KDH takes action against officers who sued town
Officers Andrew Ennis and Joseph Knight were initially suspended on May 29 because of complaints filed against them.
The complaints appear to have been initiated by Chief Gary Britt, and sources close to the situation say Britt believed the officers had been interfering with his administration of the department.
Ennis and Knight have filed suit against the town as well as petitions to remove Britt from office. Along with two former officers, David Shane Allen and Robert Booth, they have alleged wrongful termination, alteration of personnel files, favoritism and assignment of “quotas.”
Booth was previously terminated from the department and Allen was allowed to resign after the department originally informed him he was to be fired.
When Ennis and Knight were suspended, superiors came to their homes to take away their police cars, badges and guns. An independent investigation into the complaints followed.
After the investigation, the town held a disciplinary meeting resulting in Knight’s termination. Ennis was transferred to Animal Control.
Attempts to reach the officers were either unsuccessful or the officer refused comment.
Although the town released a statement Jan. 25 saying allegations filed by Ennis were “investigated” and found “simply not true,” the town has apparently prohibited the officers and other town employees from speaking to the media on their own behalf.
Britt was put on non-disciplinary suspension last October after the town received word that District Attorney Frank Parrish intended to file a petition to have him removed. Parrish’s petition outlined points similar to those in complaints filed with Dare County Superior Court Judge Jerry Tillett by the four officers.
The town conducted an internal investigation in conjunction with the North Carolina League of Municipalities, its insurance underwriter. It concluded the Britt was involved in no intentional wrongdoing but needed to work on his management skills.
Parrish never filed the petition, and Britt returned to his job in December.
Attorney Dennis Rose, who represents all four of the officers suing the town, made the following statement to the Voice:
“Officer Knight suspected that a fellow officer was submitting more hours to payroll than the fellow officer actually worked and he was concerned that this officer was getting paid for time not worked.
“Officer Knight accessed certain public information and made inquiry in an effort to determine whether or not this officer had actually worked the hours submitted to payroll.
“When Officer Knight’s actions were brought to Britt’s attention, instead of investigating to confirm whether Officer Knight’s suspicions were correct, Britt filed a complaint against Officer Knight alleging that Officer Knight was acting in a manner that interfered with his ability to efficiently operate the KDHPD.
“Britt filed a similar complaint against officer Ennis also alleging that officer Ennis’ conduct interfered with his ability to efficiently operate the KDHPD.
“The factual basis for the complaint against Ennis is unknown. To my knowledge there was absolutely no evidence to support that Officer Ennis or Officer Knight had acted in a manner detrimental to the KDHPD. Officer Ennis was stripped of his badge, handgun and transferred to Animal Control. Officer Knight was terminated.”
Rose went on to allege that Britt, and Assistant Town Manager Sean Murphy, who heads human resources, “without any concern of being disciplined by the Town Manager or the Town’s Administration, are doing whatever they can to continue their abuse and harassment of these fine officers and intimidate other police officers from voicing any complaints about their employment with the Town or the KDHPD .”
The Voice also learned that when Rose showed up at the initial independent review, which was conducted by a police officer from another jurisdiction, he was told he would not be allowed to sit in on the proceedings. Rose insisted he be shown the policy provision that prohibited the officers from having legal counsel with them. After a series of phone calls and a review of the town code, Rose was allowed to be with his clients while they were questioned.
According to the draft petition prepared by Parrish in September 2011, “at least eight officers have been terminated” under Britt’s tenure, who was hired in mid-2008.
Knight raises that number to nine.
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