Missouri Cop Blows Whistle on City

ST. LOUIS (CN) – A St. Louis suburb fired a policeman and charged him with bogus crimes for trying to unionize and blowing the whistle on the chief’s corruption, he claims in court.
     Chad Brown sued the City of Cottleville, former Police Chief Scott Lewis and fellow police Officer Brett Mitchell on May 15 in Federal Court.
     Lewis is now the sheriff of St. Charles County sheriff, where Cottleville is.
     Brown’s attorney, Brandy B. Barth, told Courthouse News the troubles started when Brown and other officers decided to pursue representation due to issues they had with Lewis’ leadership.
     The officers wanted to join Local 42 (union unspecified) and “abandoned the Cottleville Police Association,” according to the complaint.
     Brown claims in the lawsuit that Lewis forced police officers to work in his bar, the Palisades Yacht Club, while on the clock.
     “They were flexing time out,” Barth said in an interview. “If the officer worked five hours at the bar, he wouldn’t have to work the five hours for the city.”
     Brown also claims in the lawsuit that officers were not paid for overtime, that a supervisor misappropriated $3,000 in K-9 money, and that officers were required to campaign against city candidates in elections.
     Barth said a secret meeting was held in February 2013 under the guise of discussing the budget.
     “They talked about the budget for the first 10 minutes,” Barth said in an interview. “The next 40 or 50 minutes were about how not to get the mayor re-elected.”
     According to the complaint, Chief Lewis found out that the meeting was secretly recorded. He then requested $1,200 in city money for polygraph tests of the officers.
     Lewis chose three officers, all of whom had joined Local 42, including Brown, to take the polygraph, the lawsuit states. When Brown appeared for his test, he told the examiner that he had an attorney. Brown says the examiner told him he would talk to Chief Lewis and reschedule the test.
     The next day, May 17, 2013, Chief Lewis fired him, Brown says. He claims that the chief said it was without cause.
     Barth told Courthouse News that some 12 hours later, Lewis presented Brown with a letter claiming he was fired for violating city policies. Barth said the letter was vague, and that she believes Brown was fired for not taking the polygraph.
     In June 2013, the St. Charles County Prosecutor charged Brown with four misdemeanor counts relating to improper use of city gas cards. Brown claims the bogus charges stemmed from Lewis and defendant police Officer Brett Mitchell retaliating for his union and whistle-blowing activities.
     Barth said the prosecution’s case centered on Brown’s using city gas cards for his personal vehicle. But she said the defendants knew Brown was using his personal car on city business, because his take-home vehicle was broken.
     Brown claims the jury found him not guilty after 15 minutes of deliberation.
     “The jurors were just flabbergasted,” said Barth, who defended Brown against the charges.
     “The verdict came back so fast that the clerk said she barely had time to get to her office. I don’t know how they even had time to elect a foreman.”
     Brown says in the lawsuit that jurors stayed after the verdict to shake his hand. He says many thanked him for his service and said they hoped he would return to law enforcement.
     Attempts to reach Cottleville officials were not successful.
     Brown seeks punitive damages for constitutional violations, malicious prosecution and wrongful termination.
     Cottleville, pop. 3,672, is an affluent suburb in St. Charles County. Its estimated median household income was $90,700 in 2012, more than twice the state’s average of $45,300, according to city-data.com.
     The community, 30 miles west of St. Louis, is 92 percent white.

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