LAFOLLETTE, Tenn. (WATE) — Two former LaFollette police officers have filed a federal lawsuit alleging they were fired for supporting a certain candidate for city council and reporting alleged misconduct by another officer. It also asserts that another officer illegally tracked one of the plaintiffs using a GPS device and drone.
Monty Miller and Brian Tiller’s lawsuit names the City of LaFollette, the City Council and city administrator Stan Foust as defendants. They claim civil rights violations including first amendment protected speech and right to due process occurred ahead of their dismissals last year.
The LaFollette City Council voted to dismiss Miller, a sergeant at the time, and Tiller, a lieutenant, from the police department during an Aug. 2 meeting. Captain Steve Wallen was promoted to chief of police following the retirement of longtime chief Bill Roehl during the same meeting.
They were fired following an investigation by Knoxville Attorney Celeste Herbert, who was hired by the city to investigate a complaint by Sgt. Charles Duff.
The complaint claimed Miller, who supported Tiller as the next Chief of Police, reported that Wallen had abused his authority by fixing a speeding ticket for a female friend in 2019 and 2020 and fabricating stories against other ranking officers.
Tiller then informed city officials, leading to Wallen’s suspension. He was reinstated on June 27. The lawsuit claims that Wallen admitted to fixing the ticket during the investigation but County District Attorney General Jared Effler determined no criminal act was committed.
Herbert wrote at the conclusion of the probe that she believed Miller harassed Duff and other officers and Tiller either condoned or purposely ignored his actions.
In the lawsuit, the two officers contend that they were fired for their support of Mike Evans, who unsuccessfully ran for City Council during the 2022 elections.
It contends that Tiller would be made Chief of Police following the retirement of Bill Roehl if Evans was elected while Wallen supported incumbents Stephanie Solomon and Bryan St. John because he believed they would support him as the next Chief of Police.
The plaintiffs assert that Foust blamed them for negative publicity from the investigation into Wallen and they were retaliated against for reporting the misconduct. The lawsuit alleges that a GPS tracker was purchased using police department funds and placed on Tiller’s car to illegally track him, even when he was off the clock.
They argue that the city violated its own termination process and their right to due process was violated because they were unaware they were under investigation. The lawsuit seeks a jury trial, an undisclosed amount of monetary relief, and reasonable attorney’s fees.