Former East Ridge Police Chief J.R. Reed has sued the City of East Ridge over his 2019 termination.
The suit, filed in Hamilton County Chancery Court by attorney John Harrison, claims the city violated Reed’s constitutional rights.
According to an article in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the suit states that the City of East Ridge gives its employees “property interest” in their employment. A “property right to employment” means that an employee’s job is essentially actual property, which affords constitutional protection.
Under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution the government can’t deprive a citizen of their property without first giving them due process.
Reed was terminated as Chief of Police on March 13, 2019 by then acting City Manager Kenny Custer, for among other things violating the department’s internal control policy, mishandling investigations, and a lack of department leadership and control.
Reed appealed the termination to the city’s Personnel Review Board which provided a non-binding recommendation to the city manager. Reed’s appeal was heard over three separate meetings held in July and August of 2019.
On August 12, 2019 the review board concluded that Reed was not qualified to be police chief and recommended he be reinstated to the department as Acting Traffic Sergeant.
City Manager Chris Dorsey rejected the review board’s recommendation and upheld the termination.
According to the Times Free Press, attorney Harrison argued that Reed was never made aware of any problems with his performance as police chief and never given any form of progressive discipline before being placed on administrative leave. That, Harrison claims, is a lack of Reed’s right to due process because the city of East Ridge gives its employees “property interest” in their employment.
The lawsuit is asking for Reed to be reinstated to the East Ridge Police Department as Chief or as a sergeant in the Traffic Division. It also is asking for an unspecified amount of damages in the form of lost income.