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City of Jonesboro files answer in court
Responds to former police chief's lawsuit

By Linda Looney-Bond

lbond@news-daily.com

The City of Jonesboro has filed an answer with Clayton County Superior Court, in response to a petition filed in July by former Jonesboro Police Chief Brad Johnson.

The answer was filed Thursday, along with a motion to dismiss Johnson's petition.

Johnson filed suit July 9, seeking to appeal his termination from the job, and his earlier suspension, as well as "such other relief as [the court] may deem fit and proper."

The city's answer states that the "Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over some or all of the Petitioner's claims," and states that the "Defendant denies the allegations" set forth in Johnson's petition.

The motion to dismiss asks the court to throw out Johnson's petition, stating that it "is defective in that it was not properly served on the Defendant ... fails to identify the proper parties to this Petition, and was not filed in a timely manner."

Atlanta attorneys, Martin Heller and Benton Mathis, filed the documents on behalf of the city. Heller said Thursday that the law firm was declining to comment on the case.

Johnson's suit alleges that he was improperly suspended on April 28 by Jonesboro Mayor Luther Maddox, and subsequently fired without due process, by Maddox, on May 21.

In a matter that sparked public debate, Maddox suspended Johnson for wearing blue jeans on the job, and for what Maddox called disrespect of the office of mayor.

He later fired Johnson, stating that Johnson had not successfully completed his "working test," or probationary period.

The Jonesboro City Council voted to uphold both Maddox's decision to suspend Johnson, and his decision to fire him.

Johnson's petition, filed in Clayton County Superior Court by attorney Keith Martin, argues that Johnson was not a "work test" or probationary employee, according to the city charter, and therefore, could not be fired based upon whether he completed a "work test."

Martin said Thursday that he had received the city's answer to the petition, but had not read it, and, therefore, could not comment on it.

Major Tim Jessup, the highest ranking officer in the Jonesboro Police Department, in the absence of a police chief, continues to head the police department for now, Jessup said Thursday.

The lawsuit is before Superior Court Judge Deborah Benefield.

"The court may grant oral argument ... or she [Benefield] could just decide it on the record," Martin said. "But there will be no additional evidentiary hearing - calling witnesses and tendering of documents," he said.