Status conference reset in New Athens cop firing

Amelia Flood Jul. 14, 2009, 7:34am

A suit brought by a former New Athens police officer over his firing has a status conference set for August. The former officer contends he was fired for attempting to do his job.

The status conference is scheduled for Aug. 26 at 10 a.m.

St. Clair County Circuit Judge Michael O'Malley is presiding.

Plaintiff Steve Blakeney sued the Village New Athens, its Mayor Dennis Breithaupt and its former police chief Larry Kirk for lost wages, lost fringe benefits, pain and suffering in the five-count suit.

According to his complaint, Blakeney was hired by the village in November 2007. During his time with the department, he claims two women who attempted to file complaints with the police were turned away and then threatened by Kirk. Blakeney was then fired in February 2008, within a month of the incident, after informing his superiors of what had happened.

According to the suit, Blakeney was rehired by the village in September 2008. However, he claims he was fired again after refusing to obey an order from Breithaupt to let certain suspects go free without arrest. He alleges that Breithaupt also told him not to stop speeding cars when they were driven by local residents.

Blakeney was fired the second time Oct. 31, 2008, the suit states.

Blakeney also contends that Kirk made false statements about him to the Belleville News-Democrat.

Blakeney is seeking at least $250,000, costs and other relief deemed appropriate by the court.

In their answer, New Athens and Breithaupt denied Blakeney's charges and argue that as a municipal entity and its officers they are not subject to punitive damages.

In his answer, Kirk also denied the suit's allegations. He also argues that Blakeney has not done anything to gain employment since his firing that would mitigate his damages and that he is protected by the Illinois Local Governmental Tort Immunity Act.

Blakeney is represented by Michael Brunton and Mary Stewart of Collinsville.

Kirk is represented by Michael Wagner of Belleville.

The village and Breithaupt are represented by Charles Pierce.

The case is St. Clair case number 09-L-077.

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