A suit seeking compensatory damages of $500,000, as well as punitive damages and costs, has been filed against Cornersville by a former employee.
Jason D. Lee's attorney, Clay Parker of Shelbyville, filed the civil suit last week. In addition to the city and its police department, the suit names Mayor Amos Davis, Town Administrator Taylor Brandon and Police Chief Todd Bone in their official roles and as individuals.
As of Friday afternoon, Brandon had no comment on the suit, because he had not yet seen a copy.
Lee lives in Cornersville and claims he was denied gainful employment, free speech and due process. The source of the friction between Lee and the town appears to have been speeding tickets, and Cornersville's reputation as an alleged "speed trap."
According to the complaint in Marshall County Circuit Court:
Lee was a Cornersville policeman from September 2008 to June 2009. He has been unable to find another job in law enforcement since Cornersville fired him and he has been told that "officials of Cornersville have given him bad recommendations up to and including, but not limited to, statements that he was terminated for falsifying documents and reports and sleeping on the job."
"Chief Todd Bone told the plaintiff that he must write at least five tickets each shift." Lee alleges he was told the city "gets more money from speeding tickets than from enforcing criminal law," and claims he was counseled several times "to stop making so many arrests and write more tickets."
"The plaintiff expressed at various times to management and other individuals that he believed a quota system for tickets in deference to enforcing criminal laws was unlawful and refused to turn his back on enforcing laws as was his sworn duty."
Lee was suspended from his job in mid-June 2009 without being given a reason. A meeting of the city council voted unanimously to let him come back to work "on probation." "Plaintiff has information, based on conversations with two city council members, that the above defendants (Davis, Brandon and Bone) wanted the plaintiff terminated."
Davis called Lee after the council meeting and told him "to come in to work and if he saw anyone, including other officers, committing criminal offences he was to turn his head and look the other way and not come forward with it. He also told the plaintiff that if he told anyone about the conversation the two had he would 'fire him himself.'"
In any event, Lee alleges he was fired when he reported to City Hall the next day. The suit states that Davis said his termination "was based in part on his attitude on the phone the night before," while Lee asserts the conversation was "very amiable."