GLASGOW – The Kentucky Supreme Court has declined to conduct a discretionary review of an appellate decision regarding a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by a former public affairs officer for the Glasgow Police Department.
Julie Anne Williams, who died Feb. 28, had sued the city after then-GPD Chief Guy Howie fired her Jan. 5, 2016.
Williams' claim in the lawsuit that the city violated the Kentucky Civil Rights Act by taking retaliatory and discriminatory actions against her for her assistance and/or participation in an “investigation” and also that the city violated public policy.
The city argued in the case that Williams had not engaged in activity protected under the KCRA and it sought a summary judgment decision from the judge on the case. Williams' attorney asserted that the Kentucky Claims Against Local Governments Act was unconstitutional to the extend it does not allow punitive damage awards against Kentucky municipalities.
Circuit Judge John T. Alexander granted the summary judgment and upheld the constitutionality of CALGA in July 2017, but his decision was appealed to the Kentucky Court of Appeals.
In its unanimous 15-page opinion affirming the orders from Barren Circuit Court – one granting a summary judgment and one upholding the constitutionality of CALGA – concluded that, “discerning no error, we affirm.”
The opinion was posted Aug. 10 2018. The three-judge panel reaching its decision based on the case record, declining oral arguments on the appeal, was composed of Debra Lambert, Irv Maze and Christopher Nickell.
By the end of August 2018, the request for discretionary review by the Kentucky Supreme Court had been filed and the city's response was filed the following month. In January, Lambert, who by this time was a member of the commonwealth's highest court, recused herself from the case as she had been involved with it in the lower court. On June 5, the case was held in abeyance – formally placed on hold – pending the disposition of another case with a related issue that perhaps might have impacted this one, and the KSC decided that case in early July.
On Aug. 21, an order was issued in Williams' case denying the discretionary review, so the prior courts' decisions stand.
The termination of her employment occurred after Williams had told a then-sergeant at the department who asked for her help printing an image emailed to him to forward it to her private email account, from which she then printed it at the department's headquarters. The image was of a text-message exchange between two other officers – a woman who was subordinate to the male supervisor – and that exchange included a photo of the woman, that, in the court's words, portrayed her as nude. On her termination form, Howie stated that by not telling him about the situation, Williams had allowed further violations to occur.
Williams said she complied with the sergeant's request for printing assistance believing he was investigating an impropriety.
“It was later revealed that [Sgt. Mike] Burton had not conducted an investigation but intended to use the image to his advantage,” the Court of Appeals opinion states.
Burton was fired over the situation himself and unsuccessfully appealed that decision.