Questions arise about department’s administrative leave policy

STRASBURG — In a statement sent late Wednesday, the Strasburg Fire Department announced for the first time that it had placed five members on administrative leave in November, and an additional member late in December, all in connection with pending court cases involving charges of  contributing to the delinquency with a minor.

But it appears that at least two members were still active in the department after being placed on administrative leave.

According to an interview conducted by the Northern Virginia Daily in November and records obtained by the Northern Virginia Daily under Virginia’s public records law, Chris Pangle and Fire Chief Dale King both appear to have engaged in department-related activities after they were placed on administrative leave.

Based on fire incident reports obtained by the Northern Virginia Daily, Pangle appears to have responded to at least two fire calls after the time the statement says he was placed on administrative leave. King, meanwhile, spoke to the Northern Virginia Daily in November, representing himself as fire chief at a time when Wednesday’s statement says he should have been on administrative leave.

Pangle denied that he had responded to calls after having been charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. King has not responded to a request for comment.

In November, nine days after an affidavit accusing King and four other members of the Strasburg Fire Department of engaging in the gang rape of a 17-year-old girl was unsealed in a Frederick County court, King spoke to the Northern Virginia Daily representing himself as the  fire chief. King explained that under the department’s rules, members of the department would be placed on administrative leave once charges were filed against them.

“We have a policy, if anybody is charged with any crime, they automatically go on administrative leave, which means they’re not allowed to participate in any department’s activities, represent the fire department or work calls,” King said at the time.

But according to Wednesday’s statement, King was on administrative leave at the time that he made his statement explaining the automatic administrative leave policy.

Glenn Mason, the president of the Shenandoah Fire Department, has not responded to questions asking whether or not this violated the department’s policies or whether the department engaged in any corrective actions following King’s interview.

A month after the affidavit was unsealed in Frederick County court, Pangle and the members who were mentioned in the affidavit were charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Pangle was charged on Dec. 29, according to his arrest warrant.

Pangle was not named in the original affidavit. According to Wednesday’s statement, he should have been placed on administrative leave.

However, according to fire incident reports, Pangle responded to two calls on Jan. 1. According to those reports, Pangle was “dispatched and canceled en route” both times.

Pangle dismissed the dates on the reports as typographical errors.

“It is some type of type error in the computers,” Pangle said. “I have not been [at the fire station], I have not been there whatsoever.

“I was not even at my house,” Pangle added. “Jan. 1, I was at my office the whole time in Woodstock.”

No other members of the Strasburg Fire Department responded to calls between Jan. 1 and Jan. 9. Pangle did not respond to calls between Jan. 2 and Jan. 9, the latest dates for which the Northern Virginia Daily has incident report data.

Austin Cucciardo, the acting fire chief for the Fire Department, declined to comment, referring to Mason.

On Wednesday, Mason stated in an email that the department would look into Pangle’s case.

“I am unaware of any incidents that Captain Pangle has run since he was placed on leave,” Mason stated. “We are currently looking into it.”

Following Mason’s email, the Northern Virginia Daily provided Mason with a copy of the incident reports. Mason responded late Wednesday by stating that he would get the information from Shenandoah County the following day.

Mason has not since responded.

Tim Williams, fire chief for Shenandoah County Department of Fire and Rescue, said that Shenandoah County, which provided the reports to the Northern Virginia Daily, could not verify that there are no errors in the reports.

“We simply store that data,” Williams said. “We have no idea who is on the other end of those log-in credentials.”