WASHINGTON - Former Metropolitan Police Chief Peter Newsham is denying allegations in a lawsuit filed last week that he delayed or denied public records to people he thought would embarrass the department.
"There was not a watch list," Newsham said during a town hall Monday night with the Prince William Alumnae Chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.
Newsham is now the police chief of Prince William County.
The lawsuit, filed by criminal defense attorney Amy Phillips, was filed based on her personal experiences with difficulty getting public records, and a whistleblower: the former head of MPD’s public records office, fmr. Inspector Vendette Parker.
In the suit, Phillips specifically described an instance where she went to a public hearing regarding a police disciplinary matter, requested a transcript, and was originally denied.
Fox 5’s Marina Marraco is also mentioned in the suit when she made a public records request for a police report but was given a heavily redacted copy. Later, Marraco obtained an unredacted copy that was given to any other citizen who requested it.
Parker, in a sworn declaration, says there were weekly meetings between her, Newsham’s Chief Operating Officer, and Newsham to discuss public records requests from people the department believed to be adversarial that could be potentially embarrassing, and find ways to delay or deny those requests.
On Monday, Newsham denied there was a list, weekly meetings, or anything but an attempt at full transparency while he was chief.
"The FOIA team, my chief operating officer, she would inform me if information would leave the building, as an awareness, but there certainly wasn’t any list. And what I’ve told a couple of folks who have asked me about this, if I was going to create a list of everybody that was critical of the metropolitan police department in Washington D.C., it would probably be more than just a couple of people, a pretty lengthy list," Newsham said.
Newsham said he hopes coverage of this case continues.
"That’s crazy, it is. And so, for people to run with this is unfortunate, but like I said, we’ll be patient, let all the facts come out, and then well, hopefully, it’ll get covered with the same tenacity that this is covered," Newsham said.
FOX 5 reached out to an attorney for Amy Phillips who filed the suit last week.
In a statement, Charlie Gerstein said, "We look forward to proving otherwise in court," in response to Newsham’s comments Monday night.
Last week, current police Chief Robert J. Contee III said no such policy currently exists at MPD today, despite the lawsuit alleging it does.