By Mike Perleberg
(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) – A campaign appearance, perhaps a controversial letter, and a vote by the Lawrenceburg Board of Works resulted in the termination of an officer’s 22-year career with the city police department.
The final meeting in a series of hearings concerning the employment of Lawrenceburg Police Captain Doug Taylor ended with the BOW voting 2-1 to end Taylor’s employment Thursday. Board members Bill Bill Bruner and Donnie Bryant voted in the majority while Aaron Cook was along in voting to allow Taylor to keep his job. BOW member Mario Todd recused himself from the meeting before it began, as he had for each of the prior termination hearings.
Taylor had been on administrative leave from the department since the criminal charges were filed.
The termination sought by Lawrenceburg Chief of Police Gene Hunefeld stemmed from the October 2011 arrest of Taylor for charges of Ghost Employment and Official Misconduct. When employed, Taylor appeared at a campaign event that prior April while on-duty as a policeman and in his police uniform. Neither Taylor nor his attorney, Richard Butler, ever disputed that fact throughout the termination hearings.
Before the BOW voted, city attorney Leslie Votaw read the board’s finding of facts. The findings and a conclusion of law were determined in an executive session held by the board Wednesday.
During testimony in an August 28th termination hearing, Dearborn-Ohio County Prosecutor Aaron Negangard said he had told Hunefeld that he would not take information for filing criminal charges from Taylor because he had committed “crimes of dishonesty.” Potentially, that blemish on Taylor’s record would make prosecuting suspects Taylor investigated much more difficult.
Taylor and attorney Butler attempted to persuade the BOW to not terminate him, claiming the treatment would be unfair because other Lawrenceburg officers who have faced and been convicted of crimes continue to work for the department.
“None of the other officers’ crimes involved dishonesty…,” Votaw said when reading through the findings of fact and conclusions of law. “…The conduct of (Taylor) is more serious as it relates to the functioning of the LPD.”
To get his felonies reduced to misdemeanors, Taylor entered a deferred prosecution agreement with a special out-of-county prosecutor on March 13, 2013. The agreement required him to resign from the Lawrenceburg City Council position he held.
The day after the agreement was signed, Taylor issued a letter to Negangard and copied to the FBI, U.S. Attorney, and various media outlets. In it, he blew the whistle of what he claimed was criminal activity by city officials, including Mayor Dennis Carr. Butler and Taylor had suggested during the hearings that the letter triggered Carr and Chief Hunefeld’s decision to dismiss him.
The board’s conclusion, as stated by Votaw, was that there was no connection between the letter and the chief’s seeking to terminate Taylor. By law, the city could not take action on Taylor’s employment until after the deferred prosecution agreement was signed, Votaw said.
“Disciplinary proceedings could not commence until after the execution of that agreement. The board finds that until the officer admits the elements of his criminal activity in the context of a judicial proceeding, any prior admission by that officer was entitled to less weight,” the city attorney cited from the BOW’s conclusions of law.
The BOW had also determined that Taylor violated the police department’s standard operating procedures.
Following the vote, Votaw said Taylor will have 30 days to appeal the BOW decision.
“I think there will be (an appeal),” Butler said.
About three dozen people attended the meeting. Many of them were Taylor supporters.
“I think the citizens of Lawrenceburg lost a dedicated and committed officer,” said Richard Butler, Taylor’s attorney, following his client’s attorney. “It’s unfortunate, but it’s not a surprise. It’s a political lynching.”
Butler told Eagle 99.3 following the meeting that a 42 percent pay raise which Lawrenceburg City Council awarded to Hunefeld last June – when J.R. Holdcraft had been selected by a Democrat caucus to fill the city council vacancy left by Taylor – was given because Hunefeld did not investigate the allegations made by Taylor. Mayor Carr, city councilman Bruner, and BOW member Bryant were among those Taylor accused of committing multiple felonies.
Cook was also one of those accused of wrongdoing by Taylor. Still, he voted against the longtime police captain’s termination Thursday, saying Taylor had already resigned from city council.
“Mr. Taylor has been a Lawrenceburg police officer for more than twenty years and I could not justify terminating his employment because he campaigned in his police uniform. I feel as though Mr. Taylor resigning from city council (the office that he was seeking while campaigning in uniform) was a sufficient punishment,” Cook said in an email.
When asked, Taylor referred comment to Butler. Mayor Carr was not immediately available following the vote.