NASHVILLE — A former Cleveland, Tenn., detective has filed a "whistleblower" lawsuit against the city, claiming his 2010 firing was the result of "retaliatory" action by top officials, including Cleveland Police Chief Wes Snyder and Bradley County District Attorney General Steve Bebb.
Former Detective Duff Brumley is seeking $500,000 in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages in the lawsuit, filed Aug. 23 in Bradley County Circuit Court.
The suit alleges that "prior to his termination, Detective Brumley became the target of extensive and systematic harassment" by various officials. It also says his First Amendment rights to free speech were violated.
Neither Snyder nor City Manager Janice Casteel responded to requests for comment on Monday and Tuesday. Bebb, said to be out of town by his office, could not be reached.
The lawsuit is the latest of three court filings by Brumley, one involving a disciplinary case and another seeking his job back. He was dismissed by Snyder, a decision later upheld by Casteel after another incident in which Bebb charged Brumley with "illegally" accessing a confidential prescription drug database.
Brumley, who denies breaking any laws, said he was looking into allegations of drug abuse involving then-10th Judicial District Drug Task Force Executive Director Mike Hall, who later left the agency. Hall has publicly denied having had any drug problems.
In July 2010, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation launched an investigation into alleged drug abuse allegations at the Task Force. The probe was completed months ago and a report given to Bebb, who recused himself from acting on the matter.
The Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference later named former District Attorney General Al Schumtzer of Sevierville to review the TBI report to see if any action should be taken. Schumtzer told the Times Free Press last week that he recused himself from the case due to a conflict with another TBI matter he is handling. He declined to identify the other matter.
The TBI report is now in the hands of another former district attorney general, Joe Baugh of Williamson County, for review.
Brumley's lawsuit contends his problems with Snyder began after Brumley backed Bebb in his 2006 bid for district attorney general. It started with a call Brumley made to a woman, inviting her to a Bebb victory party, according to the suit. After she complained, Synder directed that a harassment investigation be conducted by the city, although the incident occurred outside Cleveland, and later ordered the officer to issue Brumley a citation, the suit says.
"I've never seen a citation where an officer writes, 'I was given a direct order to issue this citiation,'" Brumley's attorney, Gerald Tidwell, said in an interview. "That's a new one to me, and I think he [investigating officer] was trying to protect himself from potential liability because he knew he had no jurisidiction." He said the entire matter appears to "smack of political agendas."
Brumley later complained to the TBI, charging that Synder had committed official misconduct against him by ordering the citation.
The lawsuit cites several other personnel matters involving Brumley, culminating in the case involving Hall and Bebb.
Brumley also filed a grievance he was told to take training in interpersonal skills after a burglary victim complained about his behavior to Snyder. Chancery Court sided with the city and Brumley appealed to the state Court of Appeals, which also sided with the city.
In 2010, Bebb's office dropped all charges against Michael Younger, one of the defendants in the 1999 Valentine's Day triple killing in Cleveland, citing 71 phone calls made between Brumley, a prosecution witness on the case, and Judge Amy Reedy, who presided over Younger's case. Reedy eventually declared a mistrial.
Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...