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Former police lieutenant sues city

Published 9:10pm Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A former Suffolk police lieutenant has sued the city to get her job back after the city allegedly ignored a grievance panel’s finding and the human resources director allegedly ordered the panel to change its finding.

In the lawsuit filed May 13, Katrina Everett is asking for a declaratory judgment that will allow her to return to her former job.

According to the grievance panel’s finding filed with the lawsuit, two of the three members of the panel found she allegedly assumed a supervisory role in an incident after having consumed alcohol and later gave misleading information about the incident. All three found she allegedly “inappropriately involved herself in the conduct of an investigation” and attempted to make an agreement with subordinate officers that they would not disclose an action she had taken, according to the finding.

The panel initially found Everett should be reinstated. As punishment, she would not have received nearly a year’s worth of back pay and would have been demoted to the rank of sergeant, according to the finding.

However, the chairman of the grievance panel, Oscar Blayton, later received a letter from Nancy Olivo, director of the city’s Human Resources Department. Olivo, the filing states, wrote that the panel had not conformed to law and had exceeded the scope of its authority.

The lawsuit, in which Olivo is also named as a defendant, claims Olivo “ordered” an amended verdict.

Blayton subsequently changed his vote for the amended finding, meaning Everett’s termination was upheld.

Retired Suffolk Police Sgt. Stephen Smith, whom Everett had selected for the panel, said in a document filed with the lawsuit that Blayton had attempted to persuade him to change his vote, but he refused.

The third member of the panel, selected by the city, was Deputy Fire Chief Brian Spicer.

Grievance panels are composed of two impartial city employees — one chosen by the city manager and one by the grievant — and an administrative hearing officer appointed by the executive secretary of the state Supreme Court.

The city has filed a motion to dismiss, claiming the Suffolk Circuit Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, that the lawsuit did not meet time requirements and that the defendant has “no right to judicial review” on the charges.

In a response, the plaintiff’s lawyer wrote that there is no time bar on the lawsuit. It also states Suffolk city code lists dishonesty only as grounds for discipline, “not necessarily only termination.”

“There is no zero tolerance policy for the alleged offenses which caused the initial termination,” the motion stated.

This isn’t the first time the city has faced a lawsuit after an employee was dissatisfied with the grievance process.

In 2010, four firefighters filed suit to challenge the city ordinance that applies to the grievance procedure after they were terminated. The lawsuit was later dropped by the plaintiffs.

Everett’s attorney, Mike Imprevento, also represented those plaintiffs.

“Suffolk refuses to give any deference or finality to the panel’s decision and has a long history of this behavior with other such proceedings,” he wrote in the Everett suit.

City Chief of Staff Debbie George said the city does not comment on pending litigation.

No initial court date has been set.

  • Lovebug

    Sadly I have to say the panel not allowing her to return were correct. I have known LT Everett for years and although she’s a good person she has a serious drinking problem and alcohol mixed with the job of a police officer don’t dance well together even off duty. Time to spend some time taking focus on the drinking issue after all that’s a big player in the loss of the job in the first place.

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  • Roger Leonard

    With a rouge city manager, do you really expect any other outcome? the Lieutenant was run over by the City Manager’s “machine of conformity”. But we can take solis, that the decision was made by such a highly paid person…

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  • concernedcitizen

    “Grievance panels are composed of two impartial city employees,” that’s laughable. Anyone chosen by the City Manager had better vote her way or risk the repurcussions! That’s hardly impartial. The whole process is skewed to intimidate the employee and favor the City. But it doesn’t really matter, because if things don’t go the City’s way, they just ignore the decision and do what they want anyway. As evidenced by this case and many others, the panel has absolutely no power to compel City management to do anything, so the whole process is a waste of time, energy and effort. It is simply a facade for City management to pretend to offer a fair way for its employees to rectify injustices. However, City management has no intention of doing so. What a farce!

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    • Factfinder

      This is not the first time the city disregarded a panel’s recommendation. It happens more times than the public knows. I would imagine the News Herald could FOIA recommendations vs final results, without naming names. I am aware of several such incidents in the past and it started long before this City Manager took over. The real question is why have a grievance procedure at all if the City Manager can override the ruling. Just call it what it is, a dictatorship, and be done with it. City employees are lulled into believing their employment rights are protected when in fact they are not. I do know the lieutenant in this case but not enough about it to comment on whether or not termination was appropriate. But I do know that the grievance procedure is a joke. I know of cops who lied during Internal Affairs investigations who continued working. Of course, they did not grieve that punishment so the City Manager was never aware that someone who testifies in court under oath is a liar.

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