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Fired dispatcher's file grows
Mar 11, 2005 12:00 am
The personnel file of a fired Mt. Juliet police dispatcher who sued over his dismissal has more than tripled in size since he was terminated with several complaints and reprimands apparently added to his record.
As former dispatcher William Guthoerl alleged in his lawsuit against city officials, new documents which cast him in an unflattering light have apparently been added to his personnel file since his early December firing.
In the lawsuit, filed on his behalf by Nashville attorney Nathan Moore, Guthoerl maintained he was fired for cooperating with an investigation into a controversial out-of-state arrest warrant which was never served on a high-ranking city official's friend. The probe, conducted by the district attorney's office, found no wrongdoing in the incident, in which a man claiming friendship with City Manager Rob Shearer was allowed to surrender to Wyoming authorities rather than be arrested by Mt. Juliet officers on charges of practicing dentistry without a license.
At the time of Guthoerl's firing Dec. 1, 2004, his personnel file consisted of 21 pages – including his application for employment and a termination letter from the city – when it was examined by The Lebanon Democrat.
However, when the newspaper requested the personnel file a second time last week it had grown to 67 pages and included complaints against Guthoerl from other officers which were not included in the original file.
Ironically, one of the complaints apparently added to his file centered around an out-of-state arrest warrant against a Mt. Juliet man wanted on bigamy charges. The complaint, signed by Detective Gwin King, said Guthoerl sent other officers to make the arrest even though the "fax cover sheet clearly indicated" the warrant was intended specifically for him to serve.
"This warrant was of such a nature that it could have been extremely dangerous to execute, or this warrant could simply have been used for investigative purposes causing serious vicarious liability," King wrote in the complaint.
Another new addition to the file was a written reprimand from systems manager Carrie Paris accompanied by several supporting documents accusing Guthoerl of failing to properly log entries into the police department's computers. One of the most detailed complaints was a memo dated Nov. 18, 2004 – less than two weeks before Guthoerl's firing – and came from an MJPD detective.
The memo from Detective David Stolinksy to Assistant Police Chief Ted Floyd said of Guthoerl, "In the past several weeks I have seen a downfall in his attitude and work ethic," then went on to complain of the dispatcher's alleged "insubordination" to two superiors as well as his alleged failure to properly "run items for active cases" through the MJPD computer system.
Stolinksy also heavily questioned Guthoerl's off-duty employment as a security officer, saying the job created "continuous situations some of which I feel border on the verge of criminal (impersonation of a police officer)."
"The information that I have received is that he is out in public wearing a blue uniform similar to that of a police officer, possibly wearing his Mt. Juliet Police Department badge or a cloth badge, gun belt and a traffic vest, which has bold wording on it. These items, along with his personal Ford Crown Victoria with flashing blue lights gives the impression that he is acting as a police officer," Stolinksy wrote in the memo.
Though Mt. Juliet Police Chief Kenny Martin has declined comment on the former dispatcher's dismissal, Shearer on Monday said "a number of items which were actively being reviewed" at the time of the firing have since been added to the personnel file.
"They were under review by the police department supervisors who had to verify and sign off on them, then they had to be sent on over here to the administrative side," Shearer said, adding it is not uncommon for such paperwork to take "four or five business days, sometimes a week or more" to make it into an employee's file.
However, one complaint found in Guthoerl's updated file not contained in the original personnel file was an allegation of rudeness to a telephone caller from two officers dated more than one year ago – on March 25, 2004.
In the complaint the two officers said Guthoerl told them the caller had asked for driving directions and he refused, saying "he didn't give people directions Wednesday through Sunday."
"We told (Guthoerl) that all police departments give directions, and he needed to do the same. He then told us he wasn't MapQuest," said the complaint, signed by former MJPD officer and now-Watertown Police Chief Seth Norris and Cpl. Chris Cunningham, whose questions about the Wyoming warrant prompted the DA's office probe.
Another new detailed complaint seemingly added to the personnel file is unsigned and undated, typed on MJPD letterhead bearing Martin's name and title.
Though it is unclear if the police chief wrote the document, it outlines several alleged infractions of duty – including an uncooperative encounter with a sheriff's department detective and rudeness to a citizen seeking information on handgun permits – by Guthoerl, and then concludes with the comment that "he does things like this daily."
"It is obvious that he (Guthoerl) is being deliberately obtuse both in his dealings with the public and law enforcement personnel so that he will only have to do the barest minimum of the work he is paid to do," the document concluded.
An attempt to contact Moore for comment on his client's personnel records was unsuccessful Monday.
In his lawsuit against the city, the fired dispatcher maintains his termination was unlawful and his civil rights were violated "because (he) refused to remain silent about possible criminal activities and because (he) communicated with an elected public official regarding those possible criminal activities."
Guthoerl, Cunningham and others questioned whether Shearer's friendship with the man sought by Wyoming authorities allowed him to avoid arrest and surrender instead, though officials strongly maintained no preferential treatment was shown in the case.
Though no criminal wrongdoing was pinpointed as a result of the ensuing investigation, at the time it was completed District Attorney General Tommy Thompson said he felt it resulted from "miscommunication" and expressed confidence the MJPD's performance would improve with the election of new Mayor Linda Elam.
Senior Staff Writer Brooks Franklin can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 14 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.