Two former Metropolitan Police Department officers have filed a $10 million suit against the District of Columbia, MPD Police Chief Cathy Lanier and retiring D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles, alleging that they were improperly fired and have yet to be reinstated despite winning favorable rulings from an arbiter and the Public Employees Relations Board.
Toledo Kelley and Anthony Conrad allege in their Nov. 23 complaint that they were fired by the police department in 2004. Kelley was accused of violating department policy by taking disability leave in order to work another job. Conrad was accused of altering a document pertaining to his disability leave. The lawyer handling the lawsuit against the District, Gregory Lattimer, a Washington-based solo practitioner, said both of those allegations were untrue.
Kelley and Conrad both had their terminations overturned by the Public Employees Relations Board, which determined that MPD had failed to meet timetables for internal affairs cases. The District’s personnel rules allow police officers to request a hearing before a police trial board. Once a hearing is requested, the department has 55 days to issue a final decision.
After winning before the board, MPD challenged the decision in Kelley’s case in D.C. Superior Court but ultimately lost. Judge Ronna Lee Beck determined that "PERB’s decision was supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole and that it was not clearly erroneous as a matter of law.” MPD opted not to challenge the decision in Conrad’s case, according to the complaint which was filed by Lattimer in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Nov. 23.
According to the complaint, Nickles sent a letter to Lanier on May 23, 2008, urging her to tell the U.S. Attorney’s Office that Kelley and Conrad should be deemed “inefficient” because with their allegedly spotted employment history, they would not be considered reliable witnesses in future criminal cases brought by the District in which they might be asked to testify.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office responded, the complaint says, by saying that if what Lanier and Nickles told them were true, Kelley, Conrad, and several other officers in similar positions might be considered inefficient. Kelley and Conrad were subsequently fired again.
“The sole basis for upholding this bogus charge against the plaintiffs was a directive handed down by the defendants that the sham trial board hearings conducted were to conclude with an adverse determination consistent with the Nickles letters of May and August 2008,” Lattimer writes in the complaint. The complaint accuses Nickles and Lanier, who are named in both their professional and personal capacities, and the District of depriving Kelley and Conrad of their civil rights and of conspiring to deprive them of their civil rights.
Kelley and Conrad are in arbitration attempting to return to the police force, Lattimer said.
Lattimer said that his clients’ case stems from an ongoing problem at the MPD, where officers accused of sanctionable infractions of department policy have their cases pass the 55-day threshold before they are given a final decision on the sanctions. That issue was the subject of a 2008 Washington Post report, which found that the department had to rehire 17 officers it had fired because of missed deadlines.
“This is the kind of situation that make you just shake your head. They missed the 55-day deadline, so now Nickles and Lanier are dragging this case out even longer,” Lattimer said.
MPD referred all comment to the D.C. Attorney General’s Office. Nickles did not return calls to his office or cell phone.