Lebanon Police Chief Mike Justice, Lt. Koy Lafferty and Public Information Officer PJ Hardy face a series of allegations filed in a formal complaint by Lebanon Police Lt. Scott Massey.
The allegations, some of which date back to 2010, include:
• A 20-foot gooseneck trailer seized as part of a federal drug investigation was sold by Justice after it was turned over to LPD. A detective said the trailer was at Justice’s property and then was sold before it could have been verified as LPD’’s trailer. (The trailer was allegedly signed out by Justice on Sept. 9, 2010, and sold on August 1, 2011).
Justice: “To my knowledge, the trailer mostly remained parked until as such time it was sold on Gov Deals. The described trailer has NEVER been in my personal possession nor on my personal property.”
• Justice keeps his personal dogs at the city-owned kennels and has department employees care and feed them while he is away.
Justice: “The (dog) in question is a high drive K-9 and is intended to replace my existing Explosive K-9 (Prime) upon his official retirement, or the first K-9 that needs replacement due to accident or other circumstances.”
• Justice once drove a city-owned Ford Expedition and the motor locked up. He instructed an ESU employee to take the truck and change the oil at the ESU building before he took it to the Ford dealership to avoid voiding the warranty because it was not properly maintained. Another employee witnessed it.
“I had let the mileage over run and did not comply in having the oil changed as scheduled. I did not try to cover up any damages and, in fact, was open to criticism by garage staff.” Justice noted he did have an officer add oil, which was not uncommon for ESU personnel to do so, but said the situation was handled by garage staff once it arrived to the garage later that night after the vehicle continued to make noise.
• Lafferty around March 2018 ordered to two officers to load ammunition into Justice’s vehicle to “do some shooting” with some friends. Alleged at least two cases, or more, of 566 rifle ammunition and 9 mm handgun ammunition all owned by the city.
Justice: “I have never received ‘cases’ of ammunition in my 30-year tenure.” Justice noted he does not own a 9mm handgun, nor has been issued one.
• Justice instructed an officer to pick up a trailer and take a load of mulch to Justice’s home using city-owned vehicle to landscape his house before a wedding.
Justice: “I have never made a request of a city employee to do landscaping or any other work at my home while being paid as a city employee.”
• Justice became “furious” after he discovered a letter that would allow an employee to remain at his current job site instead of moving to the new Lebanon Police Department facility on Tennessee Boulevard. Claims he disregard financial implications of actions he took regarding the situation.
Justice: “I felt that [the officer] did understand the need and he agreed to the move, in fact, I thought the conversation was pleasant and served us both well.”
• Claims Lafferty “has committed acts that could have gotten him arrested and decommissioned, but instead he has received promotion after promotion, when he should never have been eligible to apply.” Alleges the series of acts, which started under former chief Scott Bowen, were constantly “covered up or hidden,” including a domestic violence incident from 2012-2013.
Lafferty: “My wife and I are happily married and I would not like to discuss all of our marriage troubles from that time period.” “At this time, they were aware of problems we were having and I was needing a ride to Officer Chris Luna’s house where I was going to stay the night, and let the problems my wife and I were experiencing settle down.”
• Around late 2012-2013, a detective discovered a confidential informant was stealing product used to lure other criminals through sting operations. When confronted about the issue, which could cause several cases to be called into question because of the informants’ credibility, Lafferty ordered the drugs to be destroyed, although it was unclear if he was acting under his own order or superior orders.
Lafferty: “I think, and I am not sure, the drugs purchased on the night of the missing money were destroyed and that case was not prosecuted. I cannot recall exactly if this is what happened. Of further note on this complaint, I sided with [the detective.”
• Lafferty yelled and threw a cell phone at another officer around 2012-2103 after the officer brought a prisoner into the same room as Lafferty for questioning. The officer allegedly told Massey that Lafferty yelled, “the next time you bring someone upstairs how about you f—— search them!”
Lafferty: “I don’t have any memory of this event at all. I would propose that either [the officer], or Lt. Massey is being untruthful, or, maybe, there was a misunderstanding.”
• Hardy made “embarrassing” remarks about a fellow officer during the 2019 department Christmas Party about the employee’s weight gain in front of 200 to 250 people. No action was taken against Hardy.
The complaint also includes emails detailing police vehicles that were constantly brought into the department’s garage that were “well overdue for service,” and disciplinary actions that would be taken if vehicles show obvious signs of upkeep neglect.
Lafferty responded to each allegation and also summarized them in a written statement to Lebanon Mayor Bernie Ash and Lebanon Human Resources Director Sylvia Reichle.
“In conclusion, I would like to express my concerns. Lt. Massey has recently been counseled by me about decisions he recently made and he has been reassigned to duties that I get the impression from him, that he feels are beneath him. I feel that Lt. Massey is very disgruntled,” Lafferty wrote. “Lt. Massey has hurled false accusations about policy violations that he had no direct knowledge of.”
Lafferty also offered documented memorandums as evidence against certain allegations.
Justice offered similar words and evidence against his allegations.
“I am also troubled that an employee can make accusations that are false in nature and appear to only serve to blemish or tarnish their supervisor/supervisor’s reputation and standing,” Justice said. “I would also add that in my opinion, there are possible policy violations that one would commit that have been enacted to protect from this type of behavior. In the future, I will address concerns to legal and HR concerning these violations and or future violations for the protection of not only my employees, but of myself, as well.”
“The most serious of these allegations appear to be the alleged misuse of property seized from drug enforcement cases. City Attorney Andy Wright, Human Resources Director Sylvia Reichle, Finance Commission Stuart Lawson and Mayor Bernie Ash are conducting an inquiry into the complaints and the responses from Chief Justice and Major Lafferty, who have steadfastly denied the accusations with the one exception being that Chief Justice admittedly failed to properly maintain his patrol vehicle several years ago and prior to being promoted to Chief of Police,” the city issued in a statement.
“Thus far we have detected no irregularities in the drug seizure and forfeiture process which was the basis of the initial complaint, but out of abundance of caution, and for full transparency, we have asked the Comptroller’s office to review the information,” Wright said.
“We will certainly look into these complaints objectively,” Ash said.
Both Justice and Lafferty remain on active duty, according to city officials.