Questioned LaFayette police officer to be reinstated

Questioned LaFayette police officer to be reinstated

March 27th, 2012 by Joy Lukachick Smith in News

Lafayette Director of Public Safety Tommy Freeman.

Lafayette Director of Public Safety Tommy Freeman.

A LaFayette, Ga., police officer who accused his supervisors of trying to fire him out of retaliation will be suspended for two weeks without pay, then return to work, authorities said.

Officer Denny Reyes, a nine-year employee, was cited for a procedural violation, meaning he could have handled an investigation that led to an arrest differently, said City Manager Frank Etheridge.

Reyes hasn't admitted that he did anything wrong during the arrest, but he has now decided not to appeal the suspension, said his attorney Theodore Salter.

The decision to suspend Reyes was made by Etheridge on Monday afternoon after he investigated the circumstances.

Reyes claimed that LaFayette Public Safety Director Tommy Freeman requested his termination March 5 after he arrested an "influential" person and was then pressured to drop the charges. The charges were later dropped.

But Etheridge said he didn't find that authorities asked the officer to drop the charges, but the family of the defendant asked that the charges against him be withdrawn.

Last week, Freeman declined to comment on the accusations until Etheridge decided if Reyes would keep his job. Freeman didn't return calls seeking comment on Monday afternoon.

Reyes, who referred all questions to his attorney, also filed a grievance against Freeman alleging the director used racial slurs in a past argument, Salter said.

But Etheridge said he dropped the grievance on Monday, saying the alleged incident on which Reyes based the complaint was four years old and no longer timely. He said the complaint was about an abusive atmosphere and he didn't believe it had anything to do with racial discrimination.

Etheridge also said that, after investigating the complaint, he discovered someone already had filed a complaint against Freeman for the incident with Reyes and former City Manager Johnnie Arnold had verbally reprimanded Freeman at the time.

Reyes has decided not to appeal that decision, his attorney said.

"We're not going to appeal it," Salter said. "He has his job back."

Salter said the officer met with Etheridge on Monday afternoon and will be allowed to go back to work on April 11. The city manager didn't cite any policies that the officer had broken, Salter said.

Reyes is the second disgruntled employee in the last three weeks to accuse Freeman of retaliation and creating a hostile work environment.

Former firefighter Johnny Stephens Jr., who was fired for insubordination, accused Freeman of getting him fired after he asked why he was being ordered to install a radio in a Public Works vehicle, a duty that was not part of his job responsibilities.

On March 20, Stephens -- a 14-year employee -- told LaFayette City Council members during a public hearing that he had disagreed with Freeman in the past about another city policy, but that the director had screamed and cursed at him.

Freeman denied the allegations, saying Stephens was just trying to retaliate for being fired.

But several residents in an angry crowd at the March 20 meeting questioned council members on why Freeman hasn't been investigated for similar allegations in the past.

Mayor Neal Florence said last week the city took note of the complaints and officials are "looking into the situation" involving Freeman's actions.

Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at or 423-757-6659.