Bralley, Cook Back On Hook

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Former Mocksville Police Chief Robert Cook and current Town Manager Christine Bralley again have civil liability in a lawsuit filed by three fired police officers.

Federal District Court Judge Catherine C. Eagles in January vacated an earlier order that dismissed claims the officers made against Cook and Bralley.

The three were fired, they say, because they reported corruption and wrongdoing by Cook to the governor’s office and to the NAACP.

Ken Hunter, who is black, Jerry Medlin and Rick Donathan are the fired officers suing the town, Cook and Bralley.

The case was originally scheduled to be heard this month, but has been delayed because the defendants – Cook, Bralley (who hired Cook) and the town – appealed the latest decision, said Rana Holcomb, a legal assistant with the firm Elliot Morgan Parsonage PLLC. Robert Elliot is the fired officers’ attorney.

“The court reversed its earlier ruling, and reinstated the federal constitutional claims against the individual defendants, Bralley and Cook,” she wrote.

The officers claimed they were fired after reporting unlawful and unethical conduct, including favoritism and racism in the police department. They said that Cook impersonated a police officer and used racial epithets.

The lawsuit had asked that the officers get their jobs back, compensatory damages in excess of $100,000, punitive damages and the costs of filing the lawsuit.

The most recent order from the judge reads, in part:

“The Court previously held that the cases addressing whether an employer can or cannot discharge law enforcement officers for anonymous off-duty reporting of apparent corruption were ambiguous and gave the defendants the benefit of qualified immunity. The Fourth Circuit has now explicitly held that ‘it was clearly established in the law of this Circuit in September 2009 that an employee’s speech about serious governmental misconduct, and certainly not least of all serious misconduct in a law enforcement agency, is protected.”

It goes on to say that none of the cases studied favor immunity for Cook or Bralley, and that claims for punitive damages against Bralley and Cook may proceed to trial.

The lawsuit said that Cook and Bralley met to discuss the issue before they were fired.