JEFFERSON — Former Jefferson Police Chief Jason Carroll has filed a lawsuit against the city of Jefferson, charging wrongful termination following his June resignation after some residents voiced complaints about a couple of his social media posts.
The wrongful termination lawsuit was filed on Sept. 2 in Marion County District Court and states Carroll seeks his job back as Jefferson’s Chief of Police.
According to the lawsuit complaint, Carroll and his attorney sought to settle the dispute out of court but are now prepared to go to trial since that effort was unsuccessful.
Some Jefferson residents took issue with a few of Carroll’s Facebook posts on his personal page, following a statue removal protest in downtown Jefferson in early June. Carroll later publicly apologized for what he called “insensitive” memes and photos posted and pledged to attend sensitivity training during a city council meeting. Instead, Carroll was later presented with a choice of being terminated or resigning.
“We are confident in the case,” Testa Law Group Attorney Nicholas Testa said Tuesday. “The city council committed a great injustice. The city council acted out of emotion with no logic to mind to oust a decorated officer based on a false narrative. This case is important for all of those that serve and protect their community.”
The lawsuit also states Carroll was forced to resign before even being given a written complaint of the allegations against him, and before the city conducted an investigation into the allegations. It also states he was not given sufficient time to consider his options or seek counsel when the city council abruptly presented him with a resignation opportunity during a city council meeting’s closed session.
The lawsuit also states the city council illegally conducted meeting business by hosting a straw poll about Carroll’s employment with the city during that same executive session.
“The defendant (City) failed to give (Carroll) a copy of the complaint, if any, within a reasonable time after the complaint was received by the defendant; the Defendant failed to provide to him with a reasonable time to investigate and respond to the alleged notice of city council meeting forwarded to him by the secretary, Doris Hines of such complaint; the defendant failed to provide the plaintiff with a written complaint signed by the original complainant or any other employee, citizen, or representative; and the defendant failed to conduct a proper investigation of any alleged complaint(s), a requirement of Chapter 614,” the lawsuit reads.
“(Carroll) further seeks declaratory relief relating to the city council of Jefferson, violating Tex. Gov. Code § 551.102, in conducting a straw poll vote in an executive session. Texas courts examining this provision have said that “[t]he Open Meetings Act expressly waives sovereign immunity for violations of the [A]ct. The (city council) acted in an unlawful manner in an executive session by conducting a straw vote; and constructively terminating Jason Carroll during an executive session by forcing him to either resign or face public termination,” the lawsuit reads.
Carroll‘s resignation came just months after he had taken over as Chief in March for retired Police Chief Gary Amburn. Immediately following Carroll’s resignation, the council appointed Jefferson Police Investigator Tino Perez as interim police chief, then at a later meeting named him the permanent new police chief.