May 19, 2020 10:13:15 AM
A former investigator with Columbus Police Department has filed a federal lawsuit against the city and Ward 2 Councilman Joseph Mickens, among other council members, claiming the council fired him unjustly last year.
Reginald Adams, who the city council terminated from his position during an executive session of a council meeting on March 5, 2019, filed the suit in federal court in Aberdeen on Friday. In the complaint, he alleges Mickens and two other council members -- who are listed as "Councilmen A-D" -- violated his privacy and breached an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing by telling The Dispatch Adams would be disciplined for taking a police vehicle and driving to Moorhead while on duty and without authorization to apply for a job.
Adams also argues that because the council members talked to The Dispatch before the March 2019 meeting, they could not have been impartial when they took up the matter on March 5 and therefore violated due process. He claims too that he was fired because of his race -- Adams is African-American -- and because of his good relationship with "some councilmen" and Mayor Robert Smith, who he claims Mickens and the other two council members oppose politically.
"As a proximate consequence of the actions of Defendants, Plaintiff Adams suffered and continues to suffer lost earnings and benefits, emotional pain and suffering, professional and personal embarrassment, humiliation, loss of enjoyment of life, inconvenience, and other consequential damages," the complaint says.
In February 2019, multiple city sources told The Dispatch Adams drove a city police vehicle to Moorhead in Sunflower County -- about a two-hour, nine-minute drive from Columbus -- to apply for the town's police chief position, while on duty and without authorization. While those sources said CPD Chief Fred Shelton planned to recommend a 10-day suspension for Adams, Mickens and two other council members, who spoke to The Dispatch on the condition that their names not be printed, said the recommendation was not severe enough. Mickens was quoted in the Feb. 21, 2019 edition of The Dispatch as saying Adams would likely be terminated if the issue came to a vote.
"Adams put a stain on the city," Mickens said at the time. "He stole from the city because he took money for work he didn't do (since he was on duty at the time), on top of taking the car out of town without authorization."
The other two council members who spoke to The Dispatch are listed in the lawsuit, though the suit says Adams doesn't know their identities and that they will be added to the complaint "upon their identification in this cause."
Adams also argues termination was a harsher penalty than what the council has approved for white officers disciplined for "more serious offenses," though the suit did not identify the officers or their offenses. (Mickens is also African-American.)
Following his termination, the Civil Service Commission unanimously upheld Adams' termination.
In the lawsuit, Adams asks for a jury trial to determine damages, including back-pay, compensatory damages and damages for mental pain and mental anguish, among others.
Adams' attorney, Carlos D. Palmer of Grenada, did not return a call or email from The Dispatch by press time.
Mickens declined to comment when reached by The Dispatch on Monday.
City Attorney Jeff Turnage, emphasizing he was speaking for himself and not on behalf of the city, said he is not worried about an "adverse outcome" for the city.
"I don't normally like to comment on pending litigation, but he got all the process he was due in front of the city and in front of the civil service commission in a public hearing," Turnage said.
"It was proved quite clearly what he did led to his termination," he added.
Dispatch reporter Yue Stella Yu contributed to this report.
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