MUNROE FALLS — A fired city police sergeant who faced felony charges that were recently dismissed is seeking compensation for lost earnings and benefits, as well as other damages, court costs and attorney fees in a federal lawsuit he filed against the city, as well as its mayor, police chief and law director.
Robert Post filed the complaint against the city, Mayor James Armstrong, Police Chief Jerry Hughes and Law Director Tom Kostoff on Dec. 5 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division. He is seeking a jury trial.
In the complaint, Post is accusing the defendants of First Amendment retaliation in violation of federal law, defamation, malicious prosecution and civil conspiracy, in connection with him being dismissed from his job in April and subsequently charged with four counts of unauthorized use of the Law Enforcement Automated Database System (LEADS), a fifth-degree felony, in August. Those charges were dismissed by the prosecutor in November.
Christopher Lalak, Post’s attorney for this case, declined to comment when asked whether he was seeking Post’s reinstatement to the city police force. Lalak emphasized that Post "was not only terminated from his position, he faced felony charges for following the department’s own LEADS policy."
In a prepared statement, Armstrong said: "Having learned about Mr. Post’s behavior over the past year, the city of Munroe Falls is in a better position defending a suit filed by Mr. Post, than if Munroe Falls had to defend Post’s actions in a complaint filed by a citizen or an employee."
Hughes did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
The court filing runs through a history beginning with Post commenting to the Stow Sentry about proposed police contract terms in November 2017 and concluding with Nov. 28, 2018, when the charges that had been filed against Post were dismissed by the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office.
At a Munroe Falls City Council meeting on Nov. 21, 2017, then-Sgt. Post was asked by a council member to share his thoughts on the proposed police union contracts being negotiated, according to the complaint. Post declined to comment, but later told the Stow Sentry "he opposed certain proposed contract terms that would expand the part-time police force," the complaint stated. His comments appeared in an article that was published by the Stow Sentry on Nov. 30, 2017. "Upon information and belief, [Mayor James] Armstrong took great offense to Post’s opinion," the complaint stated.
Post and Armstrong were then involved in an apparent dispute in the city hall parking lot on Dec. 3, 2017. Following the parking lot event, the complaint stated Armstrong "accused Post of misconduct, and further directed Post be suspended while he underwent a fitness for duty examination."
The Summit County Sheriff’s Office investigated and determined that Post did not violate any rules or regulations. It was noted that Post "remained on a suspended status and unable to work while his fitness for duty examination was pending."
The complaint claims that in late March or early April of this year, a fitness for duty examination determined that Post "was fully fit for duty."
"With Post’s return to full-time work imminent, Defendants stated that Post’s employment was nevertheless being terminated for allegedly running unauthorized background checks in …[LEADS]," the complaint stated.
Post was terminated from his sergeant’s job on April 3.
The complaint noted the defendants supported their claim by citing "an occasion prior to Post’s suspension, in which Post accessed LEADS while dispatched to a call at a residence." The complaint also noted Post "was required to use LEADS pursuant to Defendants’ policy" and the defendants "were aware that Post’s use of LEADS was in accordance with police department policy."
The complaint alleges "upon information and belief, Armstrong, Hughes, and Kostoff were each individually aware of the policy, but nevertheless withheld their knowledge of the policy, and knowingly published or caused to be published false statements regarding Post," resulting in Post being arrested and charged with fifth-degree felony charges.
The complaint also claims the defendants "withheld knowledge of department policy while Post awaited trial."The county prosecutor’s dismissed the charges after "learning that Post’s use of LEADS was required by department policy," stated the complaint, which characterized the charges as "frivolous."
Even though the charges were dismissed, the complaint stated "the numerous false statements made regarding Post resulted in his wrongful termination."
The complaint notes that Post’s statements to the Stow Sentry in November 2017 are protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and contended "There is a causal connection between Post’s engagement in protected activity and Munroe Falls’ termination of Post’s employment."
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, email@example.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.