New Golden Valley police chief has history of suing his employers

Golden Valley's new police chief has a history of suing his employers after being fired and is currently named as a defendant in an open lawsuit out of Arkansas.

Virgil Green

Virgil Green is expected to be named the next police chief of Golden Valley, contingent upon background checks. The city made a conditional offer to Green earlier this month, which he accepted.

Green is a 38-year law enforcement veteran who got his start with the Lea County Sheriff’s Department in Lovington, N.M., before working as a patrol officer with the Oklahoma City Housing Authority. He then spent more than 10 years as the chief of police in Boley, Okla., a small rural town of 1,800 people and 10 sworn officers.

But in recent years, Green’s resume shows that he has struggled to stay in one place for more than a few years. He was named the police chief of Spencer, Okla., in August 2011, a role he stayed in until April 2015 — about three years and eight months.

He then took over as chief in July 2015 in the city of Helena-West Helena, Ark. He was there for just a year and 10 months.

Green then launched an unsuccessful bid for Oklahoma County sheriff before he was hired as a deputy chief in the Tulsa Public Schools Campus Police Department in November 2018. He was there for 13 months.

This was followed by a gap in employment of one year and seven months. It appears he again ran for sheriff during this time. He has been employed as a security manager at ASM Global since July 2021. He has remained in that position despite being named the police chief of Osceola, Ark., last October, a role that isn’t listed on his resume and one he seemingly never served in.

Because of these irregularities, Alpha News decided to conduct its own investigation into Green’s background. In the course of fact-finding, Alpha News discovered Green has a habit of suing his employers, sometimes with claims of discrimination.

Legal issues

Alpha News obtained federal court documents showing that Green has filed lawsuits against at least two former employers. Both were dismissed.

One lawsuit filed against the city of Helena-West Helena reveals that Green was hired as police chief in 2015 and terminated in 2017. In the document, Green alleges he was “discriminated against by the city of Helena-West Helena in its termination of him on the basis of race, age, and other immutable characteristics.”

According to multiple news sources, the mayor of Helena-West Helena stated that Green’s lack of success in reducing crime in the town was a major reason for his termination. The judge dismissed Green’s complaint with prejudice, which means Green cannot refile the same claim again in that court.

Green admitted that the city of Helena-West Helena had a serious crime problem but believes he was fired without cause.

“Basically the mayor turns around and says, ‘Hey, chief, you know crime is not going down’ and I’m like, ‘Well, I’ve only been here not even two years and we’re making some progress with some crimes and how the community is responding to the police.’ But he said ‘I want to go in a different direction,’” Green explained to Alpha News.

In 2015, Green sued the city of Spencer, Okla., after he was put on administrative leave and eventually fired, according to court documents. Local news reports describe a power struggle between Green and the city manager.

“It wasn’t related to any type of misconduct or any policy violation, but basically was somebody who said, ‘Hey, if you don’t do what I tell you to do then, you know, I have the right to fire you,’” Green explained, referring to the Spencer city manager. “I was supported by the Fraternal Order of Police.”

In court documents, the city manager claimed that Green accused another city employee of committing a crime in retaliation for being suspended.

The judge dismissed the case.

Federal court documents also appear to show that Green sued the Oklahoma City Housing Authority Enforcement Division for discrimination in 2001. However, Green denies knowing anything about the lawsuit. The court ruled in favor of OCHA.

“That’s the first time I’ve heard of that in all of the past 20-something years,” Green told Alpha News.

Green has been named as a defendant in several lawsuits himself, often just by virtue of his role as police chief. But in an open case out of Arkansas, a former civil service commissioner, Shirley Garner, has accused Green of retaliating against her when she refused to hand over a copy of a promotional exam.

“Chief Green approached Garner and asked her for a copy of the promotion exam. Plaintiff, in good faith, believed that this was illegal and a violation of the law, so she refused,” the lawsuit states.

According to the lawsuit, Green then went to the City Council and successfully petitioned for Garner’s termination.

“Chief Green then began a calculated campaign designed to destroy each Plaintiff and her family’s life,” the lawsuit claims. “As an example, Plaintiff Garner’s sister-in-law posted information about Virgil Green using Plaintiff’s Facebook page. This was 1st Amendment protected speech. Chief Green believed that Plaintiff Garner had posted this information and had Plaintiff Garner charged with a violation of law.”

“Having Plaintiff Garner arrested twice without probable cause in retaliation for activities protected by the 1st Amendment was not enough, however,” it adds.

Green claims that Garner was removed from her position because of excessive absences.

Green told Alpha News that the situation unfolded before his time as police chief and said he doesn’t know why his name is on the lawsuit. He also said the city’s civil service commission was dissolved before his time.

According to Green, Garner convinced an attorney to file a lawsuit against him and the city, blaming Green for her removal.

“I never made any type of statements because I wouldn’t have any knowledge about anything related to this. I just heard from the city clerk that the (civil service commissioner) took a test, they were trying to get this test booklet back from her. She never gave it back. None of that occurred when I was there,” Green said.

Interim chief resigns 

Green was up against Interim Chief Scott Nadeau in the search for a new chief until Nadeau pulled himself out of the race and sent in his resignation letter earlier this month.

This came after Mayor Shep Harris claimed during a council meeting that some members of the police department were restoring a “toxic culture of hostility, intimidation, paternalism and, unfortunately, racism.”

Mayor Shep Harris delivers his annual State of the City address March 15. (City of Golden Valley)

“Residents and staff of color don’t feel safe with some members of the police department and over at Brookview Community Center. We have trouble retaining people of color and women on staff,” Harris said.

At the time, Harris believed the search was “negatively influenced by a group of people inside the police department,” a reference to a letter in support of Nadeau that was hand delivered by several members of law enforcement.

In part, the letter said:

“Scott came to the PD at a time of crisis, with great frustration and unhappiness within the department, with multiple officers on their way out of the door to other agencies. Despite the challenges Scott faced, he has brought the PD together in a way we didn’t think was possible at the time … Through Scott’s vision and encouragement, the communication and collaborative achievements that have come from those meetings have brought a sense of hope now at the PD, and we would hate to see that work undone.”

Now, the Golden Valley City Council has approved a contract with an outside firm to investigate claims of harassment and racism within the department.

Funding will come from the police administration budget. The estimated budget for the investigation is $93,000 to $120,000.

Interim Chief Scott Nadeau addresses the City Council during a February 15 meeting. (City of Golden Valley)

“Not a single current member had ever been ‘legally’ accused of being racist,” a source told Alpha News. “We don’t know what’s motivating this and they said that we’re not getting on board with this equity diversity stuff. We don’t know what it is we’re doing wrong, what we could do better.”

Harris eventually apologized to Nadeau for his comments during a March 15 council meeting.

“To Chief Scott Nadeau, I apologize for any misunderstanding for my previous statement. My purpose was not to malign your reputation, or force you to resign or withdraw from the process,” said Harris. “You stabilized the police department at a critical moment in time and helped reestablish relationships between the police department and city hall.”

Harris went on to say that the council and administration support the police.

Law enforcement demoralized

Golden Valley has lost several police officers since last year. City employees told Alpha News that demoralized officers are leaving in droves, partly due to offensive language used by city officials.

One email screenshot sent to Alpha News reveals Human Resources Director Kirsten Santelices saying that “public sector employees, especially Public Safety personnel, have a unique perspective and position in relation to the systems that uphold and perpetuate racialized violence.”

Another email from Santelices describes the deaths of George Floyd and Daunte Wright as racially motivated.

In April 2021, law enforcement addressed these emails with city officials in a private meeting. A recording of that call was shared with Alpha News.

During that meeting, Diversity and Inclusion Manager Kiarra Zackery declared that any force used with a person of color, regardless of if it’s completely justified, is considered “racialized violence.”

Members of the police department expressed confusion with Zackery’s comments. Some told city leaders they did not feel supported.

“I feel like if I were to get in any kind of use of force incident and the person happened to be a person of color, even if I did everything right, I do not feel I would be supported,” said a member of the police department. “I actually feel like you guys have an implicit bias against the police. I know I’m not alone.”

The city of Golden Valley told Alpha News it “cannot comment on this matter because it is part of an ongoing investigation.”

Anthony Gockowski contributed to this report.


Pafoua Yang

Pafoua Yang is a reporter for Alpha News. She has worked as an on-air reporter for stations across the Twin Cities.