CROWN POINT | A federal lawsuit filed Monday alleges Crown Point officials sought to have a veteran police officer fired over a challenge from the FOP about an appointee to the board of works.
At issue is the appointment of Randall Palmateer to the board, which oversees the Crown Point Police Department.
As then-president of the Crown Point lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, Sgt. James Poling had signed off on a letter to Mayor David Uran opposing Palmateer's appointment based on two separate incidents, the suit states.
Palmateer is alleged to have pointed a gun at an on-duty policeman in July. The following month, Palmateer was arrested on a drunken driving charge for which he has since pleaded guilty to reckless driving.
Palmateer, executive director of the Northwestern Indiana Building and Construction Trades Council, is believed to be a friend and campaign supporter of the mayor, according to the complaint.
Palmateer did not return a call for comment.
"My client brought a matter of public concern to the mayor, and the mayor was angered by the FOP position that Mr. Palmateer is not qualified to sit on the board," said Poling's attorney, Christopher Cooper, who has offices in Chicago and Merrillville.
Cooper said Poling has responsibilities to both the public and the members of the FOP.
"That responsibility includes the naming of an appropriate choice for the board that manages the police agency," Cooper said.
Cooper said Police Chief Pete Land also was angered by the FOP challenge to Palmateer's appointment and a belief that Uran had ordered a building owned by the FOP to be torn down.
Land and City Attorney David Nicholls did not return calls for comment.
"We can't comment on the particulars, but there are two sides of every story," said Uran. "We're confident once our side of the story is told, the community will support the city's decisions."
The suit further states Land sent Poling a letter informing the officer he was being placed on desk duty pending an administrative review of a police pursuit he supervised in May.
Poling's take-home car privileges were restricted and any police-related side jobs forbidden, the suit states.
In September, Poling was given the choice of retiring or being fired, according to the complaint. Poling agreed to retire, but in October sought to withdraw the retirement based on being under duress at the time he signed the agreement.
The following day the board of works, on which Palmateer sat, voted to accept Poling's agreement to retire despite its withdrawal. Land, however, assigned Poling to work in the 911 center.
"He's at the 911 center and not allowed to have contact with the public," Cooper said. "He's a fine officer and has a stellar record as a policeman."
The suit charges the city officials with violations of the First and 14th Amendments as they pertain to freedom of speech and due process and seeks Poling's reinstatement to full police duty, compensatory damages of at least $1, punitive damages and costs.