The Frankfort Police detective found at fault by an independent review for his interactions with a female informant and his actions during the 2015 homicide investigation she was later a suspect in, will be put on an unpaid six-month suspension.
The Frankfort City Commission voted 4-1 Monday after closed-session discussion to accept a settlement agreement with Det. Bobby Courtney. Commissioner Lynn Bowers voted against accepting the agreement.
The disciplinary action comes two weeks after the presentation made by the firm Legal Liability and Risk Management Institute (LLRMI), which conducted an independent review of the Frankfort Police Department. Allegations of sexual misconduct and withholding evidence surfaced against Courtney last year in a murder case involving Meisha Nichols, who FPD was considering using as a police informant. Nichols killed another police informant, Thomas Ellison, in 2015.
Nichols’ case was ultimately not taken to trial and she was sentenced to 10 years for reckless homicide and tampering with physical evidence.
The review determined that “a lot of the blame, a lot of the fault falls to the poor decision that was made by Det. Courtney” when he asked Nichols to send him photos through a Facebook message, said Steve Campbell, LLRMI director of policies and procedures, who presented the review to the city commissioners on March 27. Nichols sent nude photos to Courtney after sending him a text message of a Playboy GIF and he sent her a message from his personal computer that said “cpl.” Campbell said that message “was code to her. Send me a couple of photos.”
Following the LLRMI presentation, Director James Alsup said he could not make a personnel recommendation regarding Courtney when asked by a city commissioner.
Courtney’s father, also named Robert Courtney, was present for the meeting but did not wish to comment. Courtney’s attorney Thomas Clay did not return a request for comment by press time.
Police Chief Jeff Abrams and City Solicitor Rob Moore also declined to comment following the vote. Moore provided the terms of the agreement resolving the city’s disciplinary matter with Courtney to The State Journal.
According to the terms, Courtney will serve a six-month, unpaid suspension, beginning April 3 and will be a patrol officer when the suspension ends. Mayor Bill May said that means Courtney will no longer be a detective in the criminal investigations division of the department.
Other terms were related to Courtney’s benefits during and after his suspension. Courtney will remain on the city’s health insurance plan, but he will have to pay for the benefits during his suspension and he will not accrue any paid leave during that time. Courtney will also no longer receive senior patrol inspection pay.
Moore said Courtney agreed in the terms that the evidence showed that he was in violation of some of the department’s policies and procedures. The policies listed in the agreement included sections of the code of conduct related to insubordination and conformance to the rules of conduct and performance; sections of the disciplinary causes and procedures policy related to informants, associates and employee responsibilities; and sections of personnel policies and procedures related to insubordination, unsatisfactory job performance and failure to use proper precautions of personal safety or the safety of others.
Courtney also agreed not to request a hearing with the city.
May said after the meeting that letters of support from prosecutors and public defenders were important to his vote against terminating Courtney’s employment.
“All personnel matters are taken seriously and the action that the commission took tonight is the most severe action short of termination,” he said. “I thought it was really helpful to hear and receive letters of support to Officer Courtney and those letters included letters from the public defender’s office, the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office and (an attorney in the) Franklin County Attorney’s office. And that weighed heavily on my decision to vote the way I did.”
Bowers was the only commissioner who voted against the settlement agreement.
“I just felt we needed to address the issue in a more comprehensive way,” she said after the meeting.
The city hired the firm to conduct a review, a suggestion Abrams made after Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd rebuked the department for the handling of the Nichols case. Under a $35,000 contract, the firm reviewed the Nichols case and the department’s policies and procedures.
Campbell gave the department a good or great marks on most of its policies. Some areas where recommendations would have been needed — such as the duty to disclose exculpatory evidence — were corrected by the time the firm conducted the review, he said.