Battle Creek Police Leaders File Defamation Suit After Being Put on Leave
BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (April 16, 2014) — Two high-ranking officers in the Battle Creek Police Department are filing a lawsuit against several city officials alleging defamation after being placed on leave.
Inspector Maria Alonso and Deputy Chief James Saylor were suspended and placed on leave in early March after after being accused of having an inappropriate relationship and then lying about it.
The two filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court April 11 against the city, Interim Police Chief Jim Blocker, Mayor David Walters and Interim City Manager Susan Bedsole.
Alonso and Saylor claim in the lawsuit that their suspensions were the result of an internal feud that resulted from a grudge held by Mayor David Walters involving his son, BCPD Officer Derek Walters.
Derek Walters is accused in the court documents of lying about the severity of a domestic dispute he responded to in 2013. Alonso and Saylor recommended he be fired after investigating the incident.
As part of the lawsuit, the two are seeking to be reinstated in their former positions and want all record of the termination and the process leading up to it removed from their records.
They are also seeking “fair and reasonable compensation to cover their economic and non-economic losses” as well as an injunction against the city that prohibits any kind of retaliation or interference with their “protected activity or associations.”
The suit also claims that then-Chief Jackie Hampton condoned their relationship because Alonso did not report directly to Saylor.
Former City Manager Ken Tsuchiyama also said the relationship was OK, according to the lawsuit.
After Hampton retired in January, Tsuchiyama apparently told Saylor he would be appointed interim chief.
According to the court documents, Tsuchiyama warned him that Mayor Walters would go to the media regarding his relationship with Alonso if he applied to be Chief.
Saylor, Tsuchiyama and Battle Creek Relations Director Russ Claggett allegedly reached an agreement where Alonso would report to Tsuchiyama when Saylor was named interim chief.
Shortly after, the mayor and Vice Mayor Deb Owens confronted Tsuchiyama and threatened to have him removed from his job if Saylor became interim chief. Tsuchiyama resigned Feb. 5 and Bedsole became interim city manager.
She appointed Detective Jim Blocker as interim police chief.
Alonso and Saylor say that the March 7 press conference announcing their suspension was a deliberate attempt to damage their reputations and “effectively ended their careers with the BCPD.”