New Scott County sheriff denies wrongdoing in office

A Freedom of Information Act request reveals the new Scott County sheriff was named in an investigation surrounding allegations of wrongdoing. 

A document from Virginia State Police responding to News Channel 11’s FOIA said Sheriff Chris Holder was part of an investigation into malfeasance in office, alleged to have occurred from 2014 to 2018, when Holder said he was serving in the Scott County Sheriff’s Department as an investigator. 

VSP declined to give further details about the investigation, saying this information is protected under various Virginia code provisions.

Holder said he started as sheriff on March 1st, 2019 after being appointed by Former Sheriff John Puckett. 

He’s running for the Republican nomination in June to continue in the position. His only opponent is Jeff Edds. No Democrats are running so far.

Holder denied any wrongdoing in a lengthy interview with News Channel 11 Monday.

He said he’s not currently under investigation by VSP and that he was never charged with anything. 

The FOIA response did not specify whether the investigation was open or closed. 

He said he was questioned by VSP after a former deputy was caught embezzling federal grant funds while working at the sheriff’s department. 

News Channel 11 is not releasing that deputies name because he’s yet to be charged but Holder said he’s no longer employed by the department. 

Holder said the former deputy claimed to state police that several local law enforcement officials had paid him off to complete their required In-Service Training. Holder speculated this was to lessen his punishment for embezzlement. 

Holder said all law enforcement officials in the state of Virginia are required by the Department of Criminal Justice Services to complete the 40-hour In-Service certification every two years to stay updated on changes in state law. 

“I never asked him to do my In-Service and I never paid him to do my In-Service,” said Holder. 

He said the former deputy did complete one section of his certification without being asked after Holder was diagnosed with cancer. 

“He felt sorry for me and he told the state police the same thing. Is that malfeasance of office? I didn’t care about that In-Service then and I don’t care about it now. Because it’s no crime, yeah maybe it’s an administrative issue,” said Holder. 

He said those issues occurred under the watch of former Sheriff Puckett. “If you ask me if I would’ve handled it differently, i’ll tell you yes, I would’ve handled it differently,” said Holder. 

Holder said he’ll require all employees to take the certification in-person, instead of online for as long as he’s in charge. 

In regards to the former deputy accused of embezzling funds, Holder said, “I would’ve fired him the first day…He’s never been charged and it’s been over two years.” 

Holder said VSP, in his opinion, is holding off on charging the deputy for political reasons. 

A VSP spokesperson said the agency is not allowed to comment on investigations of elected officials under an attorney general policy. 

Meanwhile, Holder said the Scott County Sheriff’s Department’s funding opportunities from the federal government are frozen until that former deputy is charged. 

Holder said this has caused major financial strain when it comes to upgrading equipment, like body armor, and hiring new student resource officers to protect local schools.

Former Sheriff Puckett did not respond to requests for comment.

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