were first made aware of the accusations.
No charges or arrests have been made at this time in connection with the investigation, Geller said.
Geller also declined to comment on who notified state police of the allegations against Birchfield.
Birchfield had been absent from his role as police chief since at least October, when he reportedly suffered a back injury while on the job and was granted an extended medical leave.
Gate City Mayor Frances Perry said she was not aware of the investigation by state police. Perry also declined to comment on Birchfield’s firing, citing an exemption for personnel matters.
Birchfield’s employment as the town’s police chief was terminated on Jan. 16, during a called meeting that saw the town council meet almost entirely in closed session to discuss legal matters and personnel.
Local media — including the Kingsport Times-News — were not notified of the meeting beforehand. A notice was reportedly placed on the door of the Gate City Town Hall just prior to the meeting to notify the public. The special meeting came just two days after the council held its first regular meeting of 2014.
According to draft minutes from the called meeting, the council voted 5-0 to terminate the position of “Employee #8764” — later confirmed by town officials as Birchfield — effective the day of the meeting.
The vote came on a motion by Vice Mayor Allan “Cotton” Roberts that was seconded by council member Robin Richards.
Perry said patrol Officer Scott Fink has been serving as the town’s interim police chief since early November and will continue to do so for the immediate future.
“Right now the police department is under capable hands with the acting police chief Scott Fink,” Perry said. “He’s doing an excellent job.”
Still, Perry said the town is in the process of searching for a full-time successor to Birchfield.
“We are taking applications at this time for the position of a police chief and that will be decided sometime in the near future I’m sure,” Perry said.
The Gate City Town Council hired Birchfield in March 2011 after months of searching for someone to fill the role after the previous chief quit six months into the job and his successor failed to report for duty.
Prior to being hired by the town, Birchfield retired as a master officer in 2008 following 24 years of service with the Johnson City Police Department. He also served on the Elizabethton, Tenn., School Board at the time of his hiring.