Witnesses called by Morris' attorneys to testify tonight

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By The Staff

SHEPHERDSVILLE - After hearing testimony from the city, attorneys for fired police chief Ronald Morris will have an opportunity to put its witnesses on the stand tonight.

The Shepherdsville Civil Service Commission will resume the appeal by Morris at 6 p.m. on Thursday.

Tuesday's proceedings were cut short as attorney Jim Winchell, representing the city, concluded his witnesses.

Attorney Tom Clay, representing Morris, made a motion for a directed verdict, effectively saying the city had not made its case on why mayor Sherman Tinnell properly fired the police chief.

Clay argued that Morris had a First Amendment right to voice his concerns over policies and procedures made by the mayor. He also said the allegations against Morris were in violation of the whistleblower's act.

The concerns voiced by Morris dealt with issues of public concern, said Clay.

Winchell responded that if Morris had spoken as a citizen and not as an employee, the First Amendment would be a factor.

However, he said the government could restrict speech if it affects the operation of the entity. He said Morris constantly criticized Tinnell and that affected the police department and the city.

"It went on and on," Winchell said of the criticism.

The three-member civil service commission met in closed session for less than 10 minutes before returning to rule that Clay's motion was overruled.

However, with three police officers subpoenaed to be present but not there at the time, the commission agreed to recess until Thursday.

Prior to the motion to dismiss, Tinnell was still on the stand under cross-examination by Clay from the previous Tuesday.

The mayor agreed that the morale of the police department was important. The decision to take away the cars for officers living outside the county did hurt morale, according to Tinnell, until they understood the reason.

He also felt the liability of the special response team was too great since he thought it involved officers from other agencies.

The mayor said the issues involved the public concern.

Tinnell fired Morris on July 27 on three grounds, including insubordination, unbecoming behavior and treatment of subordinates and supervisors.

The civil service hearing continues each Tuesday and Thursday at 6 p.m. until its conclusion.