Former New Athens cop claims he was fired twice after reporting illegal activity

Kelly Holleran Feb. 18, 2009, 7:57am

A former New Athens police officer claims he was wrongfully terminated from his job twice after attempting to perform legal actions.

Steve Blakeney was first fired on Feb. 12, 2008, after he informed his superiors that two women who tried to make a complaint against the police department were prohibited from doing so and were threatened by the village's former police chief, Larry Kirk, according to the complaint Blakeney filed Feb. 1 in St. Clair County Circuit Court.

He was rehired on Sept. 15, but was again fired after he refused to obey New Athens Mayor Dennis Breithaupt's orders to let certain suspects go free without arrest, the suit states.

In addition to the firings, Blakeney claims the New Athens police chief made false statements about him.

Blakeney, who first started working as a police officer for New Athens on Nov. 27, 2007, claims a woman entered the department on Jan. 30 with the intention to file a complaint against Kirk and New Athens.

However, the woman was informed that her complaint would not be filed, according to the complaint.

After another woman heard about the department refusing to allow the first woman to file a complaint, the second woman sent text messages to an officer asking why the complaint could not be filed, the suit states.

Both the first and second women began to be harassed and threatened by Kirk and both women made verbal complaints about the harassment and threats, Blakeney claims.

In an attempt to shed light on Kirk's and New Athens' violations of law, Blakeney filed a written complaint to Brian Roush, the head of the New Athens Police Committee, and to his immediate supervisor, Bill Rainy, according to the complaint.

"Blakeney informed Brian Roush and Bill Rainy that Jane Doe 1 was not allowed to make her complaint against the Village of New Athens and Chief Kirk and that Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2 were thereafter harassed and/or threatened by Village of New Athens' Police Officers," the suit states. "Blakeney informed Brian Roush and Bill Rainey that there was a possibility that Jane Doe 1 was underage at the time that Chief Kirk had a relationship with them and that the matter should be investigated further."

In his complaint, Blakeney claims he also informed Roush and Rainy that New Athens officers were violating police procedures for DWI suspects.

Not long after he filed the written report, Blakeney was fired on Feb. 12, according to the complaint.

"Blakeney's discharge from his employment with the village of New Athens is causally related to Blakeney's report of the New Athens Police Departments' illegal activities to the Police Committee and to his immediate supervisor," the suit states.

Blakeney was rehired by the New Athens Police Department on Sept. 15.

Shortly thereafter, Blakeney claims he was told by New Athens Mayor Dennis Breithaupt that he would need to let some suspects go free without arresting them and that he should not stop speeding cars involving local residents.

"On or about September 22, 2008 Blakeney was also told by Mayor Breithaut that Blakeney should not arrest any DWI suspects if Mayor Breithaupt called Blakeney and told him to let them go with a warning," the suit states. "Blakeney told Mayor Breithaupt that he would not let a suspect go free without arresting them just because they might be Mayor Breithaupt's friend, and would follow the laws as required."

Again, Blakeney submitted a complaint, this time to Rainy who was chief of police, about Breithaupt's behavior, according to the complaint.

After being informed of Blakeney's complaint, the New Athens Police Committee decided to fire Blakeney, he claims.

Because he refused to resign when he was asked, Blakeney was fired on Oct. 31, according to the complaint.

Before Blakeney was fired the first time, Kirk made false statements that Blakeney falsified information in his application to the police department, the suit states.

Kirk also made false statements to the Belleville News Democrat, including, "They (Village of New Athens) hired someone (Blakeney) that has a problem being truthful," the suit states.

In addition, Kirk told the paper Blakeney "was fired in February when an investigation revealed Blakeney had included false or misleading information on his employment application," the suit states. Kirk added, "It (rehiring Blakeney) doesn't set a good standard for the department" and "It is a big risk."

Blakeney claims he should be awarded past lost wages and fringe benefits and damages for past pain and suffering.

In the five-count suit, Blakeney is seeking a judgment in excess of $250,000, plus all other relief to which he is entitled.

Michael J. Brunton and Mary M. Stewart of Brunton Law Offices in Collinsville will be representing him.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number: 09-L-0077.

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