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Crime & Courts

City defends firing of Anchorage police lieutenant

  • Author: Jerzy Shedlock
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published June 10, 2015

The Municipality of Anchorage says a former police lieutenant who has sued the city over his firing was terminated because he revealed the identities of confidential informants during investigations into misconduct in the Alaska National Guard.

The city's explanation for why it fired Lt. Anthony Henry was revealed in its response last week to a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by Henry against the municipality and the Anchorage Police Department last month.

The city also says Henry lied to an Outside investigator brought in to determine APD's involvement in a cover-up of wrongdoing involving drugs and sexual misconduct within the guard.

Henry had previously argued he faced repercussions from the department for keeping a fellow officer's illness secret, among other accusations. His initial complaint claimed he first learned of the investigation into his role in the guard scandal when he read the report that led to his firing.

But in its response, the city defended its firing of Henry. Municipal attorneys say the former lieutenant disclosed or ordered the disclosure of confidential informants' identities and other secret police information.

In doing so, Henry's disclosures directly compromised "investigations of illegal activity into the Alaska Army National Guard," the response says. Additionally, the response alleges that Henry wasn't accurate and honest during administrative interviews about a possible cover-up within the guard.

Municipal attorney Dennis Wheeler said a former police official from outside Alaska who has experience in similar investigations was hired through his office to conduct the administrative interviews.

Henry has argued his workplace troubles began about five years ago, when someone identified in court documents as "the officer" confided in him that he'd been diagnosed with a degenerative disease.

Henry, a police veteran who had worked for more than 23 years at APD, kept his colleague's illness a secret; he thought it had no bearing on the officer's duties. Henry says the officer was reassigned and mistreated, and his verbal concerns about those decisions prompted retaliation from police department officials.

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

In its response, the city either denies the allegations presented by Henry or argues it does not have enough information to admit to or deny other allegations.

"It's exactly what we expected to see from the municipality," said Molly Brown, who works for Dillon & Findley, the law firm representing Henry. "Most of the allegations are denied and the city asserts various legal defenses."

She said she expects the information Henry needs to prove his claims will be uncovered as the case moves forward.

Wheeler said the city also expects to bolster its case as the suit unfolds.

"We think we have those defenses; we won't necessarily be able to flesh them out fully until we get through" the pre-trial presentation of evidence, Wheeler said.

He said the city and police department have to assert those and other defenses early or they can't be raised at a later time.

As for the claim that Henry interfered with guard investigations, Wheeler said the veteran officer was justly fired for those actions and not because of unwarranted punishments for sticking up on behalf of the ill officer.

He said Henry interfered in drug and sex assault investigations tied to the guard scandal made public last year.

"(The interference) was related to both investigations," Wheeler said.

Henry's name is mentioned in a document penned by retired Lt. Col. Ken Blaylock, who had voiced concerns about the Alaska National Guard's command structure.

"Mr. Henry totally denies (the accusation he interfered with investigations) inasmuch as it suggests it was just cause for his termination," Brown said. "We believe the information disclosed in the case will determine he was wrongfully terminated, and it negatively affected his life."

"We'll just continue the process of ferreting out the truth," she said of the lawsuit's progress.

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