(CN) – The president of the police union says the mayor of East Cleveland plans to fire him on trumped-up charges of “pandering obscenity” – because police officers circulated photos of the mayor dressed in women’s lingerie before a recent primary election, which Mayor Eric Brewer lost by a wide margin.
Police union president Scott Gardner says the photos started circulating in September, during Brewer’s primary election battle with City Council President Gary Norton.
“In many of the pictures Brewer was wearing lingerie of a type normally worn only by women,” according to the complaint in Cuyahoga County Court. “These pictures included many of Mayor Brewer posing in ways that are considered sexually provocative when a woman is so posed.”
Brewer refused to admit or deny that it was him in the photos, and accused Norton and the police union of having sent the pictures to the press, Gardner says in his complaint.
Gardner says Brewer told reporters the union was “out to get him” because as mayor he had “single-handedly” tried to end police corruption.
Five days before the election, Brewer issued an order formally accusing department members of “pandering obscenity” by distributing the photos, according to the complaint.
Brewer allegedly threatened to fire police mangers who refused to discipline cops who had circulated the pictures. Brewer demanded that certain officers prepare written statements about when they had seen the pictures, where they had got them, and what they had done with them, the lawsuit states.
Gardner says he wrote a press release refuting Brewer’s “unfounded allegations” of police corruption and denying that the union had any part in releasing the pictures.
On Sept. 29, Brewer lost the Democratic primary by a 2-to-1 margin. Brewer told the press he lost because Gardner and the police department had circulated the photos, according to the complaint.
One week later, Gardner says, Brewer charged him with three counts of insubordination for issuing his press release without Brewer’s permission, two counts of “untruthfulness” for saying Brewer was the person in the pictures, and for denying that Brewer had “single-handedly ended corruption in the police department.”
But that night, Gardner says, Brewer appeared on “Inside Edition,” and acknowledged that he was the person in the photos.
Nonetheless, Gardner says, Brewer ordered him to appear at a disciplinary hearing, where he plans to fire him for issuing the press release.
Gardner says Brewer is trampling his right to free speech. He claims the mayor’s intent to discipline him has a “chilling effect on the free speech rights” of union members.
Gardner sued Brewer, East Cleveland Law Director Almeta Johnston and the city’s director of human resources Frances Paster, demanding a preliminary injunction.
Gardner is represented by Michael Piotrowski of Akron.