BOISE, Idaho — A former Boise Police (BPD) officer has filed a lawsuit against the City of Boise requesting a judgement and monetary relief for lost wages, lost retirement, emotional distress and litigation fees -- alleging the City of Boise violated the Protection of Public Employees Act by failing to protect its employees when they came to them with concerns against the former BPD chief, Ryan Lee.
The lawsuit, filed Nov. 8 in Ada County District Court by former Internal Affairs (IA) Captain Tom Fleming, alleges the former chief and the city interfered with ongoing investigations regarding employee misconduct as well as "implemented policies that unreasonably restricted employees' ability to document and report the existence of waste of public funds, property, manpower or suspected violations of laws, rules or regulations."
The lawsuit states the City of Boise was complicit in Lee's alleged actions towards his employees, and that they were "on express notice of the substantial and outrageous emotional distress" that Lee's alleged actions were causing -- and failed to take any action by refraining to place the former chief on leave, after the Office of Police Accountability recommended it.
KTVB previously reported that the City of Boise and the mayor's office received nine officer complaints against the former police chief in April from the Office of Police Accountability. Lee was later asked to resign by Boise Mayor Lauren McLean in September, 24 hours after KTVB published a story on the complaints.
Alleged incidents in the lawsuit
Fleming, as the IA captain, was responsible for conducting internal investigations within the BPD -- so when he conducted an internal investigation into a BPD officer who was involved in an off-duty altercation in which another officer shot and killed someone, the lawsuit says -- Lee allegedly told Fleming to end all investigations into the matter and "stop all communication" with other involved law enforcement agencies, even when Fleming said the situation may warrant disciplinary action.
"Chief Lee’s inexplicable and wrongful interference in the internal investigation unreasonably restricted and obstructed Capt. Fleming’s and other City employees’ ability to document and report suspected violations of laws, rules, and regulations," the suit says.
The lawsuit also cites the Idaho State Police investigation into Lee for allegedly injuring BPD officer Kirk Rush's neck during a briefing by performing an "improper and unprovoked neck restraint technique" the lawsuit says.
A 72-page Idaho State Police report detailed the alleged incident of the injury to Sgt. Rush's neck. The "incidental type" of the report was listed as "battery, aggravated, simple, intimidation." Rush said in the previous tort claim filed in April that he heard a "snap" in his neck when Lee placed his hands on him without consent.
The report gathered Lee allegedly called Rush "a p-ssy" and mocked him after the alleged incident. Witnesses corroborated Rush's statements from the tort claim, indicating that Rush was told to go to the front of the room for a demonstration of a neck-hold and was suddenly grabbed by the neck and forehead by Lee and shoved down, KTVB previously reported.
The lawsuit from Fleming says that Rush eventually filed a criminal complaint against Lee, so Fleming went to the City of Boise Legal Department and asked them to place Lee on leave while an investigation continues.
The lawsuit says the response to Fleming from the city was "The chief has a different boss than the rest of you" and no action was taken.
Lee was never placed on leave nor charged in the matter.
The lawsuit also states that Lee essentially forced Fleming and other officers to retire against their will. "The continuous and pervasive harassment from Chief Lee created an objectively intolerable working environment such that any reasonable person in Capt. Fleming’s position would have felt compelled to resign," the lawsuit says. Fleming later retired in July.
The City of Boise
The lawsuit alleges that the city violated the Protection of Public Employees Act.
The law states that "An employer may not take adverse action against an employee because the employee, or a person authorized to act on behalf of the employee, communicates in good faith the existence of any waste of public funds, property or manpower, or a violation or suspected violation of a law, rule or regulation adopted under the law of this state."
Fleming filed complaints with the city -- complaints that the Mayor's Office was aware of in April -- and there was no action until September. However, she said that they were working with the former chief on management practices.
McLean told KTVB in a previous interview that, "I opted in this department, it was important to have leadership. We had no internal grounds to take action. It was within my discretion, and I chose to have (Lee) remain on duty."
The lawsuit says the city squashed its employees ability to even report violations of rules and regulations, and failed to protect them from harassment and retaliation, it says.
Fleming had to pay thousands to retire early, and the "City of Boise's adverse actions have caused damage" that includes lost wages and retirement benefits, the lawsuit says.
Fleming is requesting a jury trial, compensation for attorneys' fees and reinstatement of his full fringe benefits.
Additionally, Fleming is requesting monetary relief that includes "past and future lost wages, including the value of past and future employment benefits, promotions, health insurance, retirement benefits, and other foreseeable wages and benefits which would have otherwise accrued in an amount to be proven at trial" as well as general damages from emotional distress and loss of reputation.
Lee has already received a nine-month severance package equal to his annual six-figure salary including heath insurance, KTVB previously reported. His benefits after being asked to resign by McLean would be around $147,264.
KTVB reached out to the City of Boise regarding the lawsuit, but a city spokesperson said they cannot comment on pending litigation.
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