Officials are working to determine whether Prestonsburg City Council members can be sued by a former police officer who alleges wrongful discharge.

Floyd County Circuit Judge Tom Smith recently issued an order in a wrongful termination lawsuit that former Prestonsburg Police Officer Adam Dixon filed against the Prestonsburg Police Department, Prestonsburg Police Chief Larry Woods, Prestonsburg Mayor Les Stapleton and current and former Prestonsburg City Council members. 

The lawsuit alleges that, between Oct. 20, 2015, and March 2018, the defendants failed to follow policies for the “handling and treatment of employees injured in the line of duty,” and it claims that failure made Dixon’s injuries worse, leading to his alleged “wrongful termination.”

Dixon seeks compensatory and punitive damages for “Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress,” as well as compensatory and punitive damages for wrongful termination. 

Dixon had been employed as an officer for nearly 10 years when he was shot in the line of duty on Oct. 20, 2015, by Robert Powers of Auxier, who was sentenced to 20 years for that shooting in December 2018. 

Per department protocol, Dixon was placed on administrative leave after the shooting, the lawsuit said, and he was on leave for about three months. After he returned to work, his attorney claims the Prestonsburg officials failed to adhere to policies that would have helped Dixon with his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and, after time passed, they “demanded” his resignation.

The city has denied the allegations made in the lawsuit and is seeking a partial dismissal.

Following a hearing about the city’s motion to exclude current and former Prestonsburg City Council members from the case last month, Smith ordered that the city’s motion for a partial dismissal be stayed for 120 days and that city officials use that time to determine if individual city council members are proper parties of the lawsuit. 

Attorney Melissa Thompson Richardson, representing the city and its officials, claims in the motion for partial dismissal that Dixon’s claims against city council members are too vague. She argues that the only mention of the city council’s conduct in the lawsuit is a paragraph in which it claims the council “failed to abide by” by policies for the handling and treatment of injured employees. It also alleges among other things, that as a legislative body, the city council “could not have had any hand” in the alleged wrongful termination. 

Richard A. Getty, Dixon’s attorney, believes, otherwise, however, arguing in court documents that the complaint contains sufficient factual allegations against the city council members and that the city council members have “absolutely no basis for claiming they cannot identify the ‘essential nature’ of Dixon’s complaint against them.

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