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Serious allegations made in wrongful termination lawsuit of former Middlesboro officer

From WRIL -

WRIL has been informed of a lawsuit filed against the City of Middlesboro and the police department by a former city police officer.

We have acquired a copy of the lawsuit filed on Monday March 4, 2019 in the Bell County Circuit Clerk’s Office.

In the suit, former Middlesboro Police Officer Joshua Pratt alleges several issues against the police department that lead to him being discharged in May of 2018. Much of the suit involves the issue of Pratt not being promoted in 2014 even though he contends in the paperwork that he met the requirements of the job and that he was next in line to become sergeant, and in 2017 a lieutenant, and then again in 2018 a sergeant.

Pratt claims that the reason for not being promoted was due to him (Pratt) speaking with the Drug Enforcement Administration about alleged actions of Middlesboro Police Chief Jeff Sharpe and that he did not supply – as he claims other officers did – pain medication to Sharpe.

Pratt contends that Chief Sharpe used pain medication while on duty and that one particular case against an individual had to be dismissed for lack of evidence involving over 400 pills that were seized during a domestic incident in 2014. Pratt alleges in the lawsuit that he: “told the (DEA) agents that narcotics from the evidence room had previously turned up missing and that he (Pratt) believed it was Chief Sharpe because only a few individuals – one being the chief – had keys to the room and the chief was addicted to pain medication.”

According to the lawsuit, agents attempted to speak with Chief Sharpe but he refused to speak with them.

In December of 2017 Pratt states that Chief Sharpe suspended him without pay and taking the use of his cruiser away from him for driving around parking cones during a Christmas Parade. That was then rescinded after Pratt claims that he requested a formal hearing in front of the city council.

In February of 2018 Pratt states he once again spoke to federal authorities, this time the FBI. He states in the suit that he repeated the same information about Chief Sharpe taking pain medication out of the evidence room, and that other officers were giving Sharpe pain medication. This included taking pain medication out of the drug drop-off box in front of the Middlesboro Police Department.

The lawsuit continues that in May of 2018, Pratt again spoke with the FBI stating Chief Sharpe was taking pain medication and using it for his own personal consumption.

May 13, 2018 Pratt states that he was “constructively discharged” owed his bi-weekly paycheck which he contends Chief Sharpe refused to give him until the city clerk disbursed it two months later.

Pratt contends that all of these actions “constitute wrongful termination in violation of public policy”. Stated in the lawsuit that “as a result of the unlawful acts by the Defendant, Plaintiff has suffered damages in excess of the jurisdictional limits of this court, including the loss of wages and other benefits, mental anguish, embarrassment, and humiliation.”

Pratt and his attorney are asking for back pay, job-related benefits, liquidated damages, interest, punitive damages, and a trial by jury.

Also along with the lawsuit is an eleven page set of questions for production of documents and admissions for the city to supply Pratt and his attorney.

No trial date has been set since an answer from the city has yet to be submitted.

A lawsuit is only one side of a story, we will continue to follow this through the legal process to better understand both sides of the issue.

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