MOCKSVILLE, N.C. -- Three former officers of the Mocksville Police Department have filed a federal lawsuit against the Town of Mocksville, its police chief and the town manager.
The former officers were each fired on Dec. 29. They include Maj. Ken Hunter, who began working with the department in April 1985, Lt. Rick Donathan, who began in May 1998, and Det. Jerry Medlin, who began in July 2006.
In a federal lawsuit, the plaintiffs allege the Town of Mocksville, Police Chief Robert Cook and town manager Christine Bralley violated their First Amendment rights to free speech by firing them for "speaking out against corrupt practices within the department."
The lawsuit claims Cook would openly drink alcohol while in uniform and armed with a weapon, fix traffic tickets for friends, as well as mishandled and misappropriated funds belonging to the local Law Enforcement Association and misappropriated funds from the account of seized drug money.
The lawsuit also claims the chief violated labor laws by altering officer time sheets to avoid paying overtime.
Cook is also accused of engaging in "blatant racial discrimination against officer Hunter and the only other African-American officer at the Mocksville Police Department" by making racist comments and allowing other officers to do the same.
The court documents call Bralley's actions corrupt and malicious, saying she did nothing about the claims and failed to seek an independent investigation as required by state law. The three officers claim that, after the town manager would not act, they secretly contacted the governor's office and the SBI to request an independent investigation.
"It's a legal matter and will be handled in the courts," Bralley told FOX8's Chad Tucker by phone on Thursday. "We (the Town of Mocksville) have acted properly."
"I've not been served and haven't seen the lawsuit," Cook said by phone. "Any comment will have to come from the town attorney."
The plaintiffs are being represented by Robert "Hoppy" Elliot and Alison L. Maddux from Elliot Pishko Morgan, P.A. in Winston-Salem.
In January town officials said they did not expect the firings, which reduced the police force to 19 officers, to affect the safety of the community.
“We are a state of hire and fire at will. These three officers have been terminated for personnel reasons. I cannot go into it with you or the public,” Cook told FOX8's Brent Campbell earlier this year.
At the time, Cook would not comment further on the firings, but said he's “trying to do what’s best for the town and the department.”
Campbell tried to reach all three of the fired officers but was only able to speak with Donathan, who was honored in 2007 for saving the lives of several people from a nursing home fire.
Donathan didn’t wish to speak on camera, but said he and the others did nothing wrong.