Fired Earle Police Chief files lawsuit
Fired Earle Police Chief files lawsuit
Smith makes claims of discrimination by city, officials
firstname.lastname@example.org A former police chief of Earle who was suspended then later fired by Mayor Carolyn Jones after he terminated a police officer for sleeping in his car on duty is suing the city for $50,000.
Tyrone Smith, who was fired by Jones last November, filed a discrimination lawsuit against the city and Jones claiming he was treated differently than other employees when Jones suspended him because of a pending misdemeanor then failed to reinstate him after the case against him was dismissed.
“It (lawsuit) was served,” said city attorney Davis Loftin. “It’s basically what we’ve seen before. They are trying to sue us under discrimination of the law.”
Smith was suspended last August for 30 days pending the outcome of charges against him for harassment.
Smith was charged with harassment following an incident which took place at the Chicken Express in Parkin on June 27, 2015.
Smith allegedly got into a verbal altercation with Alonzo Smith at the gas station who claimed Smith was harassing him because he complained to Mayor Jones about him.
The case against Smith was dismissed on Nov. 19. Smith claimed that Jones knew about the charges and that he was suspended in retaliation for firing the officer who was found asleep in his car on duty.
In his lawsuit, Smith claims that the officer he fired, Fitzgerald Couch, who is now chief of police in Earle, is a relative of Jones.
Smith said in his lawsuit that his suspension was done in violation of Earle’s policies and procedures as set forth in the employee handbook and that the failure to reinstate him was in violation of Arkansas discrimination laws.
Smith’s attorney, Robert Kinchen of Helena-West Helena, sent the city a letter last November asking that Smith be reinstated and threatening a lawsuit if he wasn’t returned to his job.
Jones told the council at the meeting that she would not reinstate Smith despite calls from the city council to discuss the matter.
“I already have appointed an interim chief,” Jones said. “I cant make him chief. I have one.”
A motion by Councilman Donnie Cheers to reinstate Smith failed on a vote of 4-3-1. Cheers, Councilman Robert Malone, Kenneth Cross and Councilwoman Sarah Johnson voted in favor of reinstating Smith. Councilwoman Jimmie Barham and Councilmen Charlie Young and Jesse Selvy passed. Councilman Bobby Luckett refused to vote.
Smith further alleges in the lawsuit that Jones and Parkin Mayor Willie Patterson worked together to discredit him because Smith filed a complaint against Patterson in connection with the Nov. 2014 mayoral election in Parkin.
Smith has asked for a jury trial and to be reimbursed for attorney fees along with the $50,000.
The council voted to have Arkansas Municipal League defend the lawsuit.
The lawsuit will cost Earle $3,000 to defend.
On a related matter, Loftin updated the city council on another lawsuit against the police department.
Loftin said the Municipal League received a settlement offer from the attorney representing Dwayne Buntin, who was in custody and being transported to the county jail on July 31, 2015 when the officer driving the police car rear ended a vehicle at a yield sign on Hwy. 149 and 64.
Buntin claimed he sustained neck and shoulder pain injuries as a result of the accident.
His attorney originally sent the city a letter offering to settle for $50,000.
The city took no action because the incident was investigated by Arkansas State Police who noted that there was no damage to the vehicles and that paramedics were not called.
Loftin investigated the matter and could find no reports that Buntin asked for medical assistance while at the jail.
Medical reports given to the city note Buntin suffered from constant neck and shoulder pain, but did not see a doctor until mid-August. Also, Buntin’s medical bills totaled less than $1,000.
Loftin also told the city council that the Municipal League settled with the woman whose vehicle the officer hit for $3,300.
“(Lawyers) said she had to go to the chiropractor and had medical bills and lost wages,” Loftin said.
Loftin said she was represented by Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz, a well known personal injury law
firm. “Any time a municipal vehicle
is involved in an accident they will call the Municipal League directly,”
Loftin said. “They (Municipal League) told me they have their number on speed dial. That’s what they did in this case.”
Loftin said he was unaware that the Municipal League had settled the matter. He only found out after Councilman Kenneth Cross informed him.
“Mr. Cross discovered it and asked me about it,” Loftin said. “I don’t know how he discovered it.
That’s when I called the Municipal League to find out what happened.”
By Mark Randall