A former Cleveland, Tenn., police detective is suing for his job back, claiming he didn’t receive a fair hearing when fired last year.
During testimony in Hamilton County Circuit Court on Thursday, Duff Brumley described an ongoing, openly hostile work environment created by Cleveland Police Chief Wes Snyder and 10th Judicial District Attorney Steven Bebb in the years preceding his firing.
Judge Neil Thomas III set out strict rules on what he would consider in Brumley’s appeal of Cleveland City Manager Janice Casteel’s decision to uphold the August 2010 firing.
Much of what he can do is limited to other court rulings on requests for appeal on city and county agency actions, Thomas said.
Thomas allowed Brumley’s attorney, Gerald Tidwell, to call witnesses as an offer of proof of Brumley’s claims. The judge will decide if Brumley should get his job back.
“We’re arguing that this was an arbitrary and capricious firing,” Tidwell told Thomas.
Tidwell has one week to file documents and Cleveland’s attorneys have another week to respond.
Cleveland Assistant Police Chief Gary Hicks testified Thursday that Snyder “blamed” Brumley for a 2007 Tennessee Bureau of Investigation probe into allegations that the chief ordered one of his officer’s to cite Brumley for harassment. The probe later found that the citation wasn’t legal.
About the same time, Snyder was being investigated by the TBI for alleged perjury in a federal lawsuit, which was later dropped by the plaintiff, according to Chattanooga Times Free Press archives.
Bebb declined to pursue charges against either Brumley or Snyder in both cases.
Acting on tips in early 2010 from Bradley County Criminal Court Judge Amy Reedy and two 10th Judicial District Drug Task Force agents, Brumley asked a Cleveland pharmacist to look at a prescription database to see if Task Force Director Mike Hall had any “suspicious” prescription pill purchases. The pharmacist said nothing was suspicious and Brumley did not investigate further.
Bebb claimed that Brumley “illegally” accessed the confidential prescription drug database.
Brumley and other witnesses testified Thursday that, acting on tips does not always result in investigations and, until Brumley’s firing, asking pharmacists to check databases was common practice.
TBI launched an investigation into drug abuse allegations against the task force and Hall in July 2010. Hall left the task force for a ministry job in Florida in September 2010.
The TBI investigation results were given to Bebb earlier this year. After Bebb and another district attorney recused themselves, Williamson County District Attorney Joe Baugh presented the results to a grand jury, which declined to indict anyone on charges. Baugh closed the case.
During the investigation of Hall, Bebb sent a letter to Cleveland police, stating his office would not prosecute cases involving Brumley because they questioned his credibility, Tidwell told Thomas on Thursday.
Snyder fired Brumley, who appealed the decision to Casteel in August 2010. Casteel upheld the firing.
Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...