Cleveland officers ask judge to overturn their demotion after sex scandal

Cleveland officers ask judge to overturn their demotion after sex scandal

August 24th, 2015 by Judy Walton in Local Regional News

Two Cleveland, Tenn., police officers are asking a judge to overturn their demotion and reassignment in relation to a February sex scandal involving a former police chief.

Officer Jeffrey Griggs and Lt. Steve Tyson claim they were punished under policies that didn't actually exist, by a city manager who both participated in the disciplinary actions and later acted as hearing officer for their appeals. In claims filed Aug. 10 in Bradley County Chancery Court, the two say the actions of the city of Cleveland and City Manager Janice Casteel were arbitrary and capricious, and violated their due process rights under the Tennessee Constitution, state law and the state's Uniform Administrative Procedures Act.

The pair were disciplined in May after a Feb. 28 incident in which Griggs caught his wife in a car with his boss, acting Chief Dennis Maddux, in a car in McMinn County, Tenn. Griggs said he took pictures of the two kissing. He filed for divorce two days later.

Stacey Cordell makes her way into the Cleveland Police Service Center on May 27, 2015 to confront detective Bill Parks after he failed to return numerous phone calls regarding an investigation into what she believes was a rape at SkyRidge Hospital earlier this year.

Stacey Cordell makes her way into the Cleveland...

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

An internal affairs investigation found Maddux lied to investigators about the affair. He retired rather than be fired.

Griggs was demoted from crime scene technician to patrol for lying during the internal affairs investigation. Tyson was reassigned from the Criminal Investigation Department to patrol for failure to report Griggs' arrest — on a charge of violating an order of protection — to interim Chief Mark Gibson. The charge against Griggs was later dismissed.

The court petitions state that for Casteel to participate with Gibson in the initial discipline and then to be the one to hear and deny the officers' appeals violates their due process rights.

"There is no process in place to even make an appearance of due process," wrote the officers' attorney, James F. Logan Jr.

The officers say the policies and procedures regarding demotion of city employees are arbitrary and capricious, and that "the policies used by Gibson and Casteel have not been adopted by the governing legislative body of the City as required by Cleveland, Tenn., Charter" in Article III, paragraph 3. Both also claim their discipline was not supported by evidence.

Neither Casteel nor Logan responded to requests for comment.

In May, Logan and other defense attorneys told the Times Free Press that using disciplinary policies never adopted by the council, as required by the charter, could leave the city vulnerable to lawsuits.

"Unadopted policy cannot have the force of law, it is just a document," Chattanooga attorney Jerry Tidwell, who represents some former Cleveland employees who are challenging their terminations, said at the time.

Casteel and City Attorney John Kimball have claimed the city adopted policies when it authorized the police department to apply for accreditation from the Commission for the Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), a national organization. CALEA officials dispute that.

Officer Jeff Griggs and Lieutenant Steve Tyson

Officer Jeff Griggs and Lieutenant Steve Tyson

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

However, Kimball conceded in Griggs' May appeal hearing that the council had never specifically adopted the police general orders manual.

Then in June, in letters upholding Griggs' and Tyson's demotion and reassignment, Casteel didn't cite the police policies under which they were originally disciplined. Instead, she cited CALEA standards, as well as general city personnel policies.

Later that month Larry Wallace, the former Tennessee Bureau of Investigation chief hired to assess the city's policies and make recommendations, noted that the police policy manual is separate from the rest of the city's policies.

He wrote: "It is imperative that officials from the Cleveland Police Department and City of Cleveland begin regular meetings to synchronize policies, procedures and practices as soon as possible" and noted that "successful completion of this process will significantly diminish multiple areas of concern for the city."

Contact staff writer Judy Walton at jwalton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6416.