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Archive for Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Fired officer suing city

July 31, 2012

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A former Lawrence police sergeant who was fired earlier this year in connection with a traffic-ticket-fixing scandal says he intends to sue the city.

Michael Monroe said in an interview that he learned last week that City Manager David Corliss had upheld Police Chief Tarik Khatib’s decision in March to fire Monroe. The city manager’s decision reversed an earlier decision this summer by a city employee grievance review board to reinstate Monroe to the department with a demotion, Monroe said.

“I thought the evidence would have shown that I should be reinstated,” Monroe said.

Both Monroe and Khatib appealed the grievance panel’s decision to Corliss. Monroe said he appealed because he did not want to accept a demotion.

City officials declined to comment on Monroe’s grievance case Tuesday.

“The city does not comment on personnel matters or matters in which there may be, or is, pending litigation,” City Attorney Toni Wheeler said.

The grievance hearing lasted four days in which both Monroe and Khatib presented evidence. When Khatib and Monroe met with Corliss later about the appeal, it lasted a much shorter time. Monroe said Corliss notified him in a short letter last week that he was overturning the panel’s decision to reinstate him.

“I think he would have to justify his reasoning, and now there’s nothing for him to have to justify,” Monroe said. “I believe I should be given a specific reason. He implied that the board made a mistake, and he didn’t give a reason. But they heard far more evidence than he heard.”

Personnel investigation

Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson said in March that he reviewed court cases that former Sgt. Matt Sarna and Monroe were involved in after the city provided him their names in connection with the personnel investigation.

City officials have said the investigation revealed six speeding tickets were dismissed from 2000 to 2009 for a former Kansas Athletics official who is now in prison as part of the broader Kansas University athletic-tickets-for-cash scandal from 2005 to 2010.

Monroe said the dismissed speeding tickets benefitted Rodney Dale Jones, who had worked as a KU ticket office manager and a leader of the Williams Fund. Jones is currently an inmate at a federal prison in Oklahoma.

Khatib has said the investigation revealed an officer, later identified as Sarna, had a long-term friendship dating to the late 1990s or early 2000s with an athletics employee and received free or discounted KU tickets over several years. At some point the athletics employee asked for help dismissing speeding tickets he received or was about to receive.

He said the investigation also revealed the officer may have asked a second officer two or three times for assistance in fixing traffic citations and that the second officer, who prosecutors later identified as Monroe, might have also received KU tickets through the first officer.

Khatib said in May 2011 he received an anonymous letter about the allegations involving the police department, and the matter was eventually referred to federal authorities.

Federal prosecutors and Branson did not file criminal charges against either Sarna or Monroe, saying the timing and circumstances of the receipt of the athletics tickets could not be directly linked to specific requests for fixing traffic tickets. But Khatib said the conduct violated the city’s gratuity policy.

Future legal action

As part of his grievance case, Monroe said, he alleged that Khatib knew about allegations involving Jones and a police officer about a year before the May 2011 anonymous letter. Monroe said he presented evidence before the panel alleging when Khatib was a captain supervising internal affairs in 2010 he knew “about an arrangement between Rodney Jones and another officer” but that Khatib “failed to conduct any kind of credible investigation and did not take any action at that time.”

Khatib referred questions Tuesday to Wheeler, the city attorney. Khatib did say in February that he believed there had been allegations of “similar activity” involving police department personnel made prior to the May 2011 anonymous tip. He said his understanding was that those allegations were examined but there was never enough evidence to take more formal action.

Monroe said he believed it was important when Khatib knew about the allegations involving Jones and another officer because Monroe said Khatib accused him of not coming forward with his own earlier concerns about a friendship between Jones and another officer.

“It was prior to 2010, but I didn’t believe it rose to the level of a violation, so I didn’t come forward,” Monroe said. “But I didn’t have all the facts. I didn’t have all the information that (Khatib) had.”

Monroe, who had worked as an officer since 1991, said the chief told him he would punish him by demoting him. But when Monroe declined to accept the demotion, he was fired.

During his interview with the Journal-World, Monroe talked specifically about some aspects of the grievance process and internal investigation, but he declined to answer other questions, citing a civil action he plans to pursue. He did not comment about whether he received any KU basketball tickets through Sarna or whether he asked other officers to dismiss any traffic tickets for Jones as a favor.

As part of the city’s grievance policy, Corliss will forward his decision in the case to the City Commission. Commissioners can only determine if a policy change is warranted. Monroe said he hoped commissioners would make changes to the city’s gratuity policy because he believed it was flawed and not interpreted correctly.

He also said he pursued the grievance process because he wanted to return to his position.

“There are so many outstanding people at the Lawrence Police Department,” Monroe said, “and the overwhelming majority of them want me to come back.”

Comments

Beljewe 1 year, 12 months ago

Good luck Mike! You are a good man and this is wrong! The truth will come out.

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LeBo 1 year, 12 months ago

No legal stating. By refusing a demotion you lost your standing. The cheif has the right to demote you for misconduct or other cause. Officers service at the behest of the Chief and the Office of the City Manager, plus City Commission. You are wasting our tax dollars!

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Crazy_Larry 1 year, 12 months ago

If there is corruption, and I have no doubt that there is, a good cop would out everyone involved.

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psheaf2 1 year, 12 months ago

It appears the chief had knowledge of this information, more information than Sgt. Monroe and sat on that information until an anonymous letter appeared. Monroe has been fired for Sarna's actions which the chief himself had knowledge of. Did the chief turn a blind eye because of own report with Sarna, his police spokesperson? And fired Monre for knowledge he/himself had and hadn't acted on. I'm disapoimtef in this grievance process. It looks to me as if Khatib might need to clean his own room!

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psheaf2 1 year, 12 months ago

If Khatib had this knowledge, then ??? and it's been said from the beginning they CANNOT directly link timing and circumstances of receipt of basketball tickets to ticket fixing. Shouldn't that be extremely clear!?! Would b curious as to how much time Corliss spent reviewing this. The grievance committee spent 4 days. Who did reside on that committee? Its like sitting in a courtroom and getting the jury's verdict and then the judge throws it out. Hopefully, this process will not b needed by others. Good luck Mike in all u do. I know u as a man of integrity! Hold tight and strong to your convictions.

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usesomesense 1 year, 12 months ago

I must say that I'm flabbergasted that the 'Gratuity Policy' would be anything other than "Any police officer, support staff, administrator or otherwise employee of the Lawrence police department can not and will not accept gifts or gratuities of ANY kind from anyone, ever with the exception of immediate family members. Furthermore any gift from an immediate family member must be directly purchased, constructed or created by said family member with funds earned directly by said family member."

I understand that some of the intent is to prevent "Mrs. Smith" and "Officer Jones" from getting in trouble when she bakes him an apple pie for apprehending the guy that vandalized her car, but that really doesn't need to happen. Furthermore; I really don't see how accepting basketball tickets to effectively cover up criminal activity (speeding tickets) is anything but bribery.

I don't really know how Officer Monroe fits in, but if he did get tickets to get rid of tickets (or any other compensation to hide/dismiss crimes) we don't need officers like that. However; if he did so at the request of another officer and did not receive any compensation it kind of comes down to whether he knew of the arrangement, did it an excessive number of times or if he was doing the same thing with other individuals.

There really shouldn't be policies that allow police officers to circumvent the courts. They should not have that kind of power or authority. If a ticket is issued the next stop is the court system. The whole point is due process. It's absolutely ridiculous that it's not what you know but who you know. Any police officer that takes advantage of such a clearly unethical and arguably illegal 'loophole' in a poorly constructed policy draws serious question (at the very least) about fitness to serve.

With great power comes great responsibility. (Thanks Ben Parker) A 'gratuity' policy that allows even a slice of pie is a very slippery slope and should unilaterally be banned. It's not "To protect and serve (those with the best gifts)"

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LeBo 1 year, 12 months ago

Great idea. However, no human is above reproach*

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Flap Doodle 1 year, 12 months ago

If he wins, can he get some more tickets?

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somebodynew 1 year, 12 months ago

Good question, except that the police are not "union". They have a bargaining unit and a memorandum of understanding, and that does not equal an official union. Many years ago there was a court battle over that and it got explained by the courts.

However the City (and LPD) have agreed upon rules to follow in discipline and firing, hence the grievance board and the steps that were taken thus far.

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Dan Alexander 1 year, 12 months ago

That be some odd photoshopping LJWorld. Must be take your kid to work day.

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jd 1 year, 12 months ago

"the athletics employee asked for help dismissing speeding tickets he received or was about to receive."

About to receive?

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OonlyBonly 1 year, 12 months ago

Maybe, just maybe, this'll bring out enough to bring down Khatib. One can only hope.....

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Ricky_Vaughn 1 year, 12 months ago

So now the chief is a dirty cop?

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joes_donuts 1 year, 12 months ago

The police department doesn't follow their own policy handbook on many issues, so I don't know why they would here.

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latina1 1 year, 12 months ago

My first question is, why would Monroe even want to go back to a department that turned their back on him and treated him this way. I say take them for all they owe and would owe you in the future and go somewhere respectible (you deserve it)!
Sounds like there needs to be a review on the "information" Chief Khatib knew prior to the letter. Part of the decision to fire Monroe was due to the fact that he "withheld information." Sounds like Kahtib withheld information also. Nothing would have came from this if that letter would never have been written. I'm guessing it scared Kahtib that this same person would tell a higher power if he didn't do anything about it. Also sounds like Kahtib jumped the gun a little too. The article says Corliss upheld Kahtib's decision to fire Monroe, but then Kahtib and Monroe appealed the panel's decision to keep him but demote him. Which is it Kahtib, did he do something wrong or not. Did you not do your due diligence in the begining to find out what really happened? Or did the decision (like many others) not come to fruition until the public (thanks to LJWorld) found out about LPD's problems (not including the ones that are still kept hush hush)??

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irvan moore 1 year, 12 months ago

sounds to me like somebodys looking for a settlement offer to make him go away

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BobEllis 1 year, 12 months ago

Who knows how well we can interpret facts from a news article, but: The Chief sounds like a weasel who is covering his own back side, being sure to select a fall guy. Monroe did his job, reported what he knew, Khatib did nothing until he realized his failure to act may be discovered. Great leadership, Chief. Bet your department really feels supported by you.

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rkchalk 1 year, 12 months ago

“The city does not comment on personnel matters or matters in which there may be, or is, pending litigation,” City Attorney Toni Wheeler said.

You may want to tell Cromwell that, since he already named names in this case before.

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Bob Forer 1 year, 12 months ago

I am curious as to possible involvement by the Lawrence City Attorney's Office which prosecutes in city court. Once a ticket is issued and filed with the Clerk of the Municipal Court, further disposition is solely in the hands of the city prosecutor. Did the city prosecutor dismiss filed tickets at the request of a police officer, or were the guilty officers able to stop the process before the tickets were filed? The several articles in the LJW are not clear on this.

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lunacydetector 1 year, 12 months ago

proposing a $40 million police station should take the heat off the subject..

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colicole81 1 year, 12 months ago

I feel like so many people are loosing sight of the bigger problem. Why is it acceptable for any officer to fix any ticket regardless of whether they receive a "gift"? When someone receives a ticket it means they have broken the law, normally putting others at risk. Regardless of who you are, no one should be above the law. It is the duty of our officers to ensure that the law is being upheld. By fixing the tickets, Mr. Monroe failed to fulfill his duty. Additionally, if this article is correct, Mr. Monroe didn't loose his job, he was demoted for making an unethical mistake. His implication that others were/are involved is probably true, however, by not reporting it immediately and participating in the scandal, he lost his credibility.
We have all made mistakes that have altered our lives greatly. I think it's time that Mr. Monroe recognize his mistakes, learn from them and move on! I would also suggest that Mr. Corliss order an investigation into how tickets are being fixed and that the City change it's policies to ensure that it is no longer possible or acceptable.

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latina1 1 year, 12 months ago

Sgt. Monroe didn't fix tickets, he allegedly "withheld information" regarding tickets being fixed for this individual. Also, Sgt. Monroe WAS actually fired, but after the city employee review board heard and reviewed all the information they suggested he be reinstated, just not as a Sgt. Read the beginning of the article. "Michael Monroe said in an interview that he learned last week that City Manager David Corliss had upheld Police Chief Tarik Khatib’s decision in March to fire Monroe. The city manager’s decision reversed an earlier decision this summer by a city employee grievance review board to reinstate Monroe to the department with a demotion, Monroe said."

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colicole81 1 year, 12 months ago

According tho the article "the investigation also revealed the officer may have asked a second officer two or three times for assistance in fixing traffic citations and that the second officer, who prosecutors later identified as Monroe, might have also received KU tickets through the first officer." This implies that he did in fact fix the tickets and received KU tickets in exchange. Not once, but two or three times! If not, he should have immediately and formally reported Mr. Sarna's requests. Instead he turned a blind eye.
The article also states "Monroe, who had worked as an officer since 1991, said the chief told him he would punish him by demoting him. But when Monroe declined to accept the demotion, he was fired." This occurred prior to any grievance process.

I feel badly for Mr. Monroe and I can relate to what he is going through. I too made a mistake, which cost me my job of 10+ years. So I speak from experience when I say that Mr. Monroe would be best to recognize his mistakes, learn from them and move on.

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optimist 1 year, 12 months ago

"...he declined to answer other questions, citing a civil action he plans to pursue. He did not comment about whether he received any KU basketball tickets through Sarna or whether he asked other officers to dismiss any traffic tickets for Jones as a favor."

While pleading the 5th can't be held against one in a court of law in the court of public opinion his failure to respond to direct questions about his behavior screams of he did it. That being the case I see no way he should be returned to duty under any circumstances. Throwing others (i.e. the Chief) under the bus because he failed to punish or prosecute you sooner makes you look like a child. I give deference to the Chief in this case because I don't know whether he had any real evidence or accusations or just rumor. Mr. Monroe would be complaining today of his tarnished reputation if the Chief had acted too quickly and the allegations weren't true.
Mr. Monroe should have taken the demotion. His failure to do so seems to indicate a reluctance to take responsibility for his own actions and his failure to answer direct questions about his behavior while pointing out the behavior of others reflects a level of maturity well below what I would expect of a law enforcement officer. At no point has he stated that he didn't participate in the alleged activities but questions the policy. If the policy as stated by usesomesense is accurate then I see no way Mr. Monroe should be reinstated. I bet that demotion is looking pretty good right now.

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Munsoned 1 year, 12 months ago

The court of law to which you refer is criminal court. Monroe is not there, nor will he be. It is an upcoming civil matter that he has likely been advised to not discuss at this time. How does reporting corruption make Monroe look childish? You are equating a tattle-tale to a whistle blower. Why should he take the demotion if he knows he did nothing wrong? He will now be airing his side in civil court-- get the popcorn cause you can go see it first hand. Will the Emperor wear his new clothes? It remains to be seen. I think it's fair to say that there is enough reason to doubt everything you hear from anyone other than Monroe, Khatib, Corliss, or Wheeler on grounds of speculation, or as you called it, "just a rumor".

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Ricky_Vaughn 1 year, 12 months ago

Maybe LJW is in on it too... I'm starting to think I was the only one not getting free tickets.

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Ricky_Vaughn 1 year, 12 months ago

My guess is that everyone who's anyone in this town was in on the ticket scandal. Khatib should be removed from his job immediately (at least suspended). I'm surprised there isn't more outrage from the public on this subject. This is OUR local govt, OUR police, OUR university...I find extremely unsettling.

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psheaf2 1 year, 12 months ago

Interesting, I would bet Mike Monroe was advised by legal counsel as to what information he could give the media as there is a pending lawsuit. I'm sure he would love to be able to share much more.

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lawslady 1 year, 12 months ago

Anyone who knows Mike personally is unable to believe that he knowingly did anything wrong or illegal. A straight arrow and a life-time cop. This had to be super hard on him and his family. While suing your former friends, co-workers etc. is 100% guaranteed to close that door behind you forever, I can understand why he'd want to have his good name cleared. But here's the thing - as the above comments prove, there will always be those who believe the worst, because they don't have all the facts, and those who will never believe the worst b/c they know you well enough to care. No law suit is going to change that fact. So Sgt. Monroe, although Lawrence has always been your home and many still believe in you and support you, I think for peace of mind and in the interests of your family's well being, it might be time to find a new line of work and move. I'll be sorry to see you go, but the nest you've lived in has been been so badly soiled (by others or by you, what does it matter?) and no amount of money or good press is going to fix that for you.

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somedude20 1 year, 12 months ago

Is smoking a joint really that bad, many would say no, but if you are in the NFL, it is a big no no. Now, is really that bad to drop a ticket when courts drop murder/rape/ect charges daily, many might say no, but when you are a police officer (and much like the NFL) you are held to a much higher standard. Your word, in court, can and does put people in jail and if that word has been tainted by any form of corruption, then you have some big problems. All it takes is one convict using this nugget for a retrial and then every person the cop busted now has a leg to stand on. It was not the crime of the century but it was a crime, just like smoking a joint

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Munsoned 1 year, 12 months ago

How was this even a "crime" if charges were not filed? I get your point about corruption, but not the "crime" statement. This is a department policy violation. Smoking a joint is a crime (here).

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jafs 1 year, 12 months ago

Accepting a bribe for fixing tickets certainly seems like a crime to me.

I don't understand why they weren't charged.

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James Minor 1 year, 12 months ago

All of us need to remind ourselves that the information we are reading is from the Journal World. With that said, there needs to be more information on what really happened. Mike was in the department of ethics, so reporting a misconduct was the right thing to do.Unfortunately, the information was given to someone who later became the chief of police. So many times it has been said you can't fight city hall. Hopefully, Mike will come out a winner.

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Sue Grosdidier 1 year, 12 months ago

Why has no one mentioned Ron Olin? He received a huge job at KU when he retired from LPD and the job did not exist until he filled it. How many favors did he do for KU personnel? Are these Officers a scape goat for his actions? Hmmmm.........

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somebodynew 1 year, 12 months ago

Amazing, isn't it.? People must have short memories. The earlier stories all mentioned that this issue was first brought up under Olin's watch and he found no reason to investigate. Was Khatib told not to do anything back then ?? And how about that nice job ???

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Hoots 1 year, 12 months ago

I think Sarna and Monroe are taking the heat for Olin as well. They are both great guys. This city has been fixing tickets for KU since the first car rolled into town. Just ask some of the retired cops.

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psheaf2 1 year, 12 months ago

In the end, good always wins~ somehow, someway! I support Mike in his desire to clear his good name. If i were in his position, truly believing I had done nothing wrong and was telling the truth, I would certainly fight to bring my truth to light for all to see. WalkIng away would tell a much different story. Walk your walk Mike!

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equalaccessprivacy 1 year, 12 months ago

The conflict-of-interest authorities of Lawrence are beyond crooked, always pointing dishonest fingers of blame to deflect the responsibility from where it belongs --squarely on their own shoulders. The mob rule of 24/7 street harassment in Douglas totally sucks too: backwoods bumpkins have been trained up to aggress on and terrorize complete strangers-- with zero recognition of boundaries, privacy, or others' sacred human dignity. If that's the only way you know to treat others with respect and dignity, kindly count me out. You give yourself way too much credit if you are think you can or are helping. More like it, you are bedeviling others with unwelcome bullying and discrimination. Reminds me of the psychology of attached photo.

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somebodynew 1 year, 11 months ago

smitty, I know you qualified your last posting as your humble opinion, but if you read and understand this story and the other previous it isn't quite how you put it.

Khatib wanted to demote Monroe. He refused. Khatib fired him. Monroe filed a grievance. Grievance panel recommended re-instatement, demotion instead of firing. Neither Khatib nor Monroe happy, both file appeal. Corliss backs firing.

I know that is not a big conspiracy, but it seems how things played out. Monroe wouldn't take a demotion even though it was offered to him twice. Now he is suing.

I am not trying to make any comments about who is right/wrong, just trying to keep the facts straight for those who actually care about such things.

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