GEORGETOWN — A former Georgetown police officer is seeking damages from the Town of Georgetown stemming from an investigation last year.
Sgt. Charles Morgan is requesting compensatory and punitive damages of $700,000 for “per se defamation and violation of civil rights,” according to a tort claim submitted by attorney Dustin White.
The lawsuit comes on the heels of an investigation that placed Morgan — who now works for the Scott County Sheriff’s Office — on paid administrative leave for roughly a month in 2019. On Sept. 11, Morgan, along with Chief Denny Kunkel, was put on leave after the Georgetown Town Council announced an investigation into accusations of misconduct.
Handling the investigation was the Indiana State Police Special Investigation Section. It was announced at a special meeting on Oct. 10 that Morgan had been cleared of any misconduct by ISP investigators, with a letter of reinstatement being signed by town officials and Morgan immediately afterward.
But White says that process was “inappropriate.”
“When the town took action, we believe they did it in an inappropriate way, which was injurious to [Morgan’s] reputation as a police officer,” White said. “That’s his livelihood... This is more of a situation where we want to make sure a government doesn’t unnecessarily damage the reputation of another police officer.”
According to the content of the claim, Morgan was “forced to return his police vehicle and badge” to town officials after the investigation was announced. The claim goes on to state that the vehicle was searched without a warrant being presented.
Morgan also experienced monetary loss, according to the claim, as he missed out on K9 events during the investigation.
After the meeting that reinstated him, Morgan told the News and Tribune that he had little communication with the investigating entities. None of the information he and White had requested regarding the accusations had been made available. To date, Morgan never received information on any complaints made against him.
The claim states that all of this was “injurious” to Morgan’s reputation and integrity, as it “created doubt among the public, and fellow officers, of his ability to responsibly perform his duty.”
White pointed to Indiana’s police officers’ bill of rights, which was passed by the state legislature last year, as grounds for the suit. The bill established minimum due process and personnel rights of members of a police department who is the subject of an investigation.
“That’s the foundation of the civil rights claim,” White said. “We believe that this is probably the first time this statute will have been tested. The proper procedures were not followed, which violated Officer Morgan’s civil rights.”
Georgetown Town Council attorney Kristi Fox said the town is not yet aware of the tort claim, and was unable to provide any further comment Monday.