LMPD :: Louisville Metro Police Department

Jury hands demoted LMPD officer $300,000 verdict in case against city


Jurors have awarded $300,000 to a Louisville Metro Police lieutenant who sued the city claiming he was demoted in retaliation for speaking out about issues within the department.

After about three of hours of deliberation, jurors handed Lt. Raymond "Jimmy" Harper a victory in his whistleblower suit.

He'll receive $115,000 in lost wages and $185,000 for embarrassment/mental anguish, which brings the total verdict to $300,000.

Harper won't receive anything for punitive damages.

Jurors has found Harper's exchange with Mayor Fischer was a protected action under the whistleblower act.

Jurors started deliberations mid-afternoon Wednesday on whether a Louisville a Louisville Metro Police lieutenant was demoted in retaliation for speaking out about issues within the department.

Lt. Raymond "Jimmy" Harper claims he was protected under the state's whistleblower law in making those statements that criticized Police Chief Steve Conrad and his leadership to the Louisville mayor and some on Louisville Metro Council.

"If you're not on 'the team' you're going to suffer consequences," said Harper's attorney Thomas Clay.

Attorneys for the Louisville Metro government argued Harper was only voicing his frustration and disapproval, working to undermine the chief and his plans, and is not protected under the law.

Conrad, who took the stand Wednesday for a second time in the trial, has testified majors are members of his command staff and serve at-will.

"I wanted to make sure we successfully moved forward in addressing violent crime in our community," he said, "and I couldn't do that with one of the majors in our department actively fighting that process, and that's exactly what Maj. Harper was doing."

Assistant Jefferson County Attorney Peter Ervin told jurors the longtime officer was angry over his demotion in May 2017 from major over the 2nd Division and is looking to pay his retirement by suing the city.

"It's obvious from the numbers they suggested they want money," Ervin said in his closing argument Wednesday afternoon.

Harper is seeking up to $6.6 million in lost income, punitive damages as well as for embarrassment and mental anguish.

Jurors were asked to evaluate three of Harper's actions and decide if they were covered under the whistleblower statute, which protects employees from retaliation "who in good faith" report possible violation of law, mismanagement, waste, fraud, abuse of authority or a danger to public health and safety.

One of those actions was Harper's statements to Mayor Greg Fischer and some council members about police Chief Steve Conrad's decision in September 2016 to disband flex units.

Harper has testified that the flex units were making headway in addressing violence and gang and drug activity in the 2nd Division -- which includes a number of West End neighborhoods -- and he feared their elimination was a sign of mismanagement and endangered public safety.

Harper told jurors of how he was called into a meeting with Conrad shortly after he spoke to Fischer. He wasn't allowed to explain himself, Harper testified, and was admonished for going outside the chain of command to voice concerns.

Conrad, too, has testified about this meeting and said he "had half a mind" to demote Harper at that point.

He also said on the stand that Harper's exchange with the mayor was a factor in the demotion.

Ervin asserted Harper was giving his own opinions to the mayor about the 2016 reorganization, unable to know if the chief's new plans would work.

"A different style of management doesn't equate to mismanagement," Ervin said

Harper's attorney, Clay, also said his client wasn't going outside the chain of command, as it was Fischer who asked Harper for his opinion.

In January 2017, Harper also shared with some council members departmental emails showing that $1.2 million in council-allocated overtime funds meant to target violent crime was being spent rapidly.

Regarding the misuse of overtime claims, Ervin pointed to the testimony of past and present top department leadership who said they'd spend the funds in the same way if they had to again.

"The overtime was the right thing at the right time," he said. "There wasn't any mismanagement. There wasn't any waste. They put the officers where they needed to be."

During trial, jurors learned that the department has an ongoing criminal investigation into some officers' use of that overtime.

The third protected reason for which Harper was retaliated against, Clay said, was that Harper testified in support of Barron Morgan and Richard Pearson, officers who had sued the city in 2012 alleging they were retaliated against for trying to help an imprisoned woman prove her innocence in a homicide.

The city settled with Morgan for $450,000, and a trial in Pearson's case ended in a verdict in favor of the city.

Conrad denied the 2012 lawsuits were a factor in the demotion, though he did acknowledge on the witness stand that he feared Harper would file a lawsuit based on his involvement in the case if he would have demoted Harper in September 2016 after his words with the mayor.

Ervin argued there was no evidence to back up the allegation that the Morgan case was a factor in Conrad's decision, noting that Conrad made Harper major of the 2nd Division years after his depositions.

"Everything he told you is an assumption on his part," Ervin said of Harper.

Jurors continued to deliberate in the case past 5 p.m. Wednesday, the seventh day of trial before Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Angela McCormick Bisig.