Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

October 31, 2012

Officer calls demotion political retaliation

By Joe Lewis - Staff Writer
Journal-Times

Oct. 31, 2012 —     An Olive Hill police officer alleges that his recent demotion is a blatant act of political retaliation by Mayor Danny Sparks.

    Documents obtained by the Journal-Times on Tuesday reveal that Bruce Palmer was officially reduced in rank from sergeant to police officer on Oct. 17 – a day after the first reading of an ordinance creating new pay grades for police officers.

    “I hadn’t even been informed about this by the mayor,“ Palmer said. “I just kind of caught wind of the whole thing.”

    “I don’t understand why the mayor told me that I wasn’t demoted at the Oct. 22 special meeting when they did the second reading of the ordinance, when the date on the paperwork clearly shows that I already had been.”

    Palmer indicated that he received the demotion paperwork from City Clerk Cheri James but that she was very reluctant to give it to him.

    This document indicates a “transfer” as the means for rank reduction but Palmer indicated that a transfer is only possible when moving from one department to another.

    Transfers are not performed when changing status within the same agency.

    Sparks cites the reason for rank reduction in the document as a conversation he allegedly had with Chief Bobby Hall in which Hall specified a conflict between Palmer’s role as sergeant and his duties as a FADE officer.

    Hall denies ever having such a conversation with Sparks.

    Further, an Oct. 24 letter from James Crisp, director of the FADE task force, says:

    “There is no policy that I am aware of that would prohibit an officer from holding rank at his parent agency. We currently have two detectives that hold rank of sergeant at their parent agency.”

    Palmer also was informed that he would only be receiving a 25 cents hourly raise, whereas the rest of the police officers would be receiving the $2 raise that he proposed at the Oct. 9 special meeting, raising questions of discrimination in determining his pay rate.

    Additionally, there is specific state law that applies to the demotion of police officers. KRS 95.765 states:

    “No member of the police or fire departments shall be removed from the department or reduced in grade upon

any reason except inefficiency, misconduct, insubordination or violation of law, or violation of the rules adopted for the departments.”

    Palmer told the Journal-Times that he has not been informed of any inefficiency, misconduct, insubordination, violation of law or violation of department rules that would warrant a rank reduction.

    “I was hesitant to bring this to the newspaper for fear of losing my job but I felt that the public should be made aware when the system is being circumvented and abused,” Palmer added.

    Palmer says he is exploring what options are available to him to remedy the situation.

    Joe Lewis can be reached at jlewis@journal-times.com or by telephone at 286-4201.