A planned show of force by Asheville Police has been called off, and an audio recording of an alleged cover-up could add more fuel to the controversy.
According to sources, the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police was set to hold a confidence vote among rank-and-file law enforcement officers. Using that No Confidence vote, the officers were planning to pack the City Council meeting in a show of solidarity and displeasure with the way the APD is being managed.
But that plan has been put on hold.
It's the latest chapter in the scandal/non-scandal dubbed "Dianty's Inferno," which began when the son of Police Chief William Anderson was involved in a late-night car accident in March.
Chief Anderson's son, Chad, left the scene and, upon returning, said the driver was a person named Dianty.
A few days later, District Attorney Ron Moore saw the newspaper article about the crash and how APD was investigating the son of its Chief. So, he asked the State Bureau of Investigation to handle the probe.
The Chief wasn't thrilled with this idea, saying APD could investigate the matter just fine. Moore said APD shouldn't, because of the appearance of a conflict of interest. Chief Anderson later apologized.
“[I]n this case, it was a mistake, and one I accept full responsibility for,” Anderson, dressed in plain clothes, said in reading a prepared statement. “Clearly, the state Highway Patrol should have been notified and their assistance requested. This was a lapse in judgment on my part, and this is a decision I have made on many occasions as the chief of police. But in this instance, I failed.”
Chad Anderson was later charged with obstruction of justice, conspiracy, hit and run, and reckless driving.
False and misleading information
Lt. Bill Wilke was the crash scene commander. He saw the same article in the Asheville Citizen-Times that prompted the DA to call the SBI.
Lt. Wilke said the quotes from Chief Anderson present "false and misleading information" to the paper about the crash.
Wilke said he informed City Manager Gary Jackson about these concerns, and that Jackson told him to wait for the SBI probe to conclude.
During that SBI probe, Lt. Wilke was interviewed about what happened. During that interview, Wilke claims he was called into the Chief's office where an attempt was made to coerce him into changing his testimony.
On March 14, Wilke said, he provided APD Capt. Stony Gonce “a thorough set of documents regarding the details of the wreck on March 9.“
At approximately 4 p.m. the same day, I was removed by Capt. Stony Gonce from an active interview with the SBI ordered by the District Attorney, to speak with both he and the Chief of Police,” Wilke said.
“Capt. Gonce was present and this meeting occurred in Chief Anderson’s office. While there, I was coerced and expected to submit to a set of facts and circumstance regarding the accident involving his son that were clearly false and misleading. I refused to submit to this coercion.”
After Wilke went public with this allegation, the City Manager launched an administrative review and found no evidence any laws were broken. However, the City probe concluded the Chief acted inappropriately in calling Lt. Wilke out of the SBI interview (although the Mayor would later contradict these findings by saying the Chief did not act inappropriately).
The council did address the issue of Chief Anderson ordering Wilke to his office on March 14. They said there was no city policies or procedures that addresses this, but the conduct was inappropriate and this issue has been addressed with the chief and his supervisor.
The council did add there are some concerns within the police department about general management practices but said they stand by Anderson.
The mayor released this statement: “We wanted to have facts. I believe we stand here with all the info we could ever muster. We support our chief and PD. We believe our police department has internal issues that need to be addressed. We did not find that the chief did anything inappropriate. I have confidence that Chief William Anderson can lead our department. We have got to get the focus back on public service.”
Until now, that private meeting between Chief Anderson, Lt. Wilke, and Capt. Stoney Gonce was just a "he said, he said" kind of allegation. There was no reason to think Lt. Wilke could prove an attempted coercion. Likewise, there was no reason to think the Chief and Captain could prove it did not occur.
But all that might change.
I have been told that Lt. Wilke recorded the meeting.
Furhter, I've been informed that Lt. Wilke offered to play that tape for the Assistant City Manager Jeff Richardson, who was leading the City's internal investigation. According to my source, Richardson declined to listen to it.
There was never any mention of an audio recording in the official report to City Council, so it's unclear if Council was made aware that it exists.
If true, the City's internal review findings might need to be updated.