LATEST: Embattled Westover police officer files injunction against city claiming civil service procedures are not being followed

Monongalia

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Attorneys for Westover Police Lt. Aaron Dalton have a filed a request for an injunction against the City of Westover, as the legal saga surrounding the city’s police department continues.

Dalton is at the center of three lawsuits, two federal and one state, filed against the city, related to alleged misconduct of Dalton and other officers. The legal filing by Dalton’s attorney comes just days after a missing cell phone, at the heart of one of the lawsuits, reappeared after nearly two years.

Dalton has been on paid administrative leave since August 2020, pending the outcome of an “alleged investigation,” the injunction filing explains.

The injunction, filed in Monongalia County Circuit Court, claims that the city is denying Dalton’s employment rights as protected by West Virginia code related to civil service and the city’s charter.

Dalton’s attorney claims that the city council has violated state code by taking punitive action against Dalton without him being given a hearing, and has violated the city’s charter by interfering with the mayor and the chief of police.

Dalton has never been given copies of the complaints against him, nor has he been interviewed about them, the injunction filing says.

In January 2021, Dalton’s lawyers asked for a civil service hearing. Instead, in April, Westover’s city attorney provided Mayor Dave Johnson, Police Chief Joe Adams and a city councilman with a list of “alleged disciplinary actions” from Dalton’s personnel file. No notices of those disciplinary actions were given to Dalton, the court filing says.

The list included:

  • A September 2017 complaint from a citizen that Dalton was “rude and aggressive to residents regarding children playing in the street.”
  • A May 2020 hostile work environment claim filed by Ofc. Justice Carver, alleging that Dalton had, among other things, told Carver and other officers that Carver was “stupid and retarded” and unfit to serve; that he would go to Mayor Johnson and have Carver fired; that he ridiculed Carver for praying over his lunch; that he made obscene comments and gestures to Carver; and that he made insubordinate comments about former chief Richard Panico and Mayor Johnson.
  • A June 2020 request by a complainant that Dalton have no more contact with him or her. In this situation, Panico found that no formal discipline was necessary.
  • An August 2020 situation, in which Dalton ordered that a piece of body camera video be given to someone outside the department, in violation of policy. In that instance, Dalton provided a written statement that the video was requested by Mayor Johnson to investigate a citizen’s complaint.
  • An August 2020 letter signed by 11 Westover Police employees, listing 17 alleged violations by Dalton and calling for his removal.
  • A late August 2020 letter placing Dalton on leave, related to the William Cox investigation.
  • A September 2020 complaint that Dalton had violated the department’s search and seizure policy by ordering an illegal warrantless search, while ignoring other officers’ cautions not to. In that case, Panico indicated that he intended to seek Dalton’s demotion.

Also, in April 2021, after city council held an executive session to discuss Dalton’s employment, the city’s lawyer sent Dalton’s attorney an email that read: “(city council) had a long and thoughtful discussion about Lt. Dalton’s employment status, reviewing the facts and prospective testimony. It has/they have lost confidence in Lt. Dalton and ask that he resign. Failing his resignation, the City will end his employment and defend its action as may be required. I hope that you agree that resignation is the way to go here. The public trust in and credibility of the Department is important and perishable. The City has a strong case here, and the resources to present it well, but it will be messy and leave a stain on WPD.”

In sending that letter, Westover’s attorney also included a list of findings from its insurance company’s lawyer, who interviewed other officers in relation to the Cox lawsuit.

That list included the following testimony that officers told the insurance lawyer that they would give under oath:

  • Dalton would place other officers is situations where confrontation was inevitable.
  • Dalton told other officers that he was going to kill or seriously injure three specific fellow officers.
  • Dalton was seen “bullying the homeless, vagrants and drunks in Westover.”
  • Dalton spoke “very poorly of Chief Panico and advised junior officers to ignore his direct orders.”
  • Multiple officers said that Dalton created a hostile work environment for them and that they felt targeted by him.
  • Dalton was overheard making fun of certain officers’ religious backgrounds.
  • Multiple officers said that Dalton did not like body cameras, had minimal body camera footage and turned off other officers’ cameras.
  • Dalton was overheard using racial profanities.
  • Dalton was seen giving “the finger” to officers from other law enforcement agencies.
  • Dalton was heard telling officers from other agencies not to be in Westover city limits.
  • Dalton was seen urinating on homeless peoples’ possessions.
  • Dalton instructed another officer to destroy the property of homeless people.
  • Dalton was known to go outside the chain of command, raising issues with the mayor instead of the police chief.

The two lists were intended to paint Dalton in a “false light,” the filing claims.

The filing asks that the list of disciplinary actions be expunged because they were recorded “unlawfully” and asks that the court find that council violated the city charter and that it restrain council from violating the charter and state civil service code moving forward.

Aside from city’s personnel file and the insurance company’s list, and not mentioned in the injunction filing, is an investigation conducted by the West Virginia State Police, surrounding the missing at the time William Cox cell phone, that found probable cause to potentially charge Dalton with misdemeanor destruction of property, but the statute of limitations ended before the investigation began.

Read a full timeline of the situation surrounding the Westover Police Department by clicking here.

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