Was Lt. David Murray, an Internal Affairs Bureau police officer, fired because he talked to a reporter? Did the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the Columbus City Attorney’s office and Safety Director Mitchell Brown conspire to fire him?

 After seven years fighting for his job, a state court recently refused to reinstate Murray as a police officer. It has not been revealed what Murray told the reporter, but in Columbus one of the only strategies for a police officer with a conscience – and knowledge of unacceptable conduct by rogue cops – is to leak information to the media.

 Murray worked in the Columbus Police’s Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB), an infamous bunker whose reports routinely justify police brutality and shootings. A favorite tactic is to fail to create a record documenting police wrongdoing. Then nothing exists to be released as a public record.

 Unlike many other cities, Columbus’ IAB lacks any kind of oversight by a civilian review board.

 For years, the IAB has been withholding documents requested by Columbus’ National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) chapter. A few years ago, the NAACP and the FOP reached an agreement to create a civilian review board. The City of Columbus, which was also party to the negotiations, refused to create an ordinance that would make the new board permanent. Rather, they wanted it to exist only at the Mayor’s discretion.

 The Mayor has tremendous leverage over the police department through the Public Safety Director’s office. The strange case of Lt. Murray illustrates the Mayor’s power over the police and documents the -stranger role of Columbus City Safety Director Mitchell Brown.

 The original complaint to fire Murray was filed by Brown acting at the time “as a civilian.”

Then, wearing the hat of Safety Director, Brown ordered the investigation of Murray and his possible whistleblowing to remain open past 90 days, contrary to the disciplinary procedure outlined in the FOP’s collective bargaining agreement with the City. Brown, nearly three years later, signed on behalf of the City what appears to be a backdated or fraudulent settlement agreement with the FOP.

This is the timeline of the strange case:

  •  September 18, 2007 - Columbus City Safety Director Mitchell Brown, acting as a concerned citizen, filed a complaint with Lt. Murray’s supervisor Commander Gray.
  •   Brown alleged that Murray improperly disclosed information from an Internal Affairs Bureau investigation to the media.
  • ∙ Over 90 days later - Wearing the hat of Safety Director, Brown ordered the investigation of Murray and his possible whistleblowing to remain open past 90 days. Under Section 8.14 of the FOP bargaining agreement, Murray was not subject to discipline after 90 days past when the complaint was filed -- unless the City requests an extension and the union grants it. Instead, Brown arbitrarily ordered the investigation to continue past the 90-day period.
  • ∙ September 4, 2008 - The City terminated Murray’s employment. Following his firing, Murray filed a grievance against the City. There was no progress reported regarding his grievance for nearly two years.
  • ∙ September 3, 2010 - Murray filed a federal court action against the City and Mitchell Brown to protect his due process rights under the Constitution.
  • ∙ March 1, 2011 - The City of Columbus filed a motion to dismiss the federal suit.
  • ∙ May 20, 2011 - In a pre-trial conference at federal court, City Attorney Susan Thompson told the federal magistrate that the City was going to schedule an arbitration hearing shortly.
  • ∙ June 23, 2011 - Federal Magistrate Mark Abel held another pre-trial conference and talked to the labor arbitrator David Stanton by telephone. The federal court records from the meeting noted that: “Mr. Stanton said that he was assigned to the case in December 2009. Since then he had offered the parties 24-25 dates for the arbitration, but none had been held.”
  •  But then the bombshell hit. FOP attorney Grant Shoub informed Magistrate Abel that the grievance Stanton was referring to had already been settled in July 2010. Clearly this happened without the knowledge of Murray or the arbitrator.
  •  Neither the City nor the FOP offered the court any explanation as to why the Plaintiff Murray was not informed that the grievance had been settled nearly a year prior, or why arbitrator Stanton was not notified.
  •  Other questions are equally intriguing. How did the City and the FOP come to an agreement without scheduling an arbitration, and why had the City left this key fact out of its motion to dismiss the case in the federal court?
  • ∙ July 29, 2011 - The Federal Magistrate gave Murray until July 29, 2011 to file a motion to amend his pleadings. The day before that deadline, the City had still not produced the purported grievance settlement. Federal court records document that “Counsel for the City believes the agreement will be executed in the next week or two.”
  • ∙ September 23, 2011 - the City attorney called Murray’s attorney on to inform him that “the settlement agreement is now in the hands of the FOP for their review.  Murray’s counsel then filed a motion to sanction the City attorney for not handing over the settlement agreement.
  •  In another strange twist, the Federal Magistrate held a phone conference on September 29, 2011 in which the settlement agreement finally appeared for the first time in Murray’s attorney’s email during the meeting.
  • ∙ April 5, 2012 - The federal court ultimately dismissed Murray’s claims, but the records of the federal court indicate the so-called settlement agreement appears to only have been created by the City of Columbus and the FOP after they told Federal Magistrate Abel they had reached an agreement in July 2010.
  •  State court claims continued. In the course of discovery, Murray’s lawyer obtained an affidavit from Larry Champlin, a retired Columbus police lieutenant. The lawyer also got the FOP’s copy of the City’s bi-weekly Grievance and Discipline Report that is distributed within the police department and to the FOP. The Report showed no mention prior to June 23, 2011 of any settlement agreement on the Murray case.
  •  This report stands as clear evidence that City Safety Director Brown and the FOP misled a Magistrate of the U.S. District Court. What the report indicates is that Brown’s signature is on a settlement agreement that did not exist in July 2010. Other public records clearly show the FOP rejecting the grievance settlement on November 19, 2010.
  • ∙ June 26, 2014 – Murray’s state court case was over when Ohio’s 10th Appellate District did not reinstate him as a police officer.

Federal court records indicate that “Although the settlement had not been executed they [both the City’s Attorney Thompson and FOP Attorney Shoub] said the settlement language had been finalized and that the agreement should be executed on or before July 15, 2011.”

 The City’s bi-weekly Grievance and Discipline Report documents that the City was willing to do anything to fire the whistleblower, Lt. Murray.

 Based on looking at both federal and state court records, the conclusion is that the City and the FOP appear to have conspired to commit fraud on the court in the strange case of Lt. David Murray.

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