Policeman sues department over demotion

Sought advice on potentially altered records
May. 21, 2013 @ 11:05 PM

A longtime Sevierville police officer has filed a compliant against the department claiming he was demoted from captain to sergeant after going to the district attorney general’s office over alteration of police records.

Terry Bryan has worked for the department for 32 years, and had reached the rank of captain. He was a division commander before his demotion.

“The plaintiff became aware of a legal issue regarding potentially altered official records, so he sought out the advice of the assistant district attorney, as he had done on several occasions in the past, and as other Sevierville police officers had done in the past,” attorney Steve Marshall wrote. The complaint does not mention the name of the assistant district attorney Bryan consulted, or expand on the nature of the records.

“As a result of the meeting with the assistant district attorney, the plaintiff put his recommendations regarding the issue ... in to a written recommendation that he gave the chief of police, Donnie Myers. More than month later the chief informed the plaintiff that he was displeased with the plaintiff talking to the district attorney general’s office about the potential alteration of records because, it ‘Makes us look bad that we have problems in our evidences. Word is getting around and I don’t like it,’” Marshall wrote in the complaint.

Myers didn’t talk to Bryan after that, and didn’t respond to his recommendations, according to Bryan. Myers eventually demoted Bryan to the rank of sergeant, cutting his pay by $7,000 a year.

Bryan maintains Myers told him the reason for the cut was that he circumvented the chain of command and was insubordinate by going to the district attorney. The complaint claims Bryan’s actions were protected by the Public Employee Political Freedom Act. Bryan is asking for damages, and restoration of his rank.

In the department's response, filed in court by attorney Robert Watson, the city maintains Bryan violated policy when he met with the assistant district attorney. “The meeting as described in plaintiff’s complaint was in violation of police policies and rules. As a result of plaintiff’s admitted actions in violation of police policies he was demoted.”

Police spokesman Bob Stahlke confirmed Bryan is still employed as a sergeant. He and Myers declined to comment further on the matter, noting it’s city policy not to comment on ongoing lawsuits. Watson did not return a call to his office seeking comment.

The state law cited, the Public Employee Political Freedom Act, states “no public employee shall be prohibited from communicating with an elected public official for any job-related purpose whatsoever.”

The city’s answer, however, notes that Bryan didn’t speak to an elected official — while voters elected District Attorney General Jimmy Dunn, he hires his assistants.

Marshall, in an interview with The Mountain Press, said it appears that law hasn’t been used in any litigation before now.

He declined to comment further on the issue that Bryan had first raised, concerning altered official records.

jfarrell@themountainpress.com