Ex-Centerville police officer files federal lawsuit against city

DAYTON — A fired Centerville police officer has filed a federal lawsuit against the city claiming his dismissal was in retaliation for him doing in his job.

Specifically, the suit by former Centerville Sgt. James Myers claims he was fired after he alerted city officials to possible criminal conduct of two supervisors, including the former police chief.

Myers’ lawsuit states his March firing came after he raised concerns about sexually explicit photos of minors he said were on one of his unnamed supervisor’s phone at a time when Centerville police were investigating a “sexting” allegation involving Centerville High School students, according to the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Dayton.

The suit also states actions taken against Myers were tied to his raising concerns about “possible criminal activity” on the part of Police Chief Bruce Robertson before Robertson “abruptly retired” in February 2018.

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The suit names the city of Centerville, City Manager Wayne Davis and Police Chief Matthew Brown as defendants. It claims a violation of Myers' First Amendment rights and seeks his reinstatement, as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

“Myers brought to the attention of defendants that two fellow employees engaged in potential criminal conduct,” the suit states.

“Rather than investigate the alleged conduct, defendants retaliated against Myers by denying him promotions, withholding his evaluation and pay increases, subjecting him to unwarranted disciplinary action, and defaming his professional and personal reputation,” the lawsuit states.

The city called the suit a claim from a “disgruntled former employee.”

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Myers served a five-day suspension after he wrote a letter criticizing the city administration’s decision to terminate a public works employee in February 2019, according to the city.

Myers was fired on March 16 for eight violations of the police department’s rules of conduct and five violations of the city’s personnel manual, the city administration said earlier this year.

An appeal of Myers' five-day 2019 suspension was denied by the Centerville Personnel Board, according to the city. An arbitration hearing into the suspension was held last month and no decision has been announced, according to the city.

“We have made it priority throughout the former employee’s discipline, termination and appeals to support and protect his right to due process,” according to a statement released Monday by the city.

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“Because of the pending litigation, the city is limited in what information it can release,” the city’s statement said. "We have answered all questions asked up to this point – demonstrating the city’s transparency and adherence to legal and ethical operations.

“The Centerville Police Department is filled with men and women of the highest integrity who embody our customer service philosophy,” according to the city. “This particular employee falls far short of what our community deserves: honesty, accountability and leadership.”

The suit states that Myers was seeking “whistleblower” protection under Ohio law.

An investigation into Myers' claims about Robertson – which included possible theft in office and dereliction of duty - was conducted by Tom Schiff, a private attorney, former prosecutor and friend of Davis, the suit states. Schiff’s investigation found Robertson “had not engaged any criminal activity.”

The Kettering Police Department conducted an investigation into Myer’s claims about his unnamed supervisor’s actions, the suit states. The investigation was into the possible creation, possession or dissemination of child pornography. The investigation did not result in criminal charges, the suit states.

The defendants' “unlawful actions, by and through its employees, toward Myers were extreme and outrageous, and intentionally or recklessly caused him severe emotional distress after committing over twenty-five years of his life working for the city,” the lawsuit states.

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