- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—GLASGOW — A hearing has been set for next week regarding whether to take a former police chief’s lawsuit against the City of Glasgow and the current, interim chief outside Barren County.

The civil action was filed May 27 on behalf of Guy J. Turcotte, who is now a lieutenant colonel with the Glasgow Police Department, and it names the city and interim GPD Chief James Duff, in his individual and official capacity, as defendants.

Attorneys for both sides were in court Monday morning for a discussion of the request for a change of venue, filed by Turcotte’s attorney, Matt Baker on July 8.

Dick Doty officially announced Duff’s appointment to that position two days after Doty was sworn in as mayor in January. The position was left vacant when Turcotte resigned from it, but not the department, a few days before the change in administrations was to take effect, and then-Mayor Rhonda Riherd Trautman appointed Turcotte into a lieutenant colonel rank.

Turcotte’s complaint in Barren Circuit Court claims, among other things, that immediately upon Duff’s assumption of the position, “the Defendants engaged in a pattern of unfounded criticism, micromanagement, belittlement, harassment, baiting, frustration, misfeasance and/or malfeasance, and/or abuse of power, authority, and control, all of which were tantamount to punishment, and all of which that related to the terms and conditions of the Plaintiff’s employment. Even though the Plaintiff is one of the highest-ranking officers within the employment of the Glasgow Police Department, he has been effectively relegated to the position of a rookie police officer.”

The complaint also says Duff “has intentionally and purposefully uttered and published false statements about [Turcotte], and such conduct has been purposeful and intentional.”

The city has denied the claims in its response to the lawsuit.

Turcotte is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

Baker’s motion for the change of venue said that because several elected officials, past and present, and others well-known in the community would likely be witnesses, “the selection of a jury that is without bias and/or allegiance to one side or the other will be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible.”

The city’s response and objection to the motion for change of venue, filed late last week by Thomas Kerrick and City Attorney Rich Alexander, points out that Turcotte himself is not an elected official, and that any reprimand received by him was due to his violation of GPD policies.

“Defendants further dispute that anyone made false statements about [Turcotte],” the document from the city says.

Regarding the request to move the case out of the county, the city and Duff’s attorneys cite a state law that delineates the limited circumstances in which a change of venue is permissible and say, citing a case precedent, that the burden is on the party seeking the change based on local prejudice to at least present a case demonstrating actual prejudice.

“The mere allegation of a political connection is not sufficient to prove prejudice such that a fair trial cannot be obtained,” the objection says.

“To the extent [Turcotte] seeks a change of venue in light of the media coverage, [he] failed to establish that it is relatively impossible to receive a fair trial, i.e. that it would be impossible to empanel a jury that has no preconceived opinions about the case,” the objection continues later. “The mere fact that potential jurors may have heard, talked or read about the case is insufficient for a change of venue, absent a showing that there is a reasonable likelihood that the coverage has prejudiced the movant ….”

This case does not meet the level of exceptional circumstances that would “give rise to such an extraordinary action” to change the venue, the city and Duff’s attorneys argue.

“In fact, the facts giving rise to this alleged claim arose in Barren County and should be decided by a Barren County Judge and Jury,” they conclude.

In court on Monday, Barren Circuit Judge Phillip Patton said state law says, “On any motion for change of venue the court shall have a hearing for the presentation of evidence and arguments for and against the motion. Either party may subpoena witnesses for the hearing on the motion.”

He asked Alexander, Kerrick and Baker, who were present without their respective defendants, about scheduling a hearing. Baker was in agreement that one was needed.

Kerrick said he didn’t believe it was always necessary, and he reiterated his opinion that the fact that elected officials would be involved is not a strong enough reason.

“This is clearly a case that should be heard in Barren County,” Kerrick said.

Patton said he would schedule motion according to the state law, but neither party should take it as a reflection of the merits of their arguments. The judge said he has declined to schedule hearings in such cases before, but that was in cases where affidavits were not provided with the motion for the change.

Baker provided affidavits from retired Kentucky State Police trooper Tommy Pendleton, who was on the hiring committee that recommended Turcotte, and former Glasgow City Councilman Doug Isenberg, who was a member of the council that then unanimously approved Turcotte’s hiring as chief.

The hearing is set for 9 a.m. Aug. 4.

“Subpoena any witnesses you want to have or otherwise secure their attendance,” Patton told them as they concluded their discussion.

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(c)2015 the Glasgow Daily Times (Glasgow, Ky.)

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