An appeal by Metro Nashville Government has been slapped down by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in an employment dispute with a former U.S. Army serviceman over his pre-deployment rank with the Metro Nashville Police Department.
In her ruling, filed today — and found here (PDF) — 6th Circuit Court judge Deborah L. Cook upheld a district court decision which found that Metro had violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act by denying Brian Petty, a former patrol sergeant, reemployment in his former position once he was discharged from the Army in January 2005. Petty left his post at MNPD in November 2003 and was deployed to Kuwait as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Metro attempted to argue that Petty lied on his discharge papers about an incident in which Petty's commanding officer found him making homemade wine and sharing it with another soldier shortly after his arrival in Kuwait. The Army dismissed those charges in January 2005 following further investigation, yet Metro was unsatisfied with what it deemed to be a lack of full disclosure from Petty when he sought reemployment with MNPD in February 2005.
Due to Metro's zero tolerance policy for dishonesty (and a penchant for picking cases it can't win), the city essentially denied Petty his old job because they thought he lied about making hooch-wine.
In October 2005, Metro assigned Petty to desk work instead, and denied his requests to moonlight as a security guard to supplement his less-than-expected income. So Petty filed suit in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, where he was denied summary judgment when the court sided with Metro. During his appeal, Metro held a hearing to verify Petty's alleged dishonesty, and fired him in late 2007.
Petty filed and won his first appeal, which required Metro to reinstate him as a patrol sergeant and pay him approximately $175,000 in back pay and $125,000 in total damages. Judge Cook's ruling upheld this decision, finding that Metro's counsel, headed by Kevin Klein, had incorrectly framed their argument, which "stumbles from the gate."
Your tax dollars, gloriously at work.