KY Appeals Court overturns judge's decision to reinstate fired LMPD officer
Appeals Court rules former Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Frederic Cowan "erred" in reinstating Officer Walter Baker, who had been fired after allegations of fraud
LOUISVILLE, Ky., (WDRB) – The Kentucky Court of Appeals has overturned a Jefferson Circuit Court judge and reinstated the 2010 decision to fire a Louisville Metro Police officer accused of fraudulently renting Section 8 housing to his mother.
In 2012, then Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Frederic Cowan reversed a decision by the Louisville Police Merit Board to uphold the firing of Walter Baker, who was a former Officer of the Year.
But on Friday, the appeals court ruled Cowan erred by overruling the board’s decision, finding there was "substantial evidence" for Baker to be terminated.
Cowan, who is no longer a judge, had ruled that the board's key conclusions in upholding former Chief Robert White's decision to fire Baker are "not rationally supported by its factual findings," according to a Courier-Journal story at the time.
And Cowan found that the merit board -- an independent body made up of civilians and police officers who hear disciplinary appeals from officers -- erred in ruling that Baker "acknowledged" criminal wrongdoing, according to the newspaper.
The appeals court ruled, however, that "Baker himself admitted that he violated federal law" and ordered the lower court to affirm the merit board's ruling.
Thomas Clay, Baker's attorney, said he will appeal the ruling to the Kentucky Supreme Court and denied that Baker ever admitted wrongdoing.
Baker was never reinstated by LMPD, according to Dwight Mitchell, a spokesman for the department. Clay said Baker works for TARC.
Baker was fired July 1, 2010, after an internal investigation determined he had signed annual certification forms for the Department of Housing and Urban Development indicating there was no family relationship between him and his mother, Pamela Burton, according to the Courier-Journal. Section 8 regulations on housing assistance prohibit renting to immediate family members.
Burton had been renting Baker's home for several years before someone anonymously reported the relationship to the Louisville Metro Housing Authority. Baker repaid more than $21,000 in subsidized rent money, according to the newspaper.
No charges were ever filed.
Clay said Baker entered into an agreement where he repaid the money and was told by an LMPD official that it would not affect his employment.
Baker, who had served on the department since 2001 and was named Officer of the Year in 2007, said during his merit hearing in November 2010 that he was careless in signing documents he hadn't read and that he made a mistake, according to the Courier-Journal.
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