Federal Judge's Ruling Clears Lawrenceburg Officials In Firing Of Former Officer, Councilman

By Mike Perleberg A federal lawsuit filed against City of Lawrenceburg officials by former Lawrenceburg police officer and city councilman Doug Taylor (right) has been thrown out. Taylor was represented by attorney Richard A. Butler (left). File photo. (Lawrenceburg, Ind.) – A former Lawrenceburg police officer and city councilman’s lawsuit against the city and a number of officials has been denied by a federal court. The ruling issued Friday, June 16 by U.S. District Court Richard L. Young may bring to a conclusion a soap opera of events surrounding Doug Taylor’s ugly departure from his roles with the city. “The court finds there is no genuine issue of material fact in support of Plaintiff’s claims. Accordingly, Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED and Plaintiff’s Cross-Motion is DENIED,” Young wrote in the conclusion of the June 16 order filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. Taylor, a 22-year veteran of the Lawrenceburg Police Department, was elected to Lawrenceburg City Council in 2011. During that prior campaign season, he had appeared at a candidates event while on-duty and in uniform – an action which led Indiana State Police to file felony charges of Ghost Employment and Official Misconduct against him. Taylor served about 21 months on city council and was on paid administrative leave from the police department as the criminal case was pending. In March of 2013, Taylor signed a deferred prosecution agreement in his criminal matter that month, reducing his felony charges to misdemeanors. The agreement required him to admit that he knowingly broke the law and to resign his seat on the city council. The day after the deferred prosecution agreement was signed, Taylor distributed an 11-page letter accusing then-Mayor Dennis Carr and other city leaders of corruption and criminal activity. Taylor sent the letter to local media as well as local, state and federal law enforcement. Indeed, the letter didn’t do Taylor any favors with the Lawrenceburg Board of Works, which shortly after its distribution – and at Mayor Carr’s request – moved to terminate Taylor’s employment with the city based on his criminal case. During a wild series of hearings months later, then-Dearborn-Ohio County Prosecutor Aaron Negangard said his office would not take cases from Taylor because he admitted to crimes of dishonesty. The prosecutor said cases submitted by Taylor would be more difficult to prosecute. After initially filing an appeal of his termination in Dearborn Circuit Court, Taylor opted in July of 2014 to sue in federal court instead. He claimed his First Amendment rights to free speech were violated. He said his firing was retaliation for the March 2013 letter and his disagreements with Carr, including his unwillingness to vote in support of the mayor’s agenda. Young ruled in favor of the city and that various officials named as defendants. Throughout the ruling, the judge noted that the Board of Works' reasoning for firing Taylor was for his criminal case. “However, as noted several times in this opinion, the Board determined Plaintiff was not terminated for the exercise of his free speech rights,” wrote Young. VIEW THE FEDERAL COURT RULING HERE (PDF) Another argument by Taylor was that he was a whistleblower who should have been protected by Indiana state law from discipline for reporting violations of law and misuse of public funds. “As with his free speech claim under the Indiana Constitution, Plaintiff recasts his claim as one for wrongful discharge. Because the Board determined there was no causal connection between the March 14 letter and his termination, this claim must also fail as a matter of law,” Young determined. From its peculiar timing and juicy allegations, Taylor's 2013 letter about wrongdoing by various officials may have been a failed attempt at scoring a reward in terms of a settlement or damages paid by the city. In a federal court filing last month, an attorney for Lawrenceburg wrote that the letter was "carefully calculated" to allow him to make a First Amendment violation claim in the event that he was fired after his deferred prosecution agreement. Neither Taylor nor his attorney, Richard A. Butler of Lawrenceburg, immediately responded to a request for comment Tuesday morning. Current Lawrenceburg City Attorney Del Weldon was not a party in the 2011-2013 events, but he has been defending the city against the Taylor lawsuit in federal court since last year. He said the case is an important victory for the city, which he called a target for litigation. “Mayor (Kelly) Mollaun ran on a promise to end the flood of lawsuits that have harmed the taxpayers. Our City Council has backed that promise. We will not allow these attorneys and plaintiffs to take advantage of the City. We will fight and we will win. We will send a message that we are no longer a target for litigation, and we are not going to pay to settle baseless lawsuits,” Weldon said in a statement. A city press release also thanked former Lawrenceburg City Attorney Leslie Votaw, as well as attorneys Jeremy Dilts, Matt Clark, and Jenna Throw for their work through the Taylor cases. RELATED STORIES: UPDATE: Former L’burg Police Officer Files New Lawsuit Against City L’burg BOW Votes To Terminate Taylor Prosecutor Won’t Pursue “Vindictive” Allegations Prosecutor Fires Back At Councilman’s Allegations L’burg Councilman Accuses City Of Wrongdoing  

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