Heath Hall called Washington a “gotcha” game where people make ruining reputations a sport in the wake of his resignation as acting director of the Federal Railway Administration over the weekend following a report he was moonlighting for the Madison County Sheriff.

Hall called the moonlighting for Madison County Sheriff Randy Tucker report “unfair” and lacking evidence as he broke his silence in an exclusive interview with the Madison County Journal on Wednesday morning.

Hall of Madison was appointed deputy administrator of the Federal Railway Administration in June 2017 and served as acting director until last month when he took an extended leave of absence to deal with a “family emergency” back home.

Hall on Saturday resigned after a Politco story claimed he was moonlighting as Tucker’s spokesperson despite stating on a federal ethics form his firm, Strategic Marketing Group, would be dormant during his federal tenure.

Hall’s firm has a $2,000 contract with the county to serve as Tucker’s spokesman.

On Wednesday, Hall said because his position was not one requiring a Senate confirmation, he had no responsibility to divest himself from his company. He said his firm continued to represent the Sheriff’s Department, but that was handled by another employee and not him personally.

“We took our website down,” he said. “I didn’t want to leave the impression that we were soliciting business. SMG was still working for Randy Tucker, but I did not talk to Randy more than two times, maybe at the max, three.”

Hall said the reason he said his firm would be dormant was because he wasn’t going to be handling the account or adding new accounts.

“Dormant means that I will not be working on that account,” he said. “And I did not. Not one second of one day, period.”

He says to suggest he was moonlighting was absurd.

“Moonlighting is to have an additional job between hours X and hours Y,” Hall said. “That is not what occurred. I did not work one single time on anything related to my clients. It’s really hard to moonlight when you’re working 12-14 hours a day.”

The Politico report cites Hall in an August 2017 story by WJTV regarding a Canton police dispatcher who was arrested for drugs and DUI.

“I don’t remember it,” Hall said, adding that he wasn’t quoted in the story, only attributed. “I don’t recall it. It was not in quotation marks.”

The Journal did receive one press release from Hall on July 6, a few weeks after he took the post, about a Leake County man who drowned in a fishing pond in the county. Hall said he didn’t recall sending out that release and offered no further comment.

The Politico story also quoted a former FRA public affairs official who said a local TV journalist called the D.C. office three times looking for Hall. In response, Hall said those calls were not answered and the reporter was directed to speak to an SMG employee hired to represent the sheriff.

“There is one story out there where it says I used my FRA staff to run my PR business,” Hall said. “That never occurred. There’s not one person at FRA who will say that ever occurred because it never did.”

Hall says he has urged the Department of Transportation to examine his government phone, laptop and iPad so he can prove he wasn’t working for Tucker while running the FRA.

“I hope that they do,” he said. “I encourage them to. I will pay for someone’s time for them to do it. And I don’t have a server hidden in someone’s bathroom 2,000 miles away from D.C.”

Hall even offered up his personal computer and phone to the Journal for examination.

Hall’s resignation Saturday was first reported by Politico in a statement from DOT spokeswoman Marianne McInerney.

“We were unaware of the information that is being reported but those allegations, if they are true, are troubling,” she said in a statement. “Heath Hall has resigned his position at the Department effective immediately.”

Hall said he resigned mainly due to the same family emergency that led to his extended leave of absence, but also to not bog down the DOT with allegations. He said he continues to have much respect for Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, someone Hall has known for decades.

“I (resigned) because I did not want to shed any bad light on (Sec. Chao),” he said Wednesday. “On someone that I admire, someone that I consider a mentor. Why put that extra burden on DOT? Why put that extra burden on my staff? Why put that extra burden on Sec. Chao?”

He added, “She’s got enough to deal with to worry about a Politico story over and over and over again about me being paraphrased in one sentence in a WJTV story.”

Hall did say during his time in office he made headway in several areas, sending $17 million in railway funds to Mississippi. Of that, $7 million was for the rail line between Canton and Grenada that originated during the Obama administration. He said he also streamlined procedures and helped ease regulations on rail companies. He said the FRA made fines based on merit and not an arbitrary number, all while his office dealt with two major hurricanes.

“I am going to miss my team that the Secretary allowed me to put together,” he added. “I’ve never worked with a more professional group of people.

“I will not miss Washington D.C.,” he continued. “It is a ‘gotcha’ community that takes great faith in ruining someone’s reputation and they do it as a sport.”

On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate finally confirmed President Donald J. Trump’s appointment of Rob Batory as the FRA administrator. The agency had been without a permanent leader for over a year while at the same time the number of fatal train crashes and rail-related deaths has been on the rise.