The Town of Greeneville maintains in a federal court filing that former Assistant Police Chief Michael E. Crum “failed to assert or establish his entitlement to injunctive or equitable relief.”
The filing Monday is in response to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Greeneville by Crum seeking $1.25 million in damages and reinstatement to his job for alleged “unlawful employment practices and deprivation of property and liberty.”
The civil complaint filed in December demands a jury trial.
Jan. 23 was the deadline for a response by the town to Crum’s lawsuit. Multiple allegations made in the civil action are denied by the Town of Greeneville.
The town denies Crum established a cause of action under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In the lawsuit, Crum maintains his property, liberty and due process rights were violated relative to his termination as assistant police chief in December 2021.
The Town of Greeneville “would seek the dismissal of the complaint with all costs and expenses taxed to (Crum),” attorney Hunter S. Shepard stated in the answer on behalf of the town.
In an order entered Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Thomas A. Varlan, parties were notified that a U.S. Magistrate judge is available to conduct all proceedings and to order the entry of a final judgment. Lawyers for Crum and the town were ordered by the court to discuss the possibility of consenting “to the exercise of a magistrate judge’s authority” in the action.
Both parties have 45 days to answer. If they consent, “every effort will be made to schedule the trial promptly before the magistrate judge,” according to the order.
The order states that magistrate judges do not have to delay civil cases for felony trials, meaning “firm trial dates are more likely in the event that the parties consent.”
Crum, a 31-year veteran of the Greeneville Police Department, was dismissed Dec. 6, 2021, after an internal investigation revealed low morale among police officers, along with allegations of favoritism and possible discriminatory treatment of female officers.
Crum seeks lost wages, benefits, other compensatory damages “and other legal and equitable relief to which (he) may be entitled,” according to the lawsuit.
In September 2021, a job satisfaction and morale survey was conducted among police department officers through the town Human Resources Department. The survey, which focused on the “culture” within the department, was evaluated by the University of Tennessee Municipal Technical Advisory Service.
The lawsuit states that the survey advised officers that their responses would be anonymous and reviewed “by HR staff only.”
It states that “despite the (survey) being allegedly anonymous, (Crum’s) human resources director conducted several limited and selective face-to-face interviews with certain (employees) to discuss morale survey issues.”
In its response, the town says that responses of police department employees were anonymous, and that “many police department employees, on their own volition, personally and privately shared concerns, issues and complaints” with the town human resources director. The allegation that the town sought “selective interviews” with certain employees is denied.
“On the contrary, police department employees with a concern contacted (human resources) on their own accord and arranged a meeting” to report concerns, the town response states.
It is denied by the town that MTAS reviewed information regarding the human resources interviews with employees. MTAS conducted its own interviews with 55 police department employees who were willing to participate, the town response states.
The town admits in the response that the MTAS report notes that opinions stated by police Chief Tim Ward and several other high-ranking officers were “counter to much of what (MTAS) otherwise heard.”
The town admits that after reviewing the MTAS report about the police department, Greeneville City Administrator Todd Smith made it known to Crum that his job “would be terminated, either by way of his voluntary resignation or involuntary by termination,” and the original complaint that resulted in the morale survey that expanded to the MTAS investigation was not provided to Crum or Ward.
The town denies Crum’s lawsuit allegation that Smith “simply cherry-picked the MTAS report considering only the negative, disregarding the positive comments of (Crum) in forming a basis for requesting (him) to resign.”
The town denies allegations that Smith denied Crum “the opportunity to clear his name from the harmful reports made against him, to have a hearing and present evidence, to review evidence lodged against him fully and fairly.”
The town contends that the MTAS final review that led to Crum’s termination “found the complaint had merit and concluded a hostile work environment and discrimination existed due to Crum’s actions as assistant police chief,” leading to his “involuntary” separation from the job.
The town also denied that before Crum’s termination, he was promised by then-Mayor W.T. Daniels “that he had nothing to worry about with respect to the MTAS report.”
Crum’s lawsuit states that he had been told by Daniels he “had been a good employee and that his employment as assistant chief of police was secure,” an assertion denied by the town.
The town denies allegations in the lawsuit that Smith caused Crum “to be deprived of his Constitutional and federal rights, including, but not limited to property.”
Crum lost employment, compensation and benefits after being fired, along with a “loss in reputation and respect, loss of career opportunities, embarrassment, humiliation and mental anguish,” the lawsuit states.