Jackson PD Lieutenant Who Resigned Over Facebook Post Sues City; Seeks $1M
A former Jackson Police Department lieutenant who resigned over a Facebook post is suing the town and claiming that he was wrongfully terminated and that he was left with no other options than to resign.
Additionally, former JPD Lieutenant Roger Schultz is seeking at least $1 million in damages.
Although Schultz resigned following the Facebook post, which referenced a possible sexual assault, he claims in the lawsuit that he was forced out by City Manager Larry Pardee.
Kevin P. Gregory with Lubing, Gregory and Rectanus LLC, the firm representing Schultz, declined to speak on the record outside of what's already claimed in filings. A call to the Jackson Town Attorney's office was not immediately returned.
According to the lawsuit, Schultz posted the following on the department's online Facebook police blotter:
“On August 13, 2020, at 12:26 p.m., we responded to a report of an underage female having sex with an adult. We will be investigating the case to determine if a crime has been committed and if we can prove that crime. You would think having sex with an underage juvenile would always be a crime. Not necessarily. There are a number of factors involved in deciding whether to file charges to include the age of those involved. Fortunately, determining the age difference of those involved doesn’t involve complex math, so we should be able to figure it out without too much trouble. Just as long as we have coffee and donuts (the ones with the little sprinkles on top) to get us through.”
Though the post initially garnered lighthearted reactions at first, it began receiving backlash following scrutiny in local media outlets. Many in the community claimed the case made light of a potential sexual assault.
Following local backlash, the police department began walking back the post. Additionally, Pardee ordered Acting Police Chief Michelle Weber to issue a verbal reprimand to Schultz.
According to the suit, Pardee "baselessly accused Plaintiff Schultz of irreverently joking about sex with a minor.
"This is a blatant misrepresentation of the self-deprecating nature of Plaintiff Schultz's blotter post and only served to further inflame the public response to this controversy," the suit states. "A reasonable reading of the subject post reveals that Plaintiff Schultz was only commenting on a police officer's ability to do high math and their stereotyped affinity for donuts."
As the controversy continued, Pardee and police department leadership continued to have discussions regarding Schultz's employment status.
The Town of Jackson has a set policy allowing for employees to have an informal pre-termination hearing before the town manager (Pardee) and the personnel director. At that hearing, the employee is given the chance to state their reasons as to why a termination should occur.
That's not what happened in Schultz's case, the lawsuit claims.
Instead, on August 20, 2020 Weber called Schultz and informed him that he would not need to resign and instead he would likely be suspended without pay, according to the suit.
The next day, Weber reversed course and told Schultz that he must tender his resignation from JPD or that Pardee would terminate his employment. Following that conversation, Pardee reportedly texted Weber and asked, "Why is this not done yet?"
Schultz subsequently submitted a four-word letter: "I resign, effective immediately."
Despite Schultz submitting a written resignation, the lawsuit claims that any reasonable person would have perceived his leaving the department as being forced out.
The Town of Jackson has not yet filed a response to the suit.
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