Bullitt County sheriff accused of 'serious criminal activity' in whistleblower lawsuit
In the lawsuit, former Bullitt County Chief Sheriff’s Deputy John Cottrell claims he was fired after he and two subordinates in the department investigated Greenwell and “revealed that the Sheriff is involved in serious criminal activity.”
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Former Bullitt County Chief Sheriff’s Deputy John Cottrell, who was second in command of the department, has filed a whistleblower lawsuit claiming he was fired by Sheriff David Greenwell after revealing that Greenwell was involved in criminal activity.
In the suit, filed in Bullitt Circuit Court Tuesday, Cottrell claims he was wrongfully terminated Oct. 5 while out on medical leave by Greenwell as retaliation for taking part in a criminal investigation against the sheriff.
Cottrell was fired for “absence from duty,” according to a termination letter obtained by WDRB last year.
But in the lawsuit, Cottrell claims he and two subordinates in the department investigated Greenwell and “revealed that the Sheriff is involved in serious criminal activity.”
A spokesman for the sheriff’s department said neither he nor Greenwell would discuss pending litigation. But the department did say that Cottrell is currently under investigation for allegedly forging a deputy identification badge for his girlfriend in June 2014.
That case is currently pending in front of a special prosecutor.
The girlfriend allegedly worked off duty at several places using the badge, including in a secured area at Louisville International Airport, according to a synopsis of the investigation, obtained under the Kentucky Open Record Act. The places were led to believe the woman was a deputy, according to records. The woman was never hired by the department.
An attorney for Cottrell did not immediately return a phone message.
Over the last two years, Cottrell said he reported alleged mismanagement, waste, fraud, abuse of authority and illegal activity by Greenwell, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit did not provide details on the alleged criminal activity.
“Over the last year, the Sheriff has acted paranoid and angry because of his apparent suspicions of being investigated by his own department,” the suit claims.
Capt. Mike Halbleib and Det. Tim Murphy, who work in the department’s drug task force, assisted in the investigation of Greenwell, according to the suit.
Cottrell alleges that he has had concerns for himself and the other men investigating Greenwell, claiming the sheriff had discussed disbanding the task force and firing Halbleib and Murphy.
On September 17, Cottrell said he told Greenwell he needed to leave because of a leg injury. A couple days later, Cottrell told Greenwell he could barely walk and needed to see a doctor, according to the lawsuit.
While off work, Cottrell claims he followed department protocol regarding medical leave.
After he was fired, Cottrell asked for a required wrongful termination hearing but was refused, the suit claims.
According to the lawsuit, Cottrell heard he was terminated “because he was being investigated for using his taser on his girlfriend.”
The lawsuit is seeking a jury trial and unspecified monetary damages.
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