Thomason files suit in federal court

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By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

About four months after filing a lawsuit against St. Elmo’s mayor in Fayette County, Ken Thomason has initiated a federal suit against Larry Tish.

In the three-count suit filed in the Southern District of U.S. District Court, Thomason claims that Tish violated his civil rights and also violated the state’s Whistleblower Act.

Thomason has filed the lawsuits in response to Tish’s decision last November to remove him from the police chief position. He had served as St. Elmo’s chief of police for about 16 ½ years prior to his dismissal.

Thomason’s first lawsuit against Tish, in which he alleged that the mayor had slandered him, was filed in Fayette County Circuit Court in February. A hearing will be held next Wednesday on Tish’s motion seeking dismissal of that suit.

In the first count of the suit filed in federal court, Thomason alleges that shortly after Tish was elected mayor of St. Elmo in the spring of 2009, he told Thomason that he “would have his job as chief … for as long as (he) wanted the job.”

He also alleges that Tish made statements to him “which contained clear and certain promises and offers of continued employment as the chief of police.”

Thomason states in the suit that a St. Elmo ordinance stipulates that the mayor may remove city officers only “for cause,” and that a letter of termination he received from Tish stated only that he would give reasons for the termination to city alderman at a city council meeting.

At that meeting, Thomason claims, Tish “failed to report the honest, authentic and real reasons” for his termination. Instead, he claims, Tish “provided the aldermen with false, patently dishonest and pretextual reasons” for the firing.

In alleging that Tish failed to give “authentic reasons” for his termination, Thomason claims that the mayor violated his “procedural and substantive due process rights.”

He also alleges that Tish has made public comments “that confirm and acknowledge that he did not give his real and authentic reasons for the termination.”

Thomason claims that he has lost wages, income, compensation and benefits, and “has suffered embarrassment, humiliation and emotional distress.”

In the second count of his federal suit, Thomason repeats the allegations against Tish as the mayor of St. Elmo in designating the city as a defendant in the suit.

In the third count, Thomason claims that Tish, in his capacity as mayor, “voluntarily appeared and testified at a trial, and not only failed to enforce certain ordinances of the city, but worked to defeat the enforcement of said ordinances.”

Thomason alleges that after he “reported what he believed to be a violation of Tish’s obligation to enforce and uphold city ordinances,” Tish “began the process of terminating (Thomason’s) employment with the city.”

In doing so, Thomason claims, Tish violated the state statue that states that an employer cannot retaliate against an employee for disclosing information to a government or law enforcement agency regarding a perceived violation of state or local laws.

In his complaint, Thomason seeks a financial award to cover lost wages, compensation and benefits, as well as punitive damages and attorney fees.

Thomason is being represented in both the local and federal lawsuits by Alton attorney Lee Barron.