Second Cop Sues Town Over Police Chief

     BEAUFORT, S.C. (CN) – A police officer claims in court that his town forced him to lie to cover up the police chief’s affair and other misconduct, then fired him for complying with its order.
     Bryan Norberg sued the Town of Bluffton in the Beaufort County Court of Common Pleas. The town is the only defendant.
     Norberg, a police lieutenant, worked under Police Chief David McAllister in Bluffton, he says in the complaint. He claims that after McAllister became angry with him for exposing McAllister’s affair, the town asked him to cover for the chief on peril of his job, disciplined him for “going outside the chain of command,” then fired him in May.
     “In November 2010, Chief McAllister asked plaintiff to lie about an affair McAllister was having,” the complaint states. “The requirement to lie for chief McAllister interfered with plaintiff’s job duties when plaintiff could not reach Chief McAllister regarding a work situation and had to instead contact another employee, Angel Tubbs.
     “Shortly after plaintiff had to contact Angel Tubbs to resolve a work situation, Chief McAllister became angry with plaintiff and accused plaintiff of telling Tubbs about Chief McAllister’s affair. McAllister angrily yelled at plaintiff and told him, ‘from now on, I will treat you differently and other employees will notice.’ Chief McAllister then shunned plaintiff for over three months and often told plaintiff that plaintiff had ‘betrayed his trust’ by telling the truth to Tubbs and plaintiff needed to ‘try harder’ to remedy the situation.
     “As a result of Chief McAllister’s representations and actions, plaintiff feared that lying was a condition of his job and that he would lose his job if he ever refused to lie for the chief, cover for the chief, or follow the chief’s orders, even if such orders were unethical or illegal.
     “Between December 2010 and March 2011, plaintiff noticed that Chief McAllister was allowing his girlfriend, who was the executive director of the Palmetto Animal League, to keep stray dogs in the town’s holding cells overnight. Plaintiff also became concerned that Chief McAllister was giving town property to his girlfriend for her use at the Palmetto Animal League. Plaintiff witnessed Chief McAllister and his girlfriend walking around the police department and selecting furniture to be used in her office.”
     Norberg says he believed McAllister’s actions violated state laws and could create liability for the department.
     He says he talked to the town manager and town attorney, who took no action against McAllister, who was their friend.
     Norberg claims that in April 2011 he was called into a meeting, where the town manager claimed Norberg had “misunderstood” what was going on, and warned him for “going outside the chain of command” by talking to other supervisors about McAllister.
     Norberg says the town manager asked him to sign an agreement which barred him from discussing concerns about the chief with anyone else before talking to the chief.
     He claims the agreement included false statements, and was “defendant’s answer as to what he needed to do to ‘keep his job.'”
     “Plaintiff understood from the words and actions of defendant’s town manager that a condition of his continued employment was that he remain silent regarding any knowledge of defendant’s past or current illegal practices and wrongful acts, as well as any illegal practices and wrongful acts committed by Chief McAllister in the future,” according to the complaint.
     About a week after Norberg signed the agreement, another town employee called him to complain that Chief McAllister had pushed him in anger, according to the complaint.
     Norberg says the town attorney, who was McAllister’s friend and could not be trusted, interviewed him on that incident.
     Norberg says he feared he would be disciplined or would lose his job if he did not deny having the conversation about the pushing incident.
     “Several months later, the town manager stated to the entire police department that Chief McAllister was not having an affair and that he was not going to fire the chief and stood behind the chief,” the complaint states.
     It continues: “Plaintiff later learned that the town manager denied making certain derogatory statements to the employee who was pushed by Chief McAllister. The statements had in fact been recorded, which proved that defendant’s town manager was lying and further exposed the culture of dishonesty and lying in defendant’s workplace.”
     Another police officer sued the town a year ago, claiming he had been suspended and demoted after complaining about harassment from the police chief.
     In that complaint , police Sgt. Christian Gonzalez claimed Town Manager Anthony Barrett gathered the entire police force together and read them “a poem and a story about farm animals telling the truth and gossiping” – suggesting that Gonzalez was a liar.
     When he appealed his suspension, the town manager told him, “Kiss my ass,” according to Gonzalez’s complaint.
     That complaint mentioned an April 2011 incident similar to the pushing incident in Norberg’s complaint.
     In his recent complaint, Norberg claims the town fired him in May, allegedly for lying to the town attorney during the investigation of the pushing incident.
     He says he suffered extreme stress from being required to remain silent or lie about the chief’s and other town employees’ misconduct.
     Norberg seeks back pay and damages for wrongful termination, negligent and intentional misrepresentation and emotional distress.
     He is represented by Nancy Bloodgood with the Foster Law Firm, of Daniel Island, S.C.

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