JASPER, Ala. (CN) - A sheriff's deputy was fired for cooperating in an FBI investigation of his boss, who killed himself after stealing drug-arrest money to pay personal bills and support his mistress, the ex-officer claims in a retaliation lawsuit.
Adam Hadder sued Walker County, Ala. and Sheriff John Mark Tirey, in Federal Court.
Walker County, pop. 67,000, is in northwestern Alabama, 22 miles from Birmingham.
Hadder was a deputy with the county Sheriff's Department for 15 years, until Sheriff Tirey fired him in September 2012. He worked for the Narcotics Enforcement Team (NET) for 13 years, serving as its assistant director after January 2007, according to the lawsuit.
Paul Kilgore, previously chief deputy of the county, became director of the narcotics team in January 2001.
Kilgore committed suicide in 2012, according to the complaint.
The Narcotics enforcement Team investigated drug trafficking, made undercover buys and seized drugs and cash from suspects.
After documenting confiscated drug money, officers turned it over to Kilgore, and stored drug evidence in the county's evidence locker, according to the lawsuit.
"The NET squad had a bank account which assisted in funding its operations, and members of the squad were given cash to make undercover drug buys from this account," the complaint states. "Funds which were forfeited by convicted suspects were placed into this account to be used for law enforcement purposes. Kilgore was an authorized signatory on this account (upon information and belief Tirey was as well). Kilgore routinely wrote checks from this account to officers in the squad for 'buy money.'
"Kilgore misappropriated funds from this account on a regular basis, paying personal bills from the account for himself, his wife and children, and for the secretary of the squad who was, upon information and belief, his mistress and the mother of his illegitimate child." (Parentheses in complaint).
In June 2010, Hadder and his partner made an arrest and seized $8,000 in cash and drug evidence from a suspect. They took the money to the sheriff's office and handed it over to Kilgore, according to the lawsuit.
Hadder claims the FBI asked to take over the case. After Hadder delivered his case file and the drug evidence to the FBI, the Sheriff's Office received a subpoena for the cash he had seized during the arrest, according to the lawsuit.
Hadder says he noticed Kilgore became "agitated" upon receiving the subpoena.
He says he then asked to speak to Sheriff Tirey about the missing money and other alleged misconduct by Kilgore.
Tirey agreed to see Hadder outside the sheriff's office, in an alley beside a power company building, according to the lawsuit.
"Tirey then informed the plaintiff that 'he [Tirey] would take care of it,' and that if 'anyone wanted to talk about the situation, especially the FBI,' that Hadder was to 'keep [his] damn mouth shut,' and not to say 'a fucking word,'" the complaint states.
"During the same week plaintiff also consulted Bill Adair, the Walker County District Attorney, and informed Mr. Adair of the situation. Mr. Adair informed Hadder that he had heard similar stories about Kilgore in the past, and promised to look into the situation. Upon information and belief, the only action taken by Mr. Adair was to report this conversation to Tirey." (Brackets in complaint).
Adair is not a party to the lawsuit.
Two weeks later, Hadder says, Kilgore told him he was taking the missing money to the FBI field office in Birmingham, and asked what the FBI knew about the case.
Hadder claims that although he had told Kilgore the FBI had his entire case file, Kilgore gave the money to the FBI in $100 bills, which did not match the bills seized in the arrest.
After Tirey failed to discipline Kilgore or make any changes, Hadder spoke to the FBI about Kilgore and Tirey's activities, including the alleged theft.
FBI agents searched the narcotics offices in January 2012, prompting Tirey to shut down the unit, according to the lawsuit.
Hadder says Tirey cited financial hardship as the main reason to the public and press, and claimed that all narcotics officers would be placed back on patrol.
But Hadder claims that he and his partner were the only officers pulled from the drug unit and placed back on patrol. The narcotics office remained open, and all other officers, including Kilgore, had access to it, while Hadder was locked out of his former office and not allowed to pick up his belongings, according to the complaint.
Hadder says he was demoted and stripped of several titles, including assistant director of the narcotics unit.
Kilgore retired from the sheriff's department in January 2012. On Feb. 6, 2012, he shot himself while driving his patrol car, and died later that day.
"After Kilgore's death, plaintiff Hadder received threats to his life and to the lives of his family members," the complaint states. "Hadder was even accused of having killed Kilgore, an allegation which was proved patently false by the autopsy report. When plaintiff requested protection for his family as a result of these threats, Tirey refused. Hadder eventually got police protection from the Jasper Police Department since the county would not help.
"Tirey, a close friend of Kilgore, (and upon information and belief, an additional recipient of funds Kilgore misappropriated from the county), blamed Hadder for Kilgore's death, calling him at various times 'a snitch' among other epithets. Tirey told the plaintiff that if '[he] had kept [his] mouth shut, Kilgore would still be alive.'
"Tirey informed plaintiff Hadder that he (Hadder) should quit, or Tirey would find a reason to fire him." (Parentheses and brackets in complaint).
Hadder says Tirey and other officers blamed him for Kilgore's death, harassed him for months and falsely accused him of breaking into offices and destroying property.
He says the defendants planted firearms, illegal drugs and cash from the narcotics unit with his belongings.
Tirey fired Hadder in September 2012, based on frivolous complaints against him, according to the lawsuit.
Hadder says the sheriff conspired with an attorney Hadder had investigated for possession and distribution of illegal drugs to file the frivolous complaints as an excuse for termination.
He claims he lost wages, and suffered emotional distress and damages to his reputation.
He seeks damages for constitutional and Alabama law violations.
He is represented by Mary-Ellen Bates with Bates, Hetzel of Birmingham.
After this article was posted Tuesday, Sheriff Tirey responded with this email statement: "Mr. Hadder's termination was the result of unprofessional behavior and misconduct by him upon citizens that filed complaints against him with the sheriff's department. Mr Hadder was afforded due process by having a hearing on his termination before the Walker County Civil Board. The Board found that Mr. Hadder used conduct unbecoming his official position as deputy sheriff; showed disrespect toward citizens of Walker County, exercised bad judgment in and about carrying out his duties as deputy sheriff and abused his authority as deputy sheriff. Mr. Hadder's discharge was upheld as proper and justified."