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Posted March 16, 2011 | comments 11 Comments

Former officer loses appeal

Federal judge rules in favor of Sutherly over Stickley firing

By Preston Knight - pknight@nvdaily.com

STRASBURG -- Former town police Lt. Scott Stickley has lost his federal appeal of a 2009 U.S. District Court decision on a lawsuit he filed against the town and other defendants.

In a decision issued Monday in the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, Senior District Judge David A. Faber ruled in favor of Police Chief Tim Sutherly, former Town Manager Kevin Fauber and the town by affirming the district court's ruling to grant summary judgment for the defendants. Stickley filed a lawsuit accusing them of violating his due process, equal protection and First Amendment rights in February 2009, and the district court's decision came in October of that year.

The appeal ensued in December 2009.

Stickley joined the Strasburg Police Department in 1996, and sought the chief's post when Marshall Robinson retired in 2006, court records state. The council ultimately selected Sutherly, and the new chief was accused of making comments in the community of his intentions to dismiss Stickley, records state.

By May 2008, Stickley was demoted to a patrol officer position, and was approached shortly afterward by Carl Rinker, a council member at the time, and asked about the demotion. Rinker then talked to Sutherly about the situation, records state, and the chief placed Stickley on administrative leave while the department investigated whether he violated regulations by going outside the chain of command in talking to Rinker.

Stickley eventually went before a board of inquiry, convened at Sutherly's request, and in June 2008 the panel determined Stickley should be terminated for two infractions, including insubordination, records state. The lawsuit was filed about seven months later.

In Monday's ruling, Faber states that Stickley's right to speak on his demotion was not clearly established, entitling Sutherly and Fauber to qualified immunity, and that the officer failed to show that either the chief or town manager possessed the final authority required to hold the municipality liable.

"Defendants bring to the court's attention the fact that the Town of Strasburg retains the final decisionmaking authority with respect to the Chief of Police's actions," he states.

"Additionally, the fact that Sutherly had Stickley come before a Board of Inquiry to decide the question of Stickley's alleged insubordination only strengthens defendants' contention that Sutherly did not reserve to himself final decisionmaking authority with respect to employee discipline and termination issues."

11 Comments | Leave a comment

    this small town has got to have the most corrupt police dept. i have ever come across. someone needs to do an extremely thorough investigation of each and every police officer on the force.

    how come no story on the cop that overdosed in the last week. probably took the drugs from what was supposed to be a bust.

      First of all I cannot believe NVD allows such libelous fallacies to be printed in their blog. While not perfect, we are fortunate to have the hardest working, dedicated and honest group of officers in the valley. We recieve very few complaints on officers, except for the anonymous cheap shot printed in the NVD blogs. Furthermore, no such overdose occured, that is why there was no article about it.

        Yes, I cannot believe the stuff that the NVD allows certain people to post on their website--and yet they continue to censor my comments for some reason, even when they contain nothing even approaching a violation of the terms of use. I want to know what staff member is in charge of making the call as to whether or not a post is permitted.

        This is just another example of why the NVD is steadily losing ground to the Warren County Report, both in print and online.

        And that paragraph above alone will surely be enough for the NVD staff to censor this post! Go right ahead... Your actions make your paper and website more and more irrelevant each day.

    I am glad to see the the chief take up for his department, it is obvious comments like those posted by lilmomma, are from someone with an axe to grind. I am proud of our police department and it has only improved since Chief Sutherly took over. He is not part of the "good ole boy" network, so he gets attacked by those that no longer get there way. Keep up the good work SPD, most of us understand where these attacks originate, shame on the NVD for participating in it.

    Sounds like this case did not go the way someone may have wanted. I remember when these two lawsuits began, the "Ex-Councilman" was writing anonymous letters talking about how the chief was picking on these poor officers and they were going to own the town, after the lawsuits. It seems to me that all the chief has done is correct a bunch of problems in the PD. They have had there day or days in court and lost, and it sounds like the "Ex-Councilman" is back in a new form.

    Agreed. I don't know what their issue is, but it is clearly their own. In the six years I have lived in Strasburg, I have been absolutely impressed by the police department. Every officer I have seen has been kind, courteous, helpful, and respectful. They go out of their way to speak to my young child and make him comfortable with them. If I am out of a walk or a run, I can count on seeing them, and that makes me feel safe. Every single interaction I have had with *any* of them has been positive.

    Honestly. If you have a problem with them.... you may be the problem.

    I can see why this posting would ruffle the feathers of the SPD, but I do have to side with the NVD. After all, everything lilmomma wrote was just hearsay. Anyway, this is just a comment blog where people, at times, can regurgitate some strange information. Don't let this get to you SPD. Everyone in Strasburg is aware of the find job you guys do.

    Our PD does a GREAT job and I am thankful for each and every one of them! Keep up the good work!

    I would like buy all members of the SPD some donuts. Just tell me via the blog what your favorites varieties are, and I will have them delivered to your station.

    Come on Geoff.... Don't be so hard on the Daily. They did post your comment about it losing ground to the Warren County Report. (whether factual or not). You wanted to Know who is making the posting decisions? I am sure the NVD is more than willing to tell you, should you decide to give them a frindly call....They won't bite!


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