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Fired Anchorage police lieutenant sues city, APD

  • Author: Jerzy Shedlock
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published May 7, 2015

Former Anchorage police lieutenant Anthony Henry has sued his former employers, the Anchorage Police Department and the Municipality of Anchorage, for what he argues were unwarranted retaliatory actions and wrongful termination.

Henry alleges, through his attorneys, that APD used secret internal investigations and broke policies before deciding to fire him, according to a civil complaint filed Wednesday in Anchorage Superior Court.

The retaliation included multiple "unsupported (internal affairs) investigations," an order for an unofficial psychological evaluation and verbal criticism of Henry's behavior, the complaint says.

The police veteran with more than 23 years at APD was placed on paid leave in late March but told he'd lose his job outright on April 1. He vowed to fight the firing at that time.

Municipal attorney Dennis Wheeler said the city follows the law and only fires employees if, after careful investigation, it has just cause -- just like any other employer, he said.

"The Municipality respects an employee's privacy rights, even in the process of termination. However, when the employee chooses to publicly litigate his or her conduct, the Municipality is certainly going to vigorously defend its decision in public and let a judge or jury have the final say. Allegations in a complaint are simply that -- unproven allegations," Wheeler said in an email.

He said the municipality will fully answer the allegations in the complaint when it has been properly served.

Anchorage Police Chief Mark Mew, who is a central player in Henry's complaint against the department, said Wheeler was responding on his behalf.

During Henry's alleged ongoing disputes with his superiors, then-Deputy Chief Steve Hebbe and Sgt. Jack Carson told the police chief that Henry interfered in drug and sex assault investigations tied to the Alaska National Guard sexual misconduct scandal made public last year.

Mew asked the FBI to investigate those allegations. Henry's complaint says he was first made aware of the investigation when he read the report that led to his firing.

At least one of the internal investigations against Henry began at the direction of Hebbe and Carson.

Hebbe left the police department more than a year ago and took a job as the chief of police in Farmington, New Mexico. Carson still works at APD in the Special Assignment Unit, police spokespeople said.

According to Henry, the workplace troubles began three to five years ago, when someone identified in the complaint as "the officer" confided in Henry that he had been diagnosed with a degenerative disease.

This unidentified officer's ailment was managed with medication and Henry believed the condition was irrelevant to the officer's job, the complaint says.

In January 2012, that officer was transferred, a move the police department justified as a better use of staff, the complaint says. Henry's attorneys say the transfer conflicted with the police department's staffing goals laid out in a study commissioned by the city's mayor.

Henry reported the "retaliation" to Mew because "he believed that the actions taken against the officer violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and APD policies," the complaint says.

As a result of the decision to report the officer's treatment, Henry argues, the police department retaliated against him.

In December 2012, he filed an Office of Equal Opportunity complaint about the attacks, the complaint says. He filed a similar complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission six weeks later, according to court records. The former office issued a report about Henry's complaint, but he was denied access to its findings. He believes it verifies "wrongful conduct and retaliation," the complaint says.

Unknown to Henry, APD started another internal investigation against him in March 2013, focused on his handling of "the officer's" medical condition, the complaint says.

Henry's attorneys say Hebbe and Carson directed the investigation.

While the city, police department and EEOC mediated Henry's complaint from late May to early June 2013, the internal investigation wasn't mentioned, the complaint says. After Henry signed a settlement, the author of the OEO report told Henry that Chief Mew requested she change the findings of the report, the complaint says.

"She apparently refused," the complaint says.

That's also when Henry says he learned about the internal investigation and instructed the officers handing it to keep it under wraps until after the settlement, the complaint says.

What followed was another complaint filed by Henry, which centered on Mew's alleged secretive tactics. That complaint was never successfully settled, according to court records.

In October 2013, it was alleged that Henry interfered with Alaska National Guard investigations, the complaint says.

A year ago, Henry was reassigned to the Special Victims and Crimes Against Children units. Henry was in charge of the two units when he was fired.

A month later, attorneys say Henry learned about yet another internal investigation "related to alleged disparaging remarks made by Lt. Henry against APD generally …" The lawyers argue that no violations were found, but the city and police department refused to let Henry review the files, which violates state and municipal law.

However, Henry filed a grievance about the files and won. Then, he found out internal affairs commander Lt. Kevin Vandegriff "had manipulated and, at times, changed certain … records in violation of APD policy," according to the complaint.

In March of this year, the municipality and police department ordered Henry to report to City Hall, where he was fired.

Henry is suing for more than $100,000.

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