In a blistering lawsuit filed in federal court, a former Athens police officer claims the city demoted and then fired him in 2012 for reporting alleged corruption within the department.
City officials said in a statement issued Wednesday that White was fired for cause.
Former Sgt. Jason White — a Limestone County officer of the year who was promoted to sergeant and then lead investigator — filed the lawsuit March 15 in federal District Court in Birmingham.
White, who has requested a jury trial, is seeking relief from retaliatory practices that violated both his civil and constitutional rights. He is seeking a return to the job he had before being demoted or lost pay; back pay; attorney fees; costs; compensatory damages for lost wages, benefits, mental anguish, embarrassment and emotional distress; punitive damages against the defendants.
The defendants include the city; Mayor Ronnie Marks; former police chief, now City Councilman Wayne Harper; Police Chief Floyd Johnson; Capt. Tracy Harrison; and Lt. Trevor Harris
In the lawsuit filed by White’s attorneys, John Saxon and John Saxon Jr. of Birmingham, White said Athens Police Department hired him in April 1999 as a police officer I. (Harper was chief at the time.) In January 2005, White was promoted to police officer II. Five months later, he was promoted to sergeant and supervised 10 officers, three dispatchers and 19 reserve officers. He also co-supervised the departments honor guard.
In 2006, the Limestone County Fraternal Order of Police named him officer of the year. The same year, the department’s reserve unit cited him for his “outstanding leadership.” A year later, in July 2007, White was transferred to the department’s general investigations division as a detective sergeant, where he served as lead investigator in more than 1,500 individual cases, according to the lawsuit. White claims this last assignment put him “in a position to learn many unsavory secrets of both the Athens Police Department and its employees.”