Former Candidate: Mayor Targeted Council Members

By Mike Perleberg

 

file photo

(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) - The termination hearing for former Lawrenceburg Police Captain Doug Taylor continued Tuesday, with strong accusations made against Lawrenceburg Mayor Dennis Carr.

 

Taylor is trying to keep his 22 year career as a police officer in Lawrenceburg. The city Board of Works held the continuation of Taylor’s termination hearing at Lawrenceburg City Hall. Taylor has maintained that he is being treated unfairly as Chief of Police Gene Hunefeld seeks to fire him for showing up to a 2011 campaign event in police uniform.

 

Taylor was criminally charged for the April 2011 campaign appearance while he was on duty. The former policeman and city councilman is currently entered into a deferred prosecution agreement which could reduce felony charges down to misdemeanors.

 

The first public BOW hearing on August 28 included testimony from Dearborn-Ohio County Prosecutor Aaron Negangard and Gene Hunefeld over more than four hours. Tuesday’s continuance of the hearing allowed Taylor to call his witnesses.

 

Taylor called former Lawrenceburg mayoral candidate Tim Denning – who lost to Dennis Carr in the May 2011 mayoral primary – as a witness Tuesday. Denning, under oath, alleged that Mayor Carr was seeking to break up three city council members: Taylor, Mike Lawrence, and Jane Pope.

 

“The mayor stated that he felt he couldn’t get anything accomplished because council was split, they were a divided group, and three members of council were working against him,” Denning told the board.

 

Taylor’s attorney, Richard Butler, asked Denning if Carr had told him he wanted “to get rid of” the three council members through criminal prosecution.

 

“Yes,” Denning replied.

 

Denning alleged that Carr asked him directly on three occasions for help in getting Pope off of council by getting information from her former supervisor at the Lawrenceburg Community Center. In exchange, Denning alleged, the mayor would support a restaurant he was planning to open in an old city firehouse on Short Street.

 

“I was told by the mayor that he would support me as much as possible,” Denning testified. “I want to make something perfectly clear: I did not provide the information he requested. I stated I did not want to get involved with that.”

 

That is when the mayor’s support turned to opposition, Denning alleged.

 

“The mayor killed the (restaurant) project,” Denning said.

 

Carr, who spoke very little at the hearing, did not respond to the allegations. He declined to comment again Wednesday.

 

In the August 28 meeting, Butler had alleged that the mayor was willing to reward those who helped with removing Taylor. City Council approved for Hunefeld, the Chief of Police, a raise of $90,000, or 42 percent, once Taylor was replaced on city council by J.R. Holdcraft. Holdcraft - a former councilman who had twice been defeated by voters in the 2011 primary and general elections - was appointed to fill out the remainder of Taylor’s term in an April 2013 Democrat caucus.

 

Taylor also testified in his own defense Tuesday. He did not deny showing up at the 2011 campaign event at Three Mile Ridge condominiums in his police uniform and while on duty, saying he made a mistake.

 

“I wasn’t thinking,” Taylor said. “It’s been blown so far out of proportion it is unreal.”

 

“The last two years I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy,” he later added.

 

Taylor testified that he didn’t think much of his appearance at the candidate event until it was brought up with Hunefeld and a city councilman following a council meeting the next day. He admitted to it then, but Hunefeld approved Taylor’s pay for that time the next payday.

 

The former officer said he is being treated unfairly – the seeking of his firing – for blowing the whistle on alleged illegal activity by city officials in a March 14, 2013 public letter to Prosecutor Negangard.

 

When Butler asked for an example, Taylor said that other Lawrenceburg Police officers have been paid for time attending personal obligations. Assistant Chief of Police Mike Lanning, he alleged, had been on duty while coaching youth football in Aurora.

 

Attorney Jeremy Dilts, representing the Lawrenceburg Police Department, repeatedly inquired about the timing of the letter, dated the day after Taylor and a special prosecutor agreed to the deferred prosecution agreement which required his resignation from city council. Dilts expressed confusion over Taylor’s answers. Taylor eventually stated that it was coincidence.

 

Dilts grilled Taylor over whether the letter – which he was the only person to sign – was written by him alone. Taylor said other were involved, but did not give clear answers.

 

“(I wrote) most of it,” Taylor responded to a question from city attorney Leslie Votaw.

 

Former city council candidate Paul Seymour, Jr. also testified briefly. He said that Carr had on one occasion told him that Doug Taylor “would be gone.”

 

BOW member and city councilman Aaron Cook asked Taylor for a public apology for the accusations of criminal conduct made against him in the March 14 letter. Cook said that he always wanted the termination hearing to be public.

 

Bill Bill Bruner, another BOW member and councilman, rebutted media reports that he always voted against Taylor when he was on council.

 

No action on Taylor’s employment was taken Tuesday. Another BOW hearing is set for Friday, September 20, said Votaw. A pronouncement of findings and conclusion could be announced on September 26, the day after an executive session for the board to consider the evidence.

 

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