East Ridge Police officer Adam Rose appealed his November termination before the city’s Personnel Review Board, Monday morning at City Hall.
Rose, 29, and a two-year veteran of the force, was fired by Acting City Manager Kenny Custer on grounds of “moral turpitude.” Rose, who admitted to internal affairs investigators that he had a sexual relationship with an 18-year-old high school student, told the board that he broke no laws and violated no department policies by his actions. Investigators with the police department concluded the same and forwarded the findings to Chief J.R. Reed.
The ultimate decision on the firing was in the hands of the acting city manager. In a termination letter dated November 21, Custer wrote that he was firing Rose because Rose’s “conduct is contrary to the community standards of honesty, justice and/or good moral values particularly in light that you are a sworn police officer of East Ridge …”
Custer’s letter went on to say that he identified “a pattern of troubling behavior by (Rose), namely promiscuous and embarrassing sexual behavior, inappropriate use of an authoritative position, lack of appropriate judgement, and obstruction of evidence.”
Rose’s attorneys, Terri Daugherty and Jim Exum, wanted it placed into the record that the Personnel Review Board, which was reconstituted in a special called City Council meeting on October 30, was not legitimate. They contended the panel was specially selected and potentially biased. Exum said that according to City Code, the term of the East Ridge’s Personnel Review Board ran through February 2019. The board had never met since its inception in 2010.
Rose’s attorneys pursued a line of inquiry among those testifying before the board that Custer’s termination was retaliation for Rose blowing the whistle on the city not providing the ERPD’s SWAT team with adequate gear, including outdated body armor.
Last summer East Ridge police officers went public with the SWAT team having inadequate gear. The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported the story, which according to Lt. Daniel Stephenson, who was called by Rose’s defense team to testify, infuriated ERPD administrators.
Rose told the review board _ Charles McCullough, Robert Jones, Doris Rogers, Jackie Berry and Colleen Lieberum – that he met the high school girl at an extra-duty job he had as a security officer at Food City. He never had any kind of romantic relationship with the girl until after she turned 18 years old. Rose, an officer with the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, said that on advice of IBPO representatives, he deleted his Facebook page – which included some interaction with the girl – at the time the internal affairs investigation began.
Litchford questioned Rose about the importance of preserving evidence. Litchford maintained the Facebook page was “scrubbed” to hide potential evidence from internal affairs investigators. Litchford also produced a Facebook screen shot which apparently showed that Rose “liked” a post that the girl had put up on the social media site when she was still 17 years of age.
The high school student, who will not be identified by East Ridge News Online, told the review board that she never had a romantic relationship with Rose until after she became an adult in March. The relationship, she said, ended at about the time when the investigation into Rose began. She said that three or four other students at East Ridge High School knew of her relationship with the police officer, but that he never visited the school.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Litchford reminded the board that they serve only in an advisory capacity. Whatever decision they make – either agreeing with the firing or taking exception to the same – would be considered by Custer. However, Custer is under no obligation to overturn his decision based on the review board’s recommendation.
McCullough, the ad hoc chairman of the board, said that it would meet on Wednesday to discuss the testimony it heard and may have a written recommendation by the end of the week.