Former police detective sues Ross Twp. over firing

Ross Twp. Police Station
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Ross Twp. Police Station

A Ross Twp. police detective who was fired after expressing concerns about a coworker’s temperature amid the coronavirus and having a disagreement with superiors has filed lawsuit in Butler County Common Pleas Court seeking to be rehired.

Detective Mollie Johnson was fired on May 22 after a 10-hour trustee board meeting. They ruled she was at fault in five out of nine charges indicating she violated township rules regarding the code of conduct.

The firing was over a disagreement she had with police Chief Burt Roberts and Capt. Patrick Carr on April 27 over coronavirus protocols she felt weren’t being followed properly.

Johnson’s attorney, Steve Lazarus, filed an administrative appeal asking Butler County Common Pleas Court Judge Greg Stephens to order the township to reinstate her with back pay and benefits. The 10-year veteran of the police force was placed on unpaid suspension May 1, according to the filing.

Township Administrator Bob Bass said the officer Johnson complained about was suffering from an abscessed tooth, and the infection caused a 100.6-degree fever. Johnson “took it upon herself” to call the Butler County General Health District about the fever and still maintained her co-worker should be sent home until her fever subsided, he said.

She met with Roberts and Carr to discuss the issue.

“Detective Johnson was asked if when she made the call to the board of health she told the board of health about the extenuating circumstances to the fever or was it just the fever,” Bass said. “She refused to answer. When asked a second time she stood up and walked out of the room.”

Bass said she told him Carr was yelling at her and “made her feel unsafe.”

“Detective Johnson was asked if when she made the call to the board of health she told the board of health about the extenuating circumstances to the fever or was it just the fever,” Bass said. “She refused to answer. When asked a second time she stood up and walked out of the room.”

Lazarus said it was appropriate for Johnson to bring the situation to her superiors’ attention.

“You would think in the corona age here if someone’s got 100.6 (fever) and they’re saying send them home with 100.4 unless they have doctor’s verification of something, and they didn’t get any doctor verification for several days, you would think an employer wouldn’t want to punish an employee for that,” Lazarus said. “For bringing that to their attention.”

RELATED: Ross Twp. fires police detective after disagreement over coronavirus protocols

Township trustees have declined comment.

“We’ll play it out, we’ll see how it goes,” Bass told the Journal-News. “We are obviously in litigation and I can’t talk about any of the particulars of it. We were served (last week) with her appeal. My understanding is it goes to a judge to determine whether the proceedings were fair and legal.”

Butler County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Anthony Dwyer has confirmed Johnson was hired as a special deputy.

“We are aware of the situation in Ross; we have done our due diligence to speak with some of the people involved there and we’re not concerned with that issue as it relates to her employment,” Dwyer told the Journal-News.