LOUISVILLE, Ky., (WDRB) – After having a few beers at a bar earlier this year, Shively Mayor Sherry Sinegra Conner decided she better not drive home.
The problem, which has led to litigation and claims of misconduct, is who the mayor called for a ride: The Shively Police Department.
“This is Sherry Conner. Hey who is the sergeant on site?” the mayor asks, according to a recording of her call to dispatch on March 3 and obtained by WDRB News. “Will you tell him I’m leaving (a bar)? I’ve had a few beers. Ask him if he can come over here and get me. Please. Please.”
The dispatcher agreed to have an officer come pick her up.
Below is audio of that 911 call, or click here to listen.
Now, the city, mayor and police are in a legal battle with a former sergeant in the department who was fired, at least in part, for recording the phone call.
Sgt. Mike Thompson was fired after recording the call with his cellphone and then disseminating it with the intent to “discredit, smear and embarrass an individual and cause a critical adverse impact on the image of the Shively Police Department and the City of Shively,” according to his July termination letter.
The department also accused Thompson of lying during an internal investigation. And Thompson had previously been reprimanded in 2015 for “the dissemination of and handling of inaccurate information,” according to the letter. He was told at the time that “further actions of this nature would result in termination.”
The mayor signed off on his termination in July, saying it was “clear he violated Shively Police Department policies,” according to documents obtained by WDRB.
In an interview, Conner acknowledged making the call but said police did not end up picking her up from the bar.
“At least I had the sense to call somebody,” she said, adding that a family member came to get her.
And she said Thompson was not terminated because he recorded the call. She would not say why the officer was fired.
Thompson has appealed his firing and a hearing in front of the Civil Service Commission has been scheduled for next week.
An attorney for Thompson, Mary Sharp, said she could not talk about the incident until after the hearing.
Thompson has been with the department for about 10 years. Conner has been Shively mayor since 2004 but lost in a Democratic primary this year to Beverly Chester Burton.
Shively denied an open records request for the original dispatch recording, filed by Sharp, who represents Thompson, because “the system that creates and stores long-term recordings of phone and radio communications was not operational during the period” requested, according to a June 14 letter from Lt. Col. Josh Myers, assistant police chief.
Shively denied open records requests from WDRB, saying it was a pending investigation. Shively police have not yet commented on the incident.
In addition, the city of Shively filed a lawsuit earlier this month against Thompson in Jefferson Circuit Court.
The lawsuit said that Thompson had made several open records request for emails between Shively police and the mayor, among other information, concerning his internal investigation. An attorney for Shively, Finn Cato, argued in the suit that Thompson had agreed to have Sharp make any requests for records on his behalf.
After the city responded to Thompson and Sharp that they had violated that agreement, the lawsuit claims there was no response.
Having not received his records, Thompson appealed to the Kentucky Attorney General’s office, which acts as a referee when citizens and news organizations challenge state agencies for access to records.
In October, the attorney general’s office ruled Shively violated the open records law by failing to respond to Thompson. The attorney general’s office also found that any agreement the city had with Sharp doesn’t exempt Shively officials from complying with the law.
The lawsuit filed by Shively asks that the attorney general opinion be reversed and Thompson pay court costs.
Travis Ragsdale contributed to this story.
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