Former Fayetteville Cop files federal lawsuit

Tue, 03/27/2007 - 3:25pm
By: Ben Nelms

It has been nearly two years since former Fayetteville Police Officer Harold Simmons was fired for what he said were racially motivated reasons. But now the issue has returned with the filing of a federal lawsuit for discrimination and retaliation, citing the city of Fayetteville collectively and City Manager Joe Morton, former Police Chief Johnny Roberts and former Police Maj. Steve Ledbetter individually.

Filed March 16 in the Newnan Division of U.S. District Court, the suit seeks declaratory and injuctive relief, back pay, front pay, compensatory and punitive damage and attorney fees for race discrimination and retaliation under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The suit claims race discrimination and retaliation, negligent conduct and defamation and requests a jury trial.

Represented by Jonesboro attorney Steve Mixon, Simmons claims that, “Although nearly all the discriminatory conduct took place at the Fayetteville Police Department, (the city) did nothing to stop it. To the contrary, the city allowed defendants Ledbetter, Morton and Roberts to remain in positions of power over (Simmons), where they could harass him without fear of recourse and use their higher-level positions of power to threaten his employment.”

Contacted Monday, Morton said that while it is the city’s policy not to comment on pending litigation, he could say that the city had previously investigated Simmon’s claims and found that there was no wrongdoing on the city’s behalf. The city and city manager deny having violated Simmons’ rights, Morton said. The legal and factual matters in this issue will be determined by the court, he said.

Roberts was unable to be reached for comment. It is believed that Ledbetter has relocated to Texas.

The unfolding controversy came after a series of events that began in April 2005 when former Officer Harold Simmons filed complaints with federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging racial discrimination as the motivating factor in his termination April 14. The termination came when Simmons was charged with insubordination after refusing to apologize to two fellow officers he had taped without their knowledge. His taping of the officers, Simmons said at the time, was an activity that other officers had participated in as a result of what Simmons characterized as an environment of hostility and retribution in the police department.

Responding at the time to questions related to Simmons’ firing, the city issued a statement April 21, 2005 disputing charges of discrimination, stating that an independent hearing officer had determined that no discrimination existed in the city’s requirement that Simmons apologize.

The brewing conflict intensified at the May 5 council meeting, when the council chamber filled with Simmons’ supporters burst into cheers and applause amid a standing ovation after the former officer finished his remarks to the council.

“He (Roberts) runs that place like a tyrant,” Simmons told the council. “He’s got people afraid to say the truth. He’s got people afraid for their jobs and for their lives. Y’all see one side of Johnny Roberts, but you don’t see the side we see every day. You don’t see the side of Steve Ledbetter we see every day.”

When questioned in May 2005 about morale in the department, Roberts was emphatic that his department did not suffer from morale problems. Roberts insisted that he maintained an open-door policy for officers to surface issues and concerns without fear of retribution. Addressing Simmons’ claim that other officers taped each other, Roberts said, “I have no knowledge of it. The only one I know of that did that is Harold Simmons.”

Roberts did acknowledge that he had taped Simmons during during a previous meeting, adding that he did so as a matter of official police business.

Contemporary with the controversy was a no-confidence vote by officers toward Roberts and Ledbetter at a called all-staff meeting. During the same time frame, a number of current and former officers contacted The Citizen over what they referred to as a “hostile work environment and an atmosphere of retribution” that existed in the department.

The situation in Fayetteville did not improve as spring wore on, with simultaneous announcements May 19, 2005 that Roberts would be retiring and that Ledbetter would resign. The announcement was followed by Morton saying the departure of Roberts and Ledbetter was not related to Simmons’ discrimination complaints. The transition represents a new direction for the police department, Morton said.

Even the Police Benevolent Association (PBA) became involved, with representative Terry Nowell saying the eight PBA members at the May 19 council meeting were present to provide a show of support for all officers of the police department. A local PBA chapter composed of Fayetteville officers was formed two months later.

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Submitted by DawgGurl10 on Thu, 03/29/2007 - 2:16pm.

In my 7th Grade year at Fayette Middle everyone loved Officer Simmons very much and enjoyed talking to him and visiting him in his office and just talk till we had to go off to class. I myself would do that every now and then if I had some time. My mom use to work at the Fayette PD and was very good friends with Simmons and it seemed like everyone was really good friends with him. He was such a great guy and so easy to talk to when we were going through some rough times and needed some advice. Officer Simmons was always at school everyday with a big smile on his face but on our last semester of the school year we never did see that smile. We never saw him again that year untill we saw another Office in our school taking over. The students had no idea what was going on and we really did want to know but the teachers would tell us nothing untill one day my mom told me that he got fired from our school and the PD. So many rumors were going through the school and why Officer Simmons really got fired for and really we just had no idea what to believe anymore. I'm now almost done with my freshman year at Fayette High and neither me nor my mom have heard from Simmons since my 7th Grade year. I'm glad for what he is doing now and I know that in my heart that he will win this because what people are saying about him is so wrong and not true. I will pray for you Officer Simmons and thank you for everything.

Enigma's picture
Submitted by Enigma on Thu, 03/29/2007 - 6:42pm.

Is this the same 'married' police officer that had affair(s) with another married officer(s) including Rachael _________ who later became the school resource officer at Fayette Middle School?

Submitted by DawgGurl10 on Wed, 05/09/2007 - 2:10pm.

umm... NO! he is married to a white women and he has never cheated on her.

Enigma's picture
Submitted by Enigma on Wed, 05/09/2007 - 5:15pm.

I don't think I get your point about the 'white women'. Is he the one that had the affair(s) or not?

Submitted by dollaradayandfound on Wed, 05/09/2007 - 2:56pm.

What is a white women? Does he have several?
You spending so much time with him at school discussing all your problems seems odd to me.
Spend your time studying sentence structure and spelling and get ahead in this world and not be ignored.

Submitted by RuKiddin on Thu, 03/29/2007 - 12:46am.

I used to work at the Fayetteville PD several years ago. I agree with Mr. Simmons to a point. The department WAS ran through fear and intimidation. That has never been a question. The change of command should be enough to prove that fact.
I would have to disagree that Johnny Roberts is a racist though. I am, by no means, defending him. I am also not a fan of his treatment of those officers that were beneath him. And maybe, I didn't know him in the way that Mr. Simmons did.
But, what I did know was that he appeared to hate everyone equally. This is merely an opinion. I, myself, would have never left the department, if it weren't for his actions. But I do not believe that he ever treated anyone, besides his lackey, Ledbetter, differently SOLELY because of their race.
I feel that when the truth comes to light, the light will shine on Mr. Roberts in several different ways. He was an excellent administrator with no people skills whatsoever. He brought the Police department from the dark ages into the future while keeping his employees under his thumb.
Again, I am not a fan, by any length, of Mr. Roberts. Several good employees left because of the enviorment that he created. Several more good employees stayed on and struggled until he left.
But the facts are clear, as far as I am concerned. He wasn't a racist and didn't appear to punish anyone because of their race.
He treated Harold the same way he treated everyone else. Like disposable razors. As long as they made him look good, he kept them around. When that time was over, well, need I say more?

Submitted by Love to Fish on Wed, 03/28/2007 - 9:56pm.

Two years ago the City of Fayetteville management was a complete and utter failure. The abuses of power were obscene and officer's of the Fayetteville Police Department were repeatedly abused by ex-chief Roberts, Ledbetter and Joe Morton. Harold Simmons was discriminated against and not one honest Fayetteville officer would say otherwise. Many officer's have made a stand with Mr. Simmons by showing up in support of his cause at City Council meetings two years ago. Remember, the room errupted into applause! Guess what...most of those officer's were white. This is a racial issue because the City of Fayetteville failed to act when racial discrimination and abuse occurred. I urge each reader not to pass judgment on Mr. Simmons without a full understanding of the basis of his claims. Mr. Simmons is not one to stand up and cry wolf unless the wolf is in the room.

Submitted by Xiphosura on Wed, 03/28/2007 - 5:04pm.

Im my many years living in the Fayetteville area, I never met a more honorable and caring individual.

His treatment at the Fayetteville Police Department was absolutely shameful and a disgrace to the community.

It is my sincere hope that justice prevails in Federal Court and Mr. Simmons gets the compensation he is owed by the city.

Shame on the City of Fayetteville for allowing this injustice to happen.

Submitted by Roadrunner on Wed, 03/28/2007 - 12:54pm.

I've only met him once, but my wife knows him through work in Fayetteville and has always been greatly impressed with him both as a person and professionally. She doesn't believe this is motivated by race at all knowing him as she does, so perhaps there is more to this than just another baseless claim.

Submitted by thebeaver on Wed, 03/28/2007 - 8:31am.

This is a perfect example as to why we need a “loser pays” system when it comes to lawsuits. When Mr. Simmons loses this case, and he will, he should be required to pay the costs of the city defense.
When people are too lazy to go out and get a job, they pull the race card and try to extort money out of people.

Submitted by erittalf on Tue, 03/27/2007 - 7:32pm.

When will we avoid these racial attacks? I think that each race should be equally considered for employment and disagree with employers providing opportunities to avoid affirmative action. I have worked with many competent individuals from many different races. In fact, a woman that is my life support system now does not share my skin color. However, there are some who always play the race card whenever they are not hired, lazy, or fired for a legitimate reason. Should that be a right? I think we could address many other issues in our law system, not someone’s incompetency or claim they are being discriminated against. I have seen many other black officers in Fayetteville and maybe they should be questioned about this issue. Not one man who is possibly demanding a handout and trying to illegitimately promote his race.

sam0917's picture
Submitted by sam0917 on Wed, 03/28/2007 - 8:11am.

I'm not sure which Police Department you're referring to when you say you've seen several black officers in Fayetteville but I can assure you it's not the Fayetteville Police Department. As of this date, there are only three black officers employed with them and before this date, when Harold was still employed there, it was still only three and has been that way for about the past eleven years or so. Please understand, he's not "pulling his race card" or using his race as an excuse to obtain his job BACK!!! He worked up through the ranks at the police department and earned his Major position and it was ripped away from him by people with too much power and ego that really do not like black people. I can speak from personal experience about this because I've seen it happen first hand. Also, his life supporter is of another race as well so let's not use that as a point either. He's a good, generous man that was treated wrongly and it happens to be because he is black. He's not doing all of this and putting himself and his family through all of this because he thinks it might've been a racist problem, he knows it was.

Submitted by msgapeach420 on Wed, 03/28/2007 - 11:55am.

Harold is a good man and has always helped his community in any way that he could. He's not asking for a handout at all, he is asking for what he deserves and he will get it! The city of Fayetteville knows that they did him wrong. Harold has never been the one to "pull his race card". Harold was not treated right and everyone knows that, but are scared to admitted or are just too ignorant.

Submitted by McDonoughDawg on Wed, 03/28/2007 - 11:45am.

Why does it matter? Are the current officers doing their jobs? Are they qualified? Do you know personally of someone who was not hired because of their race? What if all the applicants were white/black/hispanic is it OK to hire from that pool? Why does everything have to be about RACE?

Submitted by thebeaver on Wed, 03/28/2007 - 8:35am.

Why does it matter how many black police officers there are? The qualifications for becoming a police officer are extremely strict, and very few candidates are qualified.
They choose the best of the best, and prefer someone with a minimum of a high school diploma and prefer a college degree. Have you seen the latest statistics regarding the high school drop out rate among blacks?

Tug13's picture
Submitted by Tug13 on Wed, 03/28/2007 - 8:23am.

You are exactly right. In the beginning, Officer Simmons only wanted his job back.

I pray that Fayetteville police officers and others that know Harold Simmons will not be afraid to speak up, now that J. Roberts is gone.

Submitted by intheknow on Tue, 03/27/2007 - 6:45pm.

I believe I met the man once prior to his Fayetteville employment, back when he started with Peachtree City PD, if it's the same Mr. Simmons. I introduced myself, and he asked me "why he didn't see any black firefighters" (at that time) at PCFD - His unexpected and un-called for statement has always stuck in my mind over the years. I even remember making a comment a couple days later about it to one of my friends, another black officer, he just shook his head. What a way to introduce yourself - impressive! I don't think I need to say anymore -

sam0917's picture
Submitted by sam0917 on Wed, 03/28/2007 - 8:05am.

This is not the same man you're speaking of. I know that for a FACT! I'm not blasting you, I just wanted you to be aware that this isn't the same person at all.

Tug13's picture
Submitted by Tug13 on Tue, 03/27/2007 - 6:55pm.

Are you positive this is the same Harold Simmons? It doesn't sound like the Harold that I know.

After J. Roberts demoted Officer Simmons, he was the resource officer at FMS. The kids loved him.

Submitted by intheknow on Wed, 03/28/2007 - 8:26am.

Did he work at Peachtree City PD for a short period prior to being hired with Fayetteville PD about 13 to 16 years ago - If so, then I beleive it to be the same individual - again, as I stated - this introduction and un-called for comment has always stuck in my mind, along with the name of Simmons.

Submitted by RuKiddin on Thu, 03/29/2007 - 12:54am.

He did work at Peachtree City PD before Fayetteville PD. I don't know if he said what they say he said, but, he did work for that department awhile ago. Just so you know, intheknow.

Tug13's picture
Submitted by Tug13 on Wed, 03/28/2007 - 8:32am.

Not the same Simmons. Smiling

Tug13's picture
Submitted by Tug13 on Tue, 03/27/2007 - 4:56pm.

Harold, I hope that you win your lawsuit.

My family and I support you 100%. Our prayers are with you.

God Bless

Submitted by Take back Fayette on Wed, 03/28/2007 - 9:35am.

lawsuit? How typical. If thier not in the disabilty line, thier filing lawsuits.

Submitted by dollaradayandfound on Wed, 03/28/2007 - 4:31pm.

You do need help! Of the millions of lawsuits in this country pending, about 95% of them are by white people.
95% of the few suits by minorities are about race. The white suits are about money.
Also, more whites are on Social Security Disability and welfare than ALL of the minorities combined. As the cable guy says, "you can look it up."
The thing you hate, I think, is that some minorities seem to want to do what they want to do, and as much of it as they want to do, and still be fed and housed by someone. So do many whites, but we assume the minorities don't pay their share of taxes in order to get any back. They assume they are owwed that for being "disadvantaged."
Until that attitude, and one's like your attitude, are changed, we are in trouble.

Enigma's picture
Submitted by Enigma on Thu, 03/29/2007 - 6:48pm.

100% of his diatribe is useless and replete with moronic babble.

Submitted by dollaradayandfound on Fri, 03/30/2007 - 7:40am.

Try sometime writing a whole paragraph instead of spitting out breathlessly a blasphemic 10 worder that means nor explains anything!
What are you for or against, besides what some of us say?

hutch866's picture
Submitted by hutch866 on Thu, 03/29/2007 - 7:01pm.

I thought I was the only one that noticed that.

I yam what I yam...Popeye

Tug13's picture
Submitted by Tug13 on Wed, 03/28/2007 - 2:35pm.

Your comment reeks of a typical ignorant racist.

Submitted by 30YearResident on Wed, 03/28/2007 - 5:47pm.

Another ignorant person calling someone a racist without the slightest idea of the definition of the word.


Tug13's picture
Submitted by Tug13 on Wed, 03/28/2007 - 8:25pm.

rac·ism Pronunciation[rey-siz-uhm]–noun

1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others.
2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.
3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.

The definition above applies to the recent posts by Take back Fayette. The definition of ignorant applies to you. Smiling

Submitted by dollaradayandfound on Wed, 03/28/2007 - 4:18pm.

I am dismayed by the quality of writing, spelling, and continuity by the writers in general on this blog.
The lack of pride in their correspondence indicates why some of them never get a good paying job, or are respected. It has little to do with basic intelligence, just a lack of trying to get away from the terrible schooling that some are allowed to get away with these days, and are passed on to the next grade. I know it is the parents fault priarily for talking such gibberish in front of the kids, but the giving up on them by the schools is inexcusable.
Errors are natural. It is the quantity and type that betray most.
I think that about two years of teaching children proper enunciation of the English language, spelling, and grammar only---before they start even first grade, may be necessary to ever get out of this rut.
This was the system used by the British in India and the Islands, and it worked. Most of the natives of those colonies speak almost perfect English. However, if there is no will or cooperation to do so, for whatever reason, it may never happen.

Basmati's picture
Submitted by Basmati on Wed, 03/28/2007 - 4:24pm.

Could you please do my poor failing eyes a favor and insert a blank line between paragraphs? I like to read what you have to say most times, but a little more spacing would go a long way.

Get your Klanpoints™ today!

Submitted by Take back Fayette on Wed, 03/28/2007 - 12:40pm.

First you correcting grammer, next your parading around like some savior. No one cares how many times you have heard the n word. Listen to rap lately? Its common. If the blacks keeping calling each other that, then so are the whites. Get used to it.Your in the south. Trust me you are no better than anyone on here just because u associate with middle class blacks.So do us all a favor and take your holier than thou a double snakes somewhere else.

hutch866's picture
Submitted by hutch866 on Wed, 03/28/2007 - 2:36pm.

All the blacks don't call each other that no more then all the whites are running around wearing sheets and burning crosses. You can take this to the bank, everyone on here is better then you, hell, even dollar is better then you. here's a tip, the words are you're, their,and they're.

I yam what I yam...Popeye

Submitted by skyspy on Wed, 03/28/2007 - 3:11pm.

but even one is too much.....I'm white and that word is offensive no matter who says it.

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