Lawsuit against Russellville dismissed
Melissa Cason, Franklin County Times
A Franklin County Circuit Judge signed the order to dismiss the lawsuit filed by two Russellville Police Officers against the city in October.
Judge Terry Dempsey ruled Tuesday that the suit was without merit on several points and approved the defendant's motion to dismiss, according to the order.
The suit, filed Oct. 24, 2006 by Officers Johnnie D. McMicken and Robert Pace, alleged that the Civil Service Board did not follow proper the law when hiring Chris Hargett to fill the city's chief of police position three years ago.
The City of Russellville, the defendant in the case, filed a motion to dismiss Nov. 27, 2006 and supplied the court with a brief for the motion to dismiss March 22, 2007, while the plaintiff's filed a brief of opposition as to why the motion to dismiss April 17. The Circuit Court heard oral arguments from both sides last week, according to the order.
"We feel like the judge fairly and appropriately applied the law," Jeff Bowling, city attorney, said.
The suit against the city said that the Civil Service Board should have given the City Council two lists: one including three names of candidates from inside the department, and one including the names of candidates from outside the department. However, Rule VII of Section 7 in the Civil Service Board Rules states that the names of three people should be submitted to the council.
"The Plaintiffs have presented no evidence to refute this fact…Therefore, this argument by the Plaintiffs is without merit," the order stated.
The Plaintiffs also alleged that Arthur Elliott, who served on the civil service board and the city council, voted as a civil service board member and as a councilman, and therefore his vote should be voided.
Judge Dempsey found that this allegation was also without merit because no law was found by the court that would disqualify Elliott from voting on the Chief position as a council member.
"If Councilman Elliott was disqualified, then the vote would still be four to zero [instead of five to zero and the outcome would not have changed]," the order stated.
The plaintiffs contended in the original suit that the mayor not the council should select the police chief based on the case, City of Russellville v. Donnie McGuire, decided by the Franklin County Circuit Court agreed that the mayor should select the police chief.
However, Judge Dempsey ruled that the city council could select the police chief under local ordinances.
After the original suit was filed, the plaintiffs amended their complaint to include the argument that civil service board members did not take a sworn oath. The court ruled that the board acted lawfully even if they did not take an oath.
"The Appellate Courts have held that officials are acting de facto if they do not take the oath of office," Dempsey said in his order.
Dempsey found that all points made by the plaintiffs were without merit, and the case was dismissed.