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Posted April 4, 2012 | comments 19 Comments

Ex-police officer seeking court action

Man claims Strasburg violated firing procedures

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK -- A former Strasburg police officer claims the town violated its own procedures when he tried to contest his termination.

Aaron H. Lewis petitioned the Shenandoah County Circuit Court asking a judge to appoint a neutral, third member to a panel normally formed to discuss grievances brought forth by town employees. Leesburg attorney William M. Wittman, of Simms Showers LLP, filed the petition in the court Feb. 10 on behalf of Lewis, of 124 Fadeley Ave., Edinburg.

The petition asks the court to enter a declaratory judgment against the respondents identified in the filing as the Town of Strasburg and Tim Sutherly, the chief of the police department. Sutherly and the town have not responded to the petition but Nathan H. Miller, of Miller, Earle & Shanks PLLC, appeared in the court March 23 to represent the respondents as the appointed legal council for Strasburg.

The petition gives little information as to reasons for Lewis' firing from the police department. But the action may have come as a result of Lewis' involvement in the execution of a search warrant by a SWAT team in December 2009, according to documents filed with the petition.

Lewis submitted to Sutherly and the town his grievance procedure request as to the termination of his employment by Strasburg and the police department, according to the filing. The filing includes copies of the letters which date back as early as Feb. 12, 2010, sent to then Town Manager Kevin Fauber and Sutherly. Lewis states in the letter he did not receive a grievance form after Sutherly sent a memorandum to the petitioner dated Jan. 14, 2010, outlining proceedings against him.

Over the next several months letters filed with the petition indicate parties could not agree on a third, neutral member to sit on the grievance panel. A letter dated Nov. 8, 2010, indicates the grievance process had gone through three steps, with Lewis' termination found appropriate at each, before reaching the panel stage.

A letter dated Aug.2, 2011, from Wittman to a "Ms. Witness Doe," in Strasburg, states his law firm represents the Strasburg officer "in a matter that arose out of a Strasburg Police Department SWAT team search warrant that was enforced on December 18, 2009."

"Petitioner desires to complete the grievance process with the Respondents, but needs the assistance of this Honorable Court," the petition states. "The parties have experienced difficulty in forming the three member panel and in having the two respective parties' choose a third member as required under [the manual]."

The petition cites the grievance procedure in the Strasburg "Personnel Policies Manual" which requires the appointment of a third member to a panel who would address an employee's complaint. Lewis also has requested in the petition that the court require the respondents to provide the petitioner the subject grievance record and appropriate police investigative documents permitted under the manual's policies.

Lewis asks the court to grant him the power to subpoena and issue summons to require witnesses to attend the panel hearing. The petition states Lewis has tried to contact relevant witnesses by telephone voice mail as well as regular and certified mail but received a response from only one person so far. Lewis states in the petition that the manual allows the person who files the grievance and town representatives to call upon witnesses for a hearing.

"These witnesses will include law enforcement and alleged suspects in a court authorized search warrant," the petition states.

The petition cites the manual as stating that the town "'shall present its evidence first in grievances challenging a disciplinary action shall have the burden of persuasion on such issue.'" The respondents set up an alternative grievance procedure under the town's code of ordinances which the petitioner claims is not consistent with Virginia code. The petitioner also states he "reasonably believes the Town Council did not fully comply with the provisions of VA Code ... by failing to certify its grievance procedure '... in writing to be in compliance by city, town or county attorney, and the chief administrative officer of the locality, and such certification filed with the clerk of the circuit court ..."

"As a result, Respondents' have denied the Petitioner his rights under VA Code ... to full discovery as required ... which states in part "Absent just cause, all documents, as defined in the Rules of the Supreme Court, related to the actions of the grieved shall be made available, upon request by the opposing party in a timely fashion."

19 Comments | Leave a comment


    I would be interested to hear why an officer was fired for executing a search warrant with the SWAT team.

    I've seen so many really fat, out of shape police of late, I can't help but wonder if they are having a hard time finding qualified people. Don't these officers have to be physically fit for their job?

    Diana, the article pertains to the Strasburg Police Department and your comment sounds as though you feel the officers in that department are fat and out of shape.

    I do not live in the town of Strasburg but pass through numerous times during the week and cannot remember seeing any officers that appear overweight but I'm sure I haven't seen them all.

    And remember a bullet proof vest will make anyone look "large".

    If you were not speaking about the SPD please be clear of whom you speak.

    Compared to most towns, Strasburg officers appear to be in shape to me. There are a few big guys but most are healthy looking, especially the bike cops.

    Compared to most towns, Strasburg officers appear to be in shape to me. There are a few big guys but most are healthy looking, especially the bike cops.

    I agree with Diana. Oft times I see Strasburg's Finest with powdered sugar on the corners of their mouths, after presumably eating a dozen jelly donuts. One time a saw a group of Strasburg Cops at KFC scarfing down a couple of buckets of fried chicken. They were tearing it apart like it was their last meal.

    KFC? Donuts.. You cant even get a Jelly donut in the burg... These guys leave a lot to be desired, but dont make things up

    The jelly donut and KFC Chicken Bucket incident went down in Front Royal. They got so aggressive with the chicken the staff at KFC thought they were going to have to call the real police to supervise.

    It makes perfectly good sense.....If something is going to be made up, as these comments obvioulsy are, it needs to be so completely outrageous that no one would actually believe something like this happened.

    ....But then again, this might not be so far from the truth.

    Dear Know-It-All,
    Congratulations! Looks like you are enjoying the taste of shoe leather.... again. Are you trying to make this a habit?

    Tea Party Republicans never tell the truth about anything. It is especially bad in Strasburg, home to many nice and shiny tin foil hats. I wonder why? Everybody is really Polish but say they came from Germany? Everybody is blonde? Everybody was homeschooled? At least Charles Manson has the decency to look crazy when you see him.


    Hmmm....don't kow if that is a compliment or a slight. Not sure how jelly donuts and a fictitious chicken incident turned into tea party, republicans, Ratigan Hats, Germany, homeschooling, and Manson.

    Don't feed the trolls.

    When writing about the Tea Party Republicans not telling the truth, ROFLMAO? I am sure you didn't mean never. That's always. Did you mean always or is there some degree of lying they do? Can you be more specific?
    I live in Strasburg, and since you know a lot about shiny tin foil hats, maybe you can tell me more about them and where I can get one, please? Can't wait to see what one looks like.
    I can't speak for everyone in Strasburg, but I can say for sure everyone is not from Poland or Germany. It was settled mostly by Germans so I would assume it would be mostly Germans here.
    Am sure blonds are not the predominant color in Strasburg as you wrote and homeschooling numbers need to be more defined. You are using all again.
    You are very perceptive of Manson looks also. He does have a crazy look. I feel he doesn't have a choice, except for that swastika on his forehead, which doesn't help any. That is not very decent.

    Critics criticizing is what they do. Is it OK to criticize? Sure it is.

    Critics criticizing other critics is not OK because criticizing other critics is actually called trolling? Golly, I learn something new every day. Thanks for the information. I will name my first born son in your honor. So, what is the fair and just way to criticize a critic... pie in the face? Slander his mommy?

    Yep, I'm correct again, as usual. Strasburg is home range territory for always lying far-right-wing tea party nut-jobs wearing tin foil hats. Don't feed the nut-jobs. Critics criticizing critics (a.k.a. trolling) makes them crazy.

    (Hmmmm, have I just been trolled by Rusty? I feel a little bit crazy right now.)

    Bwwaaahhhhh hahahahaha

    Come on people, aren't you tired of KFC and jelly donuts, that is getting so old. How did this conversation go to that again and the infamous tea party? If, God forbid, anyone of you get in a really bad situation my bet is fat or skinny , donut or not you would call on our police dept. Give them a break!

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