Crime

Ex-Junction City police chief says firing was illegal

Former Junction City Police Chief Jimmy Gipson alleges in a lawsuit filed last week that he was fired after he set events in motion to have Mayor Jim Douglas tested for alcohol use.

The breath test found a blood-alcohol content below the legal limit, the suit says

The written reasons for Gipson's Dec. 29 termination were insubordination and "continual disregard for city policies," according to a Dec. 30 letter Douglas wrote to Gipson. The letter was included in the file with the complaint filed Thursday in Boyle Circuit Court.

A woman who answered the phone at Junction City Hall on Monday said the city's attorney has advised the mayor not to comment about the suit. Brad Guthrie, attorney for Junction City, could not be reached for comment.

Gipson, who also was fire chief for the city of 2,200 residents south of Danville, alleges in the suit that he was working in the city's firehouse Dec. 29 when Douglas arrived "and was yelling into the firehouse and was being belligerent."

The suit says that when Gipson approached Douglas, Gipson could "smell an odor of alcohol on the mayor." Douglas was driving a city vehicle at the time, the complaint says.

Gipson called the Boyle County Sheriff's Office, which in turn contacted Kentucky State Police. A trooper arrived and performed a portable Breathalyzer test on Douglas, the suit says. His blood-alcohol content was 0.04, the suit says. The legal limit is 0.08.

Immediately after the test, Gipson was called into the mayor's office. The city clerk asked that Gipson sign a resignation letter and turn in his equipment, but Gipson refused to sign the letter.

The mayor arrived at the city clerk's office and terminated Gipson, the suit says.

Gipson said his "contacting of law enforcement when detecting alcohol on a person driving is his duty and responsibility" according to state law and city ordinance, the suit says. Furthermore, Gipson said his acts are protected under Kentucky's Whistleblower Act, which protects public employees who expose wrongdoing.

Gipson's attorney, Bill Erwin, said Douglas fired Gipson "for doing his job."

"A man was being belligerent and he (Gipson) smelled alcohol on him. He's got a duty to check that out," Erwin said. "And the mayor got very angry that the police had been called."

By allegedly violating that law, Douglas should be charged with a misdemeanor, the suit says.

"Due to the unlawful termination," the suit says, "Mr. Gipson should be reinstated as the police chief, with back wages, full reinstatement of fringe benefits and seniority rights as well as punitive damages and attorneys' fees."

Gipson, who had been police chief for 10 years, alleges he was "terminated by the mayor" because "the mayor just did not like him."

Gipson also alleges he was denied due process and should have been given notice of a hearing.

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