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Published: Tuesday, 9/11/2007

Jury finds for ex-Detroit officers in case against mayor and city

ASSOCIATED PRESS

DETROIT - Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and the city unfairly dismissed two police officers, a jury found Tuesday, capping a 15-day whistleblower lawsuit that churned out allegations of misdeeds by the mayor's staff and extramarital affairs by Kilpatrick.

The 11-member jury awarded the ex-officers $6.5 million in damages.

The jury in Wayne County Circuit Court took a few hours to decide that Kilpatrick and the city of Detroit violated the state's Whistleblower Protection Act. Gary Brown and Harold Nelthrope sued, saying they suffered after raising questions about alleged wrongdoing within Kilpatrick's security unit.

Nine jurors had to agree for a verdict to be reached. Only one identified herself as a resident of Detroit.

Brown claims he was fired in 2003 because he was looking into allegations of drunken-driving accidents, falsified overtime records and a possible cover-up of incidents involving members of the security unit. He said he was investigating claims from two former mayoral bodyguards that the mayor used his bodyguards to facilitate and cover up extramarital affairs.

Kilpatrick, 36, has denied the allegations.

Nelthrope sued after Kilpatrick's administration released a confidential police memo naming him as a source of allegations of misconduct by other bodyguards. Nelthrope said he was transferred out of the security detail and ultimately couldn't return to work out of fear for his safety.

He has described escorting the mayor to trysts with Christine Beatty, Kilpatrick's chief of staff, and other women. Kilpatrick, a married father of three, and Beatty have denied the allegations in court.

Kilpatrick and his attorneys have said the mayor's decision to remove Brown as deputy chief in charge of internal affairs came after he lost professional confidence in his abilities. Defense attorneys also said that Nelthrope received a disability pension and Brown was demoted not dismissed and received a full-service retirement from the city.

Judge Michael Callahan told jurors before deliberations began that each plaintiff and defendant is entitled to separate consideration.

The jurors awarded $3.6 million to Brown and $2.9 million to Nelthrope.

Callahan instructed jurors Tuesday morning that the state's Whistleblower Protection Act is designed to provide protection to employees who report or about to report suspected violations of rules, laws or regulations by their employer or a co-worker. He said the protection only applies to employees who have a "reasonable belief" of violations.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com



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