GLASGOW – The attorney for the City of Glasgow and certain officials being sued by a former police chief has requested that the judge in the case issue a summary judgment deciding against the plaintiff in the lawsuit.
Circuit Judge John T. Alexander denied almost a year ago a motion from defense attorney Matt Cook for the lawsuit to be dismissed, finding it was premature because all the evidence for the case had not been gathered.
“As with the other claims discussed in this order, Defendants may choose to renew this motion after discovery has been conducted on the issue ...,” Alexander stated at the time. “Once the parties have had adequate time to conduct discovery, any party hereto may elect to file a dispositive motion.”
Guy Turcotte, the former chief and now an officer with the Glasgow Police Department, sued in October 2018 in Barren Circuit Court then-Mayor Dick Doty, then-GPD Chief Guy Howie, the city and its police department claiming unfair employment-related treatment.
Turcotte stepped down as chief but did not resign from the department just as Doty was about to take office in 2015. The outbound mayor, Rhonda Riherd Trautman, appointed him as a lieutenant colonel, a rank that essentially correlated with assistant chief status, and he was allowed to keep that rank and the commensurate salary, but his duties became that of a patrol officer, with no supervisory authority. He had sued in 2015 over that, but lost.
After his appeal options from that lawsuit were unsuccessfully sought, Turcotte's role was officially changed to patrol officer, after which he filed the new lawsuit last year.
In his motion for summary judgment filed Oct. 18, Cook contends, for one thing, that Turcotte is not entitled to any relief under one of the Kentucky laws regarding discipline of law enforcement officers because he was not properly appointed to the position of lieutenant colonel in the first place because that position was not subject to mayoral appointment and it was “a scheme to protect Turcotte's job.” Cook states that the law allows Kentucky cities to reorganize a department and reduce an officer's pay, and that another law regarding discipline of officers is not relevant because no misconduct complaint was levied against Turcotte. He writes that Turcotte cannot be protected from retaliation as a whistleblower under Kentucky statute because Turcotte made no covered whistleblower complaint.
“He admits that the only claimed 'whistleblower' issue deals with his pay,” the motion says, noting that his prior lawsuit does not qualify as a report under the statute.
Turcotte's case also claims he has been deprived of his free-speech rights, but he “does not allege any instance when he as been denied an opportunity to speak out on matters of public concern.”
“Implicit in [Turcotte's] argument is his belief that he is entitled to life-tenure as a lieutenant colonel with accompanying pay. This belief effectively hamstrings the current police department administration from organizing the department in the most efficient and cost-effective fashion,” Cook argues. “The City is not bound in perpetuity to keep the Plaintiff in a lieutenant colonel position (which he obtained surreptitiously with an outgoing mayor on the eve of her departure from office).”
Finally, Cook contends that Turcotte's claim of protection under the Kentucky Civil Service Act fails because the city never adopted the civil service system for its employees.
Matthew Baker, Turcotte's attorney, filed his response to the motion for summary judgment Nov. 14.
He first contends that case law stipulates that summary judgment is proper “only where the movant shows that the adverse party cannot prevail under any circumstances.” It can only be appropriate when there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, he states, citing court rules, and the record must be viewed in a light most favorable to the party opposing the summary judgment.
Baker argues that Turcotte does have viable claims under the first Kentucky law mentioned by Cook's motion, the one where Cook said Turcotte was improperly appointed, because the same court had determined in the prior lawsuit that Turcotte was properly appointed as lieutenant colonel. He states that it is uncontroverted fact that Turcotte has been demoted because he was stripped of his rank and suffered a pay cut of approximately $20,000 annually.
Baker states that the premise of the department's being allowed to reorganize is a ruse because Turcotte was the only one who experienced a reduction in grade and pay.
“The abolition of Turcotte's office or position is clearly a subterfuge to effect another purpose – that is, running him out of the Glasgow police force,” he argues.
Baker contends his client does have protection as a whistleblower because he “possessed knowledge of alleged misconduct at the police department that was not publicly known, and he stepped forward to help uncover and disclose that information.” The attorney says the amount of time between the finality of his appeal in the previous case and the reduction in rank and pay – roughly two months – was “telling” that the change was “clearly for reporting alleged violations committed by that employer.”
Turcotte's attorney argues there is also a viable free speech claim.
Cook has replied to Baker's response, and Baker had until the close of the business day Friday to file any reply to Cook's reply. From there, it will be up to Alexander whether to grant a summary judgment in the case.