POLICE CHIEF RESIGNS...THEN IS FIRED
By MEGAN PILLOW Mooresville Tribune Thursday, August 7, 2008
John Crone resigned Thursday as Mooresville police chief
Mooresville officials said Friday that suspended Police Chief John Crone was fired Thursday after his letter of resignation was rejected.
Interim Town Manager Eskine Smith issued a statement Friday at 10:15 a.m. that said Crone "submitted a letter of resignation which was not acceptable and has been terminated, effective Thursday, August 7. North Carolina law prohibits me from releasing the details surrounding his termination."
Added Smith: "Major Carl Robbins will remain as interim chief. A final decision regarding the appointment of a chief will be made by the new Town Manager. The internal investigation and audit of the financial records of Cops For Kids will continue. The audit of the evidence room is expected to be finished later today and those results will be shared with the SBI."
Crone's departure from the police department was first reported Thursday evening on www.mooresvilletribune.com
Crone's firing came almost exactly one month after he was suspended with pay amid an investigation into his management of the Cops for Kids program and a lawsuit filed by a former employee.
Crone could not be reached by the Tribune for comment .
Meanwhile, the Tribune learned Thursday that a former police officer filed a lawsuit against Crone and the town on July 18, alleging that the chief retaliated against her because she had earlier filed a sexual harassment complaint against a fellow officer.
The lawsuit, filed July 18 in Iredell County Superior Court, followed an investigation by the Charlotte District Office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) which concluded that there is “reasonable cause” to believe former MPD officer Kimberly Nitzu’s allegations of retaliation by Crone.
The lawsuit states that Nitzu was employed as an officer by the MPD from February 2000 through October 2002 and her performance during that time met all “reasonable expectations.”
While at the MPD, Nitzu filed an internal complaint against a sergeant for “egregious acts of sexual harassment.”
That complaint, according to the lawsuit, was “investigated and verified” by the town and Crone disciplined the sergeant but did not fire him. Not long after, Nitzu resigned from the MPD and accepted a job with Nationwide Insurance.
In September 2006, said the lawsuit, Nitzu re-applied for employment with the MPD and was given a conditional offer of employment on Sept. 28, depending on the outcome of her psychological testing. Up to that point, said the lawsuit, Nitzu had passed her background check and physical testing.
The lawsuit also states that on Oct. 13 of that year, an MPD recruiting officer told Nitzu through her husband, who was also employed by the department at the time, that it would “be safe for (her) to give notice of her resignation to her then current employer…as her employment with (the MPD) seemed certain.”
She resigned her job at Nationwide and waited for her start date.
By Nov. 7, 2006, however, Crone notified Nitzu that her offer of employment had been withdrawn on the basis of her background and psychological evaluation.
Nitzu claims that “she does not suffer from any medical or psychological condition that might impair her ability to perform the essential functions of a police officer or which impair any major life activity.”
In addition, she claims the MPD did not advise her of any problems with any other area of her application.
Nitzu filed a claim with the EEOC on Dec. 28, 2006, stating that “based on these facts, I contend that I was refused employment … because of my sex and/or in retaliation for my previous participation in a sexual harassment investigation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”
In addition, Nitzu said, her rights were violated because the department denied her employment because it “perceived me as an individual with a disability in violation of the Americans with Disability Act.”
In a judgment letter dated Oct. 1, 2007, Michael Whitlow of the EEOC wrote that “evidence obtained during the investigation supports (Nitzu’s) allegation and does not support (the town’s and Crone’s) defense. Evidence shows that in part, the reason why (Nitzu) was not hired was her complaint of sexual harassment.”
The letter urges Nitzu and the town to “join with it in reaching a just resolution of this matter.”
Nitzu is asking for a jury trial and financial compensation, including attorney’s fees.
Town Attorney Steve Gambill said Thursday officials could say little regarding Nitzu’s lawsuit. “The only comment I can make at the moment is that we have been served with the lawsuit and are taking the steps to respond to it,” Gambill said.
Nitzu’s attorney, Jenny Sharpe of Charlotte, could not be reached for comment Thursday.