Grievance hearing ends with recommendations

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By Becky Barnes

By Becky Barnes, Editor
Months after nine Cynthiana police officers filed grievances with the Cynthiana City Commission against Chief Ray Johnson, the issue is settled.
The commission voted unanimously Thursday afternoon to merge a sexual harassment complaint made by the city’s only female officer, Dottie Batte, with the other grievance.
There were nine active officers with the department who signed the complaint as well as one former officer. Each of the officers testified during the hearing, which began on Jan. 27 and continued over two days.
According to the commission’s statement and findings, each of the officers testified that there was a lack of communication between members of the department and the chief.
They also cited low morale within the department, an investigation into a “Topix” posting which officers believed was not handled correctly and disciplinary action taken by the chief that officers felt was unfair and inappropriate.
The commission’s statement also acknowledged testimony citing lack of department meetings, lack of attendance at roll calls, lack of career counseling and lack of a promotional board.
Other complaints were regarding the chief receiving a new weapon with night sights and receiving under carriage lights on his cruiser.
“The grievance made reference to corruption, however, upon cross-examination, none of the witnesses were able to give specific examples and several witnesses admitted that the word ‘corruption’ may have been used loosely in the complaint,” according to the commission’s findings and order.
Several of the officers testified that communication has improved since the grievance was filed.
The assistant chief testified that the proposed resolution of the grievance would be to appoint a new chief.
However, the commission stated that there was not sufficient evidence to warrant dismissal of the chief.
“The commission cannot help but be concerned about the morale in the police department and the fact that at least nine of the current 13 officers feel that there is a substantial lack of communication within the department,” the order states.
The statement went on to say that it is the duty of the chief and assistant chief to ensure that all officers are trained and that they conduct themselves in a professional manner.
At Thursday’s meeting, the commission issued the following order:
•That the chief of police and the assistant chief work together to develop a detailed plan to improve communication and morale within the department.
•The plan will be specific and will contain a time line for implementation of each point of emphasis and recommendation.
•Both chiefs will sign off on the plan and be responsible for implementation of the plan upon approval of the safety commissioner.
•The chiefs will seek input from the sergeants and corporal, who will seek input from the officers as the plan is developed.
•The plan is to be submitted to the safety commissioner no later than March 15.
The order cited the Southern Police Institute recommendations as possibly being helpful in detailing their own plan.
In a letter to the chief and each of the officers, the commission stated, “Employees can only give what is expected of them and those expectations must be appropriately communicated.”
Louisville attorney, David Fuller, who was legal counsel for the officers through the Fraternal Order of Police, said Tuesday that he felt the commission took everything seriously.
“I think they expect changes,” Fuller said. “If they do what the report says, then that’s what the police wanted and they should be OK.”
James Thomas, Cynthiana, who represented Johnson, could not be reached before press time.