DECATUR – Former Decatur police Chief Brad Sweeney argued Monday that his lawsuit against the city of Decatur and City Manager Tim Gleason should be allowed to proceed.
In a 21-page document filed late Monday afternoon, Sweeney's attorney Jon D. Robinson offers responses to the city and Gleason's motion to dismiss and its supplement, filed Feb. 25 and April 4. An affidavit from Sweeney is attached that denies many of the city's and Gleason's claims.
A hearing on whether to dismiss the case is to be held today.
Sweeney alleges that Gleason fired him Feb. 4 in retaliation for objecting to Gleason's personal use of a police car and driver, and for refusing to speak in support of a local motor fuel tax that Gleason wanted the council to enact.
Gleason was taken to the airport in St. Louis on May 7 after an appearance at a Greater Decatur Chamber of Commerce State of the City breakfast event so he could catch a flight on time for a personal trip.
While maintaining that the car ride was not a breach of city rules, the city's attorneys argued that Sweeney did not take action against the conduct at the time and could not do so now.
In his response, Sweeney's attorney said the former chief did object and, by informing Gleason of his concern, also brought the matter to the person who had ultimate authority over the police department.
“Sweeney was empowered, but not required, to arrest Gleason,” the response says. “Sweeney enforced the law by warning Gleason; and by making it clear that Gleason could never again be allowed personal use and benefit of a Decatur police vehicle and driver.”
Ed Flynn, one of the attorneys representing the city and Gleason, declined comment Monday, saying he had not seen the filing.
In an affidavit with the earlier filing, Gleason said former Mayor Mike McElroy told him to make arrangements for an unmarked city vehicle with driver to transport him to the St. Louis airport. McElroy died in July.
Sweeney denies he ever heard from McElroy about a police car and driver for Gleason. He said Gleason overruled his initial objections and ordered him to have the police car and driver waiting at the Decatur Civic Center that day.
In his affidavit, Sweeney said it appeared in retrospect that Gleason began to look for reasons to fire him after Sweeney opposed Gleason's use of the police vehicle.
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He also denied a statement by current Interim Police Chief Jim Getz, who drove Gleason to St. Louis. Getz said in an affidavit said Sweeney had approved and ordered him to drive Gleason, and that he did not consider the act as a violation of law, or of the department's policies.
Sweeney said he and Getz had discussed the matter, and that Getz had agreed Gleason's use of a car and driver was not proper.
“Getz has apparently changed his position, now that he reports directly to Gleason, who takes the position that he can fire the police chief at any time for any reason,” Sweeney said.
Both sides have referred to a disagreement at a Feb. 2 meeting of city staff members.
Sweeney said he opposed the local motor fuel tax during the meeting, which made Gleason become angry and order him from the room. Gleason said in his affidavit that Sweeney behaved inappropriately and disrespectfully during the meeting and was excused.
In the latest affidavit, Sweeney denies Gleason's assertion that he offered three times to resign as police chief.
After the Feb. 2 staff meeting, he said he became convinced that Gleason was planning to fire him, a concern that he said was reinforced when Gleason avoided his calls and other attempts to contact him during the day Feb. 3.
When they finally spoke around 5 p.m. that day, Sweeney said he “tried to calm Gleason” and asked if Gleason expected him to resign. In response, Gleason said they should meet the next morning.
Before the meeting, Sweeney said he did type and print a “retirement letter,” thinking that he might need to retire instead of being fired so that he could protect the pension he earned over 20 years with the department.
After he wrote the letter, Sweeney learned that he did not need to submit it in order to receive his pension at retirement age. He then decided not to do so “because I did nothing to justify being terminated.”
Sweeney said that Gleason told him during the Feb. 4 meeting that Sweeney had not communicated with him as he desired; that Sweeney was rude to a labor mediator; and that Sweeney had failed to use a heating-air conditioning vendor that Gleason preferred.
But Sweeney said he never received a “caution, warning or any other notice that questioned or criticized my work as the Decatur police chief” before the Feb. 4 meeting. He also denied that he had been insubordinate, untrustworthy or untruthful in any aspect of his work for the city.