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STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA COUNTY OF BEAUFORT Bryan Norberg, Plaintiff, vs. Town of Bluffton, Defendant.

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IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS FOR THE FOURTEENTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT Case No.: 2013-CP-07- 1637 AMENDED COMPLAINT (JURY TRIAL DEMANDED)

The Plaintiff, Bryan Norberg, complaining of the Defendant, Town of Bluffton, alleges as follows: JURISDICTION AND VENUE
1.

Plaintiff is a citizen and resident of the County of Beaufort, State of South

Carolina.
2.

Defendant Town of Bluffton is a municipal corporation operating with a Council-

Manager form of government pursuant to S.C. Code 5-13-10 et seq. in the County of Beaufort.
3.

All actions pertinent to the allegations in this Complaint took place in Beaufort

County.
4.

Jurisdiction and venue are proper in this Court. FACTS

5.

Plaintiff was employed by Defendant as a Lieutenant in the Bluffton Police

Department until May 7, 2013.


6.

In his capacity as Lieutenant, Plaintiff worked closely with the former Police

Chief of the Town of Bluffton, David McAllister (Chief McAllister).

7.

For most of Plaintiffs tenure with Defendant, David McAllister was Defendants

Police Chief.
8.

Under the Council-Manager form of government, the Town Manager is the chief

executive officer and is responsible for the hiring and firing of all Town employees.
9.

The Town Manager can also discipline Town employees, including employees of

the Police Department.


10. 11.

Defendants Police Chief is an agent of Defendant. Defendants Police Chief and Town Manager are responsible for the internal

discipline of officers within the Police Department.


12.

Beginning in November 2010, Chief McAllister required Plaintiff to keep secret

an extramarital affair McAllister was having at the time. Specifically, when Chief McAllister was supposed to be working in the office but was with his girlfriend, if Chief McAllisters wife called the office, Plaintiff was required to immediately contact the Chief and stall for time with the wife.
13.

Chief McAllisters requirement that Plaintiff, as part of his job duties, protect the

secrecy of Chief McAllisters extra-marital affair interfered with Plaintiffs job duties.
14.

Once, when Plaintiff could not reach Chief McAllister regarding a work situation

he had to instead contact another employee, Lieutenant Angel Tubbs, who then became aware that the Chief was inaccessible to solve work issues because he was with this girlfriend.
15.

Shortly after Plaintiff had to contact Lieutenant Tubbs to resolve this work

situation due to the Chiefs absence, Chief McAllister became angry with Plaintiff and accused Plaintiff of telling Lieutenant Tubbs about Chief McAllisters affair.

16.

McAllister angrily yelled at Plaintiff and told him, from now on, I will treat you

differently and other employees will notice. Chief McAllister then shunned Plaintiff for over three (3) months and often told Plaintiff that Plaintiff had betrayed his trust by telling the truth about his affair to Tubbs and Plaintiff needed to try harder to remedy the situation.
17.

As a result of Chief McAllisters representations and actions, Plaintiff feared that

covering for the Chiefs extra-marital affair was a condition of him retaining his job and that he would lose his job if he ever refused to cover for the Chief, or to follow the Chiefs orders, even he believed such orders were unethical or illegal.
18.

Between December 2010 and March 2011, Plaintiff noticed that Chief McAllister

was allowing his girlfriend, who was the Executive Director of the Palmetto Animal League, to keep stray dogs in the Towns holding cells overnight.
19.

Plaintiff and other police officers became aware that holding cells meant for

humans and required to be maintained at certain standards pursuant to the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) accreditation requirements, were being used by Chief McAllister to house dogs so his girlfriend did not have to be woken in the middle of the night to care for these dogs.
20.

Plaintiff knew that holding cells approved by the SC Department of Corrections

were intended for use by persons not dogs. There is also a state statute (S.C. Code 41-3-40) that prohibits the release of stray dogs that have been picked up until proof has been provided that the dogs are currently inoculated against rabies.
21.

Plaintiff knew it was wrong for the Police Department to house, and also to

release to the Chiefs girlfriend, stray dogs which may not have been be inoculated against rabies.

22.

Plaintiff questioned the Town Manager as to whether it was appropriate for the

Chief to give a federally subsidized bullet proof vest to a friend of his who ran a restaurant called the Squat n Gobble.
23.

The Town Manager told Plaintiff he had given the Chief permission to give the

vest away. Then, a week later, Chief McAllister told Plaintiff the vest was left over from his old police department in Delaware and it was no good.
24.

Plaintiff knew if the bullet proof vest was really from the Delaware police

department as McAllister told him, that the Town Manager would not have needed to give McAllister permission to give the vest away, so Plaintiff felt after this incident that the Town Manager was likely willing to say anything to protect McAllister, whether he knew the facts or not.
25.

During this time, Plaintiff witnessed Chief McAllister and his girlfriend walking

around the police department together and selecting furniture to be sent to and used at her place of business, the Palmetto Animal League.
26.

Plaintiff was concerned that Chief McAllister was giving Town property to his

girlfriend for her personal use at her business as Plaintiff knew that as public employees, the State Ethics Act applied to them and that its provisions (S.C. Code 8-13-700) prohibited Chief McAllister from using his position as police chief to obtain an economic interest for himself or an individual with whom he was associated.
27.

Plaintiff became concerned that Chief McAllisters conduct with his girlfriend

violated the State Ethics Act and could create civil and criminal liability and penalties for the Department and for him if he remained silent.

28.

As Chief McAllister continued to shun and avoid Plaintiff, Plaintiff was also

concerned that he was going to be fired.


29.

Plaintiff reported his concerns about the Chiefs actions on behalf of the girlfriend

to Defendants Town Attorney. Defendants Town Attorney provided no assistance and instead told Plaintiff, I cant believe thisDave is my friend.
30.

Upon information and belief, Defendants Town Attorney took no action at all to

investigate or remedy Plaintiffs complaints about the possible state ethics violations by Chief McAllister.
31.

After it was clear to Plaintiff that Defendants Town Attorney was going to ignore

Plaintiffs concerns, Plaintiff reported his concerns to Defendants Human Resources Manager, Jesse Hershey, who instructed Plaintiff to talk to Defendants Town Manager, Anthony Barrett.
32.

Plaintiff met with Defendants Town Manager on March 24, 2011, reported his

concerns about Chief McAllisters actions. Plaintiff told the Town Manager he was fearful the Chief was going to fire him.
33.

Defendants Town Manager expressed no concern about the wrongful acts

reported by Plaintiff and instead simply asked, What do you want me to do about it and then told Plaintiff he would look into it.
34.

Plaintiff knew at the time that the Town Manager and Chief McAllister were

personal friends and that it was unlikely that the Town Manager would take Plaintiffs complaints seriously.
35.

About a week later, on April 1, 2011, Plaintiff was called into a meeting with

Defendants Town Manager. Chief McAllister was also present.


36.

Defendants Town Manager told Plaintiff that Plaintiff misunderstood what was

going on and then gave Plaintiff a written warning for going outside the chain of command by reporting his concerns to Defendants Town Attorney, Defendants Human Resources Manager, and Town Manager, instead of directly to Chief McAllister.
37.

During the meeting, Defendants Town Manager presented Plaintiff with a pre-

typed agreement and told Plaintiff that he was required to sign this pre-typed agreement as a condition of his continued employment.
38.

The pre-typed agreement included false statements, such as a statement that

Plaintiff was personally and professionally satisfied that my concerns have been fully addressed and resolved to my complete satisfaction and that Chief McAllister has always been willing to hear my concerns.
39.

The pre-typed agreement required that Plaintiff agree to always give the Chief,

my superior officer, the right and courtesy to hear my concerns before going outside of the Department.
40.

Plaintiff understood during this meeting that that he was being punished for

reporting the Chiefs wrongful acts, that his written warning was being placed in his personnel file, and that, thereafter, if he wanted to retain his job he could not report anything about the Chiefs conduct to anyone other than the Chief.
41.

Plaintiff had approached Defendants Town Manager because he feared he was

about to lose his job and Plaintiff understood after this meeting that to keep his job he could no longer talk about any of the Chiefs actions.
42.

It was very clear to Plaintiff during and after this meeting that the Town Manager

was protecting Chief McAllister and he was being required to do so also if he wanted to keep his job.

43.

Plaintiff understood from the words and actions of Defendants Town Manager

that a condition of his continued employment was that he remain silent regarding any knowledge of Defendants past or current illegal practices and wrongful acts, as well as any illegal practices and wrongful acts committed by Chief McAllister in the future.
44.

Only one (1) week after this meeting when Plaintiff was required to sign the

agreement with the false statements in it by the Town Manager, one of Defendants other employees called Plaintiff when he was out of Town and reported to him that Chief McAllister had angrily pushed him during a meeting, causing him to fall back against a wall.
45.

This employee felt like he had been assaulted by the Chief but was afraid to

complain.
46.

Plaintiff had personally experienced the Chiefs verbal abuse through the Chiefs

yelling, cursing, belittling, and intimidation of him.


47.

Additionally, once when the Chief did not like Plaintiff complaining about

another employee, the Chief had taken Plaintiff out behind the office and screamed at him to " fix the problem" three times and then slammed his fist on the hood of a patrol vehicle

putting a dent in it.


48.

Plaintiff had heard from other officers that the Chief had gotten in a bar fight over

a woman and had to be taken out of the bar by officers and that he had thrown a brick through a suspects window so he could arrest the suspect when he came out of the house because he did not have a warrant.
49.

Plaintiff believed the employees version of the pushing incident but he then

learned that Chief McAllister was disputing the pushing incident even occurred.

50.

Defendants Town Attorney (who had previously told Plaintiff that Chief

McAllister was a friend of his and he did not believe Plaintiffs reports of misconduct regarding the Chief) interviewed Plaintiff regarding the pushing incident.
51.

Prior to this interview, Plaintiff knew the Town Attorney had lied to employees

regarding the confidentiality of statements given to him during an internal Police Department investigation. Specifically, despite the Town Attorneys repeated assurances to employees that he would maintain the confidentiality of their statements about Chief McAllister, Plaintiff knew the Town Attorney had given the confidential statements to Chief McAllister to review and also that Chief McAllister had started retaliating against some of the employees who had made statements to the Town Attorney against him.
52.

Plaintiff had ample reason not to trust Defendants Town Attorney based on his

previous actions in support of Chief McAllister.


53.

Plaintiff understood from the recent meeting with Chief McAllister and the Town

Manager, from the language in the agreement he had been forced to sign, and from his past dealings with the Town Attorney that if he confirmed he had a conversation with the pushed employee, it would make Chief McAllister look bad, which Plaintiff knew he was not allowed to do.
54.

Further, Plaintiff understood from the recent meeting with Chief McAllister and

the Town Manager and the agreement he had signed, that if he reported anything about the Chief to anyone, including the Town Attorney, who was a friend of the Chiefs, he would be going outside the chain of command and he would be terminated.

55.

Plaintiff believed, based on what he had been told by the Town Manager and

Chief McAllister that he had to deny the pushed employee had called him which would support the Chiefs story that the pushing incident never happened.
56.

S.C. Code 16-9-370 makes it a criminal offense for anyone to accept a reward

(in this case, continued employment) or to conceal a misdemeanor.


57.

S.C. Code 8-13-705 makes it a violation of the law to offer a public employee

anything of value with the intent to influence the discharge of their official responsibilities.
58.

S.C. Code 8-13-100 ((1) (a) (xiii) defines anything of value to include a promise

of employment.
59.

Plaintiff understood that his continued employment was predicated on his

concealment of Chief McAllisters assault and battery on this employee.


60.

Morale at the Department became very poor as the officers knew the Town

Manager and Town Attorney were covering for Chief McAllister.


61.

After a few months, the Town Manager called a meeting of the entire police

department and stated that Chief McAllister was not having an affair and that he was not going to fire Chief McAllister.
62.

Plaintiff knew the Town Managers statements at the meeting were false and he

also knew the Town Manager knew or should have known the truth about McAllisters affair, McAllisters improper disposal of public property, and McAllisters assault and battery of an officer.
63.

Plaintiff became aware that the Town Manager was denying that he ever made

any derogatory or threatening statements to the employee who was pushed by Chief McAllister when, in fact, the Town Managers derogatory and threatening statements had been recorded by

the employee (with Defendant Human Resource Directors permission.)


64.

The Town Mangers continued actions to protect Chief McAllister at all costs

reflected a culture of dishonesty and lying in Defendants workplace and served to remind Plaintiff he was required to remain silent about what he knew about Chief McAllisters affair, his disposal of public property, and his assault and battery of an officer.
65.

Eventually, after the pushed employee filed a lawsuit against Defendant, an

outside attorney was hired to represent Defendant and he contacted Plaintiff and told him his deposition was going to be taken in the case.
66.

Plaintiff knew his deposition testimony would be under oath, and he called the

outside attorney and told him that he had been required to remain silent about what he knew about the pushing incident by the Town Manager and Chief McAllister in order to keep his job.
67.

When the Town Manger found out that Plaintiff was going to be deposed and

would report all of the things he had been prohibited from reporting, the Town Manger terminated Plaintiffs employment on May 7, 2013 on the pretext that Plaintiff had lied to Defendants Town Attorney during the internal investigation of the pushing incident when he had denied receiving a phone call from the pushed employee.
68.

In fact, though Plaintiff had been instructed by the Town Manager to remain silent

about Chief McAllisters actions to retain his job, now he was being terminated by the same Town Manager for remaining silent as he had been required.
69.

Plaintiff suffered extreme stress from being required to remain silent and lie about

Defendants illegal practices and wrongful acts in order to retain his job. FOR A FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION WRONGFUL DISCHARGE IN VIOLATION OF PUBLIC POLICY

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70.

Plaintiff hereby repeats and realleges each and every allegation contained in the

Paragraphs above as fully as if set forth verbatim.


71. 72.

Plaintiff knew Defendants actions violated several state laws. Plaintiff believed he could face civil and criminal liability as an accessory, co-

conspirator, or aider/abettor to Defendants illegal actions.


73.

Plaintiff complained to Defendant regarding these illegal practices and wrongful

acts, but was required to remain silent about and acquiesce to Defendants illegal practices as a condition of keeping his job.
74.

Further, Plaintiff was disciplined for reporting his concerns and required to sign

an agreement stating that he would never report concerns about Chief McAllister with anyone else unless the Chief had already had a chance to resolve or explain Plaintiffs concerns.
75.

Plaintiff understood that he was required to cover for Chief McAllisters illegal

actions as a condition of keeping his job.


76.

Plaintiffs continued employment was made contingent by Defendant on Plaintiff

agreeing to turn his head and remain silent about acts that violated state law.
77.

Plaintiff was wrongfully terminated when he refused to remain silent about

Defendants requirement that Plaintiff cover for Chief McAllisters illegal acts.
78.

Plaintiffs wrongful termination violates the public policy of this state as

Plaintiffs continued employment was conditioned upon him acquiescing to violations of state law and exposing himself to possible liability.
79.

Plaintiff seeks actual and punitive damages, prejudgment and post judgment

interest, attorneys fees and costs resulting from his wrongful termination. FOR A SECOND CAUSE OF ACTION EQUITABLE ESTOPPEL

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80.

Defendants agents, acting within the scope of their authority, engaged in conduct

that amounted to false representations, concealment of material facts, and said conduct was calculated to convey false and inconsistent information to Plaintiff.
81.

Defendant had knowledge of the true facts regarding Chief McAllisters actions

but intended and required Plaintiff to cover Chief McAllisters conduct.


82.

Plaintiff lacked knowledge of the true facts and lacked the means of acquiring

knowledge of the true facts because he was required to remain silent and not challenge anything that Chief McAllister did and to protect McAllister from criticism.
83.

Plaintiff justifiably relied to his detriment on Defendants representations to him

regarding Chief McAllister, which resulted in a prejudicial change of position to Plaintiff.


84.

Plaintiff has been damaged as a result of Defendants conduct and seeks legal and

equitable relief to make him whole.


85.

Plaintiff requests legal and equitable damages for Defendants acts and further

seeks legal fees, costs of this action and post judgment interest. WHEREFORE, Plaintiff respectfully requests this Court grant Plaintiff the damages requested herein, attorney fees pursuant to S.C. Code 15-77-300, as well as such other relief the Court deems appropriate.

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FOSTER LAW FIRM, L.L.C.

Nancy Bloodgood, SC Bar No.: 6459 Lucy C. Sanders, SC Bar No.: 78169 895 Island Park Drive, Suite 202 Daniel Island, SC 29492 Telephone: (843) 972-0313 Facsimile: (888) 519-0934 Email: nbloodgood@fosterfoster.com lsanders@fosterfoster.com Attorneys for Plaintiff Charleston, South Carolina Date:

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