By Matt Montgomery
Former Piedmont police officer Kenneth Qualls has filed a lawsuit against the City of Piedmont.
Qualls was fired in November 2012 from the Piedmont Police Department after he issued Piedmont resident Ashley Warden a ticket because her three-year-old was allegedly urinating in her front yard.
The City of Piedmont has retained Oklahoma City attorney David Lee to handle this case. Lee said the city elected to take the petition, originally filed in state court through Canadian County on July 31, 2013, and move it to federal court, because Qualls alleged his 14th amendment rights had been violated.
The petition of judicial review re-filed in federal court on Feb. 10, alleges Qualls’ constitutional rights, specifically the 14th amendment, and his reputation have been tarnished.
The 14th amendment states “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
The petition for judicial review states the Qualls being a member of the Oklahoma Police Pension and Retirement System, can only be fired “for cause.” Furthermore, the petition reads that Qualls can only be terminated after being afforded due process.
The petition also reads that publically being called “stupid” by Piedmont Mayor Valerie Thomerson “deprived Qualls of his liberty interest in reputation, and Mr. Qualls was never given the opportunity to clear his name.”
Piedmont City Manager Jim Crosby said the City of Piedmont is not prepared to make a statement about the petition because the lawsuit is still ongoing and hasn’t been resolved.
Qualls went before the Piedmont Personnel Board to appeal city’s decision back on July 1, 2013, but the personnel board sought to uphold their decision in a 2 to 1 vote.
At that hearing, Qualls’ lawyer, Jarrod Leaman told the board that Qualls was a longtime police officer and a former Marine.
“The nature of police work is going out and doing what we don’t want to do ourselves and that is going out and enforcing the laws of our community,” Leaman said. “Every day an officer does that. He is essentially backing up his fellow citizens by helping them fight the crime in their neighborhood and to live in a safer community. It’s only fair that the inverse of that be true. The community, the citizens and the agency that employs that officer have his back when he does take those actions he is paid to take. It is my opinion that the City of Piedmont failed to back up Mr. Qualls.”
During the personnel board hearing, Qualls told his side of the event from November 2012.
Qualls said that he witnessed the three-year-old being led to the street by a 15-year-old, who pulled down the child’s pants and lifted up the child’s shirt. He said the child was facing away from Qualls so he was not able to confirm that the child urinated but he believed the child did. Qualls said he approached the child’s mother and got her information in order to write a citation for allowing her child to urinate in public. According to Qualls, before he wrote the citation he called his supervising sergeant to see if there were any problems with it. He said the sergeant did not have a problem with it but directed Qualls to the next supervisor, a captain. He said the captain too did not have a problem with the citation. He said the next day, Qualls spoke with the district attorney’s office, which told him that since there was no statute for allowing a child to urinate in public, to amend the citation to the delinquency of a minor.