Judge sheds light on city officials’ handling of case

Published 8:10 am Wednesday, December 1, 2010

by Ronnie McClenny

The cliches “reading between the lines” and “the handwriting on the wall” came to mind recently when I went before Judge Theodore Burr Jr. in civil court to bring forth information that has been hidden from me and, more important, from the citizens of Franklin and the City Council.

Judge Burr used terms such as being “troubled by the way the city handled this matter,” “not everything is being told here” and “someone over there has an ego issue.”

Judge Burr was a substitute judge brought in to hear the case after the judges in this circuit excluded themselves from the proceeding. This was a judge in a neutral position without any biases, but soon after the testimony began, Judge Burr realized that someone was trying to hide something.

Judge Burr didn’t find judgment in my favor, but he explained his findings in detail, and I certainly appreciated the time he spent giving me his opinion.

The real victory was having a judge with the clear conclusion that a civil servant with more than 30 years of service to the community had been mistreated by the city that he served. The judge handed me the records showing who purchased my service weapon — over the objections of City Attorney Taylor Williams and his motion to quash the “subpoena of ducus tecum.”

This document revealed that Chief Phil Hardison personally purchased my service weapon from Town Police Supply in Collinsville on Feb. 16.

A letter from Mr. Williams assured me that the city didn’t incur any cost from this “personal pleasure” trip to Collinsville. My first question: Why is the chief conducting city business on personal time? Feb. 16 fell on a Tuesday in the middle of the week.

The chief told The Tidewater News that he purchased my service weapon because he felt an obligation to lawfully and permanently secure that weapon in the interest of public safety.

The community should ask the chief: If you are so concerned for public safety, why would you trade in 20 weapons that could be sold to the general public? Why would you buy two other pistols and a shotgun? Are you denying someone else their weapon also?

City policy states that the chief has the authority to trade in weapons and allow the officer who carried the weapon to purchase it at the trade-in value. The policy says nothing about buying a gun that someone else carried. This is, in my opinion, unethical.

Some members of the city’s administration made every effort to conceal the information I obtained through the subpoena of ducus tecum from Town Police Supply. In my opinion, and in the opinion of a lot of others in the community, this has the characteristics of a conspiracy.

The question that I am continually asked is, Why do you want that gun and identification card? They are symbols of my call of duty, representing my life as a police officer and my reputation. Not having the card hinders my chances of continuing my career as a law enforcement officer in another community or agency. I’m not saying I even have a desire to go anywhere else, but I would like to have that option.

Chief Hardison has taken these items from me behind the “color of law.” City officials have sanctioned this behavior for more than a year without any documentation to sustain the allegations the chief has made about me.

My constitutional rights under the 14th Amendment, which secures my right to due process, have been violated. I have been constantly told by the city administration that the investigation came to a stop upon my departure from the police department, but no conclusion could have been reached due to the fact that I was never advised of an ongoing investigation, nor have I been told what the violations were to give my side of the story.

So how could the chief deprive me of my rights and benefits afforded me by state statute and city ordinance?

One of my next steps will be to contact the assistant attorney general to file a formal complaint. The chief keeps hiding behind this Privacy Act clause and refusing to reveal what I was being investigated for.

I say to City Council and the community that I have nothing to hide, and you have my permission to look at anything out there that pertains to me. A month ago, negotiations were in play to resolve this issue and bring it to rest, but certain members of the council are so narcissistic that their pride wouldn’t let them say that a mistake had been made; it took a judge from the outside looking in to see a city with a lot of problems.

So as I promised in the beginning, this issue will not be dropped.

RONALD E. “RONNIE” McCLENNY is a former Franklin police sergeant. His e-mail address is rmcclennyfpd10@yahoo.com.