Archive for Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Dempsey will appeal

June 25, 2003

Cpl. Bill Dempsey will appeal his suspension from the Baldwin City Police Department, according to his attorney Dennis Hawver, and will go one step further and seek court action against the city for harassment.

"It seems that he was singled out," Hawver said. "The maliciousness of this action is obvious."

On June 10, Dempsey was given a "notice of disciplinary action" and suspended with pay when it was discovered during a background check that he was once convicted of a felony.

City attorney Matt Hoy said state statute prohibits a convicted felon from serving as a law enforcement officer.

Hoy said Dempsey has three weeks to file a grievance and appeal the city's action.

Attempts to reach Dempsey were unsuccessful, but Hawver said his client will appeal the suspension because he feels it is unfair.

"They obviously must have known about his conviction," Hawver said. "He was obviously singled out."

He said all of the Baldwin officers went through an initial KBI background check, which revealed nothing. According to Hawver, Dempsey was the only one to have an additional FBI background check run on him.

The recent background checks were requested by Police Chief Mike McKenna. The check showed that a then 19-year-old Dempsey was convicted of auto theft in San Diego County, Calif., in 1964. In 1973 the felony was expunged from his record.

"It's a legal non-entity," Hawver said. "It's been expunged. It was changed to not guilty according to California law."

He said Dempsey was upfront with the city when he was hired as a part-time officer in 1990.

"I have a letter from (former Baldwin Police Chief) Steve Butell saying Bill made full disclosure of the California conviction," he said.

Dempsey left the BCPD after 1992 and was rehired in 1996 as a full-time officer. Hawver said background checks were done both times he was hired.

"Bill's a very honest person," he said. "There's been full disclosure of this."

Hawver said the reason Dempsey was suspended now was because of the tensions between the officer and Mayor Ken Hayes.

"It's all part of the retaliation process in our opinion," he said. "Mr. Dempsey's extremely sad this whole thing came to the point where the mayor would become so fixated on vengeance in an attempt to ruin my client's career."

Dempsey was one of four Baldwin officers who filed a $300,000 lawsuit against the city last year for alleged civil rights violations. The officers claimed the city violated their rights during an investigation of the department after Dempsey brought alleged problems with former Baldwin officer G.H. Rhea to the attention of the city.

Shortly after the investigation, Dempsey, as well as other officers, were suspended. Reasons for the suspensions were never revealed because they were personnel matters.

Hawver said the lawsuit and complaints have led to continued harassment against Dempsey. He said the officer has been placed on the night shift and has not been conducting investigations.

"All of his responsibilities, his privileges have been taken away," he said. "I don't understand why the actions which took courage and dedication should take such punishment.

"I think the city of Baldwin is very fortunate to have someone of Bill's caliber," he said. "This guy's a really good cop."

According to Hawver, Hayes, not McKenna, is the one running the police department and making the decisions.

"The chief of police is taking his marching orders from the mayor," he said. "Many of the officers are disappointed he's allowing the mayor to run the police department."

Both Hayes and McKenna declined to comment.

If Dempsey appeals the city's action, Hayes will conduct the hearing as interim city administrator.

"We hope that he'll be fair and do the right thing, but we haven't seen much of that so far," Hawver said.

Regardless of the appeal's outcome, Hawver said his client will pursue the matter in court.

"The damage and emotional distress and hurt has already been inflicted," he said. "It will all come out before a jury."

The action, he said, will be taken against the city, but could also be taken against Hayes as a citizen, not as the mayor.

"It's a distinct possibility the mayor will be taken to task personally because he's doing this personally," he said.

McKenna has said Dempsey's absence would not affect staffing at the police department.

"We will be adequately staffed to provide 24-hour service to the city," he said. "We will not jeopardize the security of the community."

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