Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Officer seeks re-instatement

Claims firing was done in retaliation

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COVINGTON - A veteran Covington police officer claims his firing last month was in retaliation for a civil rights complaint he made in federal court and that the city commissioners acted illegally in taking his badge.

In a complaint filed on Feb. 13, Danny L. Jackson asks for reinstatement to his former position as lieutenant, expungement of disciplinary actions from his personnel file and back pay with all benefits including retirement and medical coverage.

Jackson's attorney, R. Allen McCartney, declined to answer specific questions about the complaint on file in Kenton Circuit Court. The Louisville attorney first represented Jackson more than a decade ago when the disabled man applied for a job with Covington police. A discrimination suit in federal court was settled after Covington hired Jackson in December 1989.

Jackson, 47, has a birth defect that left his hands deformed. He has one finger on his left hand and two on his right hand.

Jackson, who had previously worked for the Jefferson County Department of Corrections in Louisville, appeared to be moving up Covington's police ranks. In February 1996 Jackson was promoted to sergeant, and in April 1999 he moved up to the rank of lieutenant where he eventually supervised 23 officers and three supervisors as watch commander.

That stopped when Tom Schonecker became chief in September 2001.

Just two months after Schonecker was promoted to chief, Jackson was passed over for promotion despite being the top scorer on the exam for captain, according to court records.

Jackson reacted by filing a federal civil rights action in U.S. District Court in Covington in June. The suit states Jackson had complained about Schonecker before he was promoted to chief.

Jackson was fired Jan. 25 by a vote of the city commissioners, before the federal civil rights case for being passed over was heard.

In appealing the termination in Kenton Circuit Court, Jackson claims Commissioner Alex Edmondson tried to pressure him into dropping the civil rights action, during a meeting at a Northern Kentucky restaurant in September. .

In the appeal, Jackson claims Edmondson told him: "You need to get past this lawsuit, and I have five votes to terminate you if you don't."

Edmondson was out of town Monday and could not be reached for comment, but City Solicitor Jay Fossett said Edmondson denies making the statement. Fossett said Jackson's account of the meeting is a "mischaracterization and inaccurate."

Mayor Butch Callery and commissioners Jerry Bamberger, Craig Bohman and Bernie Moorman voted to fire Jackson during a special hearing in January. Edmondson, an attorney by trade, abstained from voting.

Fossett has repeatedly said the firing is not connected to Jackson's federal civil rights action. Covington officials say their decision was based on the facts.

Jackson had more complaints against him than any other officer in the department of more than 100 officers. He had been suspended in 1997 after kicking a suspect in the face, and Jackson was charged with violating departmental rules of conduct 37 times since 1990.

"Lt. Danny Jackson continues to demonstrate inefficiency, misconduct, and insubordination in his performance as a police officer and as a supervisor," Schonecker wrote in an affidavit presented to commissioners late last year.

E-mail jhannah@enquirer.com

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