Town wins police case

Friday, October 21, 2011

By Clint Confehr

Senior Staff Writer

Cornersville and three named town officials are free of litigation brought by a dismissed police officer who alleged their streets are a "speed trap" and that he was fired because he spoke out against a "five ticket quota" system.

Marshall County Circuit Court Judge Lee Russell dismissed former officer Jason D. Lee's June 17, 2010, complaint nearly two months ago on Aug. 12. Town Attorney Quinn Stewart said last week "the time limit for appeal has ended."

Lee "was fired for excessive absenteeism," Stewart said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

As for the dismissed policeman's allegations about the town's use of traffic tickets as a source of revenue instead of a safety program, the attorney said the city's litigation team was "prepared to defend against all the allegations, but it didn't get past the motion for summary judgment."

The lawsuits brought by Shelbyville-based attorney Clay Parker on behalf of Lee were filed too late for them to be considered in circuit and federal courts, Stewart said.

"It's got to be served within a year," she said, "and it was not. In federal court, they didn't file within the statute of limitations."

Parker was called Wednesday so he would have an opportunity to speak about his client and the case, but he was in conference with another client.

Nashville-based attorneys Robert M. Burns and Mark Harrod represented Mayor Amos Davis, Police Chief Todd Bone and City Administrator Taylor Brandon who asked the state and federal courts to dismiss the case and that request was granted.

"Our insurance company retained those attorneys," said Brandon who reiterated the town attorney's position and spoke further about Lee's allegations that the municipality sought to harvest money from motorists.

"If they had timely filed those allegations they would have been able to have the merits of that case heard in court," Brandon said.

Asked about police practices in the town, he said, "I fully believe in our officers and believe they're professional and do the job they're asked to do."

To further deflect speed trap allegations, the administrator said, "I encourage anyone with a ticket to come to City Hall to see if that bears out.

"It's easy to speculate, but when you look at the citation - and we can look at anything in the last six years - you'll see that that's not true," Brandon said.

Nearly 16 months ago, the Marshall County Tribune reported that Lee lives in Cornersville and claimed he was denied employment, free speech and due process.

Lee was a Cornersville policeman from September 2008 to June 2009 and subsequently he stated that he was unable to find another job in law enforcement since Cornersville fired him. He said he'd been told Cornersville officials gave him bad recommendations including 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 alleged, adding that 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," according to the complaint that was dismissed last summer and cannot be brought back.

Judge Russell's order notes that the plaintiff had no objections to the defendant's motion to dismiss the case and it was with prejudice with court costs to be paid by the plaintiff.