officer appeals dismissal in county court
Former Yellow Springs police officer Matt Williams last month filed a
complaint against the Village in a Greene County court, appealing the
Villages decision to fire him.
In the complaint, Williams claims that the Village violated his right
to due process under the Ohio Constitution by not providing him with a
post-termination hearing and a mechanism through which he could appeal
and challenge his dismissal.
Filed in Greene County Common Pleas Court on Jan. 30, the complaint asks
the court to reinstate Williams on the police force and award him attorneys
fees and punitive damages.
The complaint names the Village, Village Manager Rob Hillard and Police
Chief Jim Miller as defendants.
An assignment commissioner with the Common Pleas Court said that the judge
assigned to the appeal, Stephan A. Wolaver, would base his decision on
a transcript of a pre-disciplinary hearing, which was held on Dec. 6,
and briefs that both sides will file. The entire process could take at
least three months.
One of Williamss attorneys, Danyelle S.T. Coleman, said last week
that Williams is confident he will win his appeal and get his job back
once the issues are fully fleshed out.
Williamss phone number is unlisted and he could not be reached for
comment. A request was made for an interview through Coleman. Coleman
said that Williams did not respond to the request.
Hillard and Miller said that the Village is confident about the process
the Village undertook, which included an investigation and pre-disciplinary
hearing. Im confident in the actions that weve taken
up to this point and were prepared to defend our decisions,
If I were not confident in the process we used and the action that
we took then we would not have done that, Miller said.
Williams was fired last month for what Hillard called behavior that was
inconsistent with what is expected of Yellow Springs police officers.
Williams had been placed on administrative leave on Nov. 26, and a pre-disciplinary
hearing was held in December.
The hearing officer, Michael Hammond, a former municipal manager, agreed
with the conclusions of an internal police investigation, determining
that Williams lied about and filed a false report about an incident that
occurred during the early morning of Feb. 14, 2002. The investigation
and hearing also determined that Williams misused his authority when he
allegedly stopped several young women driving through Yellow Springs that
Miller, who conducted the investigation, said last month that Williams
stopped the driver, Sabrina Jones of Cedarville, without probable cause
and that the officer was not truthful about that traffic stop.
Coleman said that Williams denies the Villages allegations. Noting
that there are two sides to that story, Coleman said that
Williams disputes the claims raised by the Village as well as the
investigation commanded by the chief of police. She declined to
be more specific.
In the complaint, Williams claims that the Village is required to provide
him with an appeals process to present evidence to challenge his dismissal.
The suit argues, for instance, that Williams should have been able to
appeal the Villages decision before Village Council.
After the pre-disciplinary hearing was held in December, Hillard notified
Williams in early January that he was fired.
Williams also argues that the Village Charter is unconstitutional because
it required the Village to adopt a personnel manual, which, Coleman claimed,
has one fewer appeals process than the Charter.
Adopted in early 2001, the Village Personnel Policy Manual says that employees
who will lose their job shall receive a pre-disciplinary hearing to explain
the alleged misconduct.
The manual superceded a provision in the Charter that outlines an employees
right to appeal dismissal. Under the Charters provision, an employee
could appeal to Council, which would then appoint a three-person board
to consider the appeal.
In his complaint, Williams argues that the Charters appeal process
is still in effect because the Personnel Policy Manual does not include
appellate rights with respect to discipline and or discharge.
The Personnel Policy Manual does not contain a corollary appeals process
so it infringes on his rights to get his fair day in court,
Coleman said of Williams.
Janet Cooper, the Villages labor attorney who is handling the case,
would not comment, saying, We dont litigate cases in the press.
In a letter to Williamss attorney, Cooper said that the pre-disciplinary
hearing represented an appeal of Millers recommendation to dismiss
Coleman and the suit also objected to aspects of the pre-disciplinary
hearing, explaining that Williams was not given the opportunity to cross-examine
some witnesses, who were not present for the hearing, and that the Village
presented evidence that included unsworn witness statements and the results
of lie detector tests. Coleman said that the tests are viewed with
suspicion by many courts of law.
During his investigation, Miller had both Jones and Williams take a lie
detector test, or a voice stress analysis. According to Detective Alonzo
Wilson of the Xenia Police Division, who conducted the tests, the test
showed Williams was deceptive.
During an interview Monday, Hillard said several times that the Villages
process was thorough and that the Village would respond to Williamss
claims through the court process.