Ashland, MO – Ashland Police Chief Lyn Woolford filed a lawsuit against the mayor and the city less than one week after he was placed on administrative that claimed he was being penalized for refusing to remove the mayor’s girlfriend from his home after an argument.
Chief Woolford’s petition to the court said that on at least two occasions Ashland Mayor Gene Rohrer called him and asked him to have his girlfriend removed from his house, the Columbia Missourian reported.
But, according to the lawsuit, because Rohrer’s girlfriend lived at the residence with him and there was no threat of violence involved on either occasion, the police chief didn’t feel it was law enforcement’s place to intervene.
Chief Woolford sent officers to keep the peace on each occasion, but did not instruct them to force the mayor’s girlfriend to leave the home like the mayor wanted, according to the lawsuit.
The chief’s lawsuit alleged that was when the mayor’s attitude toward him began to “sour,” the Columbia Missourian reported.
The petition alleged that “Rhorer has since taken retaliatory action, in violation of the city ordinances and state law, by first terminating (Woolford) from his position of City Administrator and then by placing (Woolford) on administrative leave from his role as chief of police.”
There are no recordings of the mayor’s calls to the police chief because a Rohrer bypassed 911 and the police department and called Chief Woolford directly to ask for the favor, the Columbia Missourian reported.
Matt Uhrig, Chief Woolford’s attorney, said the police chief’s removal is wrong for a number of reasons.
Uhrig said the way Rohrer attempted to fire Chief Woolford broke state law on how a city of Ashland’s size can remove its police chief, the Columbia Missourian reported.
The attorney also said that the police chief’s removal violated state laws that protect whistle blowers from retaliation for reporting their superiors.
Rohrer named Ashland Police Deputy Chief Terry Toalson in the interim to replace Chief Woolford and the Ashland Board of Aldermen was expected to make the appointment official at a meeting on Tuesday night, according to the Columbia Missourian.
A number of community members have expressed support for Chief Woolford and said they wanted to know more about the circumstances of his removal before anything was made permanent.
“It’s kind of frustrating with little information available at this time,” business owner T.J. Forck told KMIZ. “But I know our community needs to support him on the aspects that we do know.”
Prior to the lawsuit’s announcement on Monday, the community could only speculate about why their police chief had been removed.
“I talk to Lyn about every day,” Forck told KMIZ. “I don’t know anything. He is legally bound not to say anything and so are all the city officials so that’s why it’s been pretty tight-lipped because nobody can talk about it at all.”
Forck shared a message from Chief Woolford on his own Facebook page on Sunday.
“I want to assure the community that I have not violated any law, policy or rule,” Chief Woodford said in the post. “I have served the City of Ashland in an ethical and honest way and hope to continue to do so in the future. I have heard that a number of friends and supporters are planning to attend the Board of Alderman meeting on February 18. While I would like to attend to share my side of this dispute, I am following the advice of my attorney, and will fight the Mayor’s and the City’s actions against me in the manner allowed under state law. I look forward to the truth coming out through that process and am confident that I will be fully reinstated.”
Forck said he has replaced his company ads on two billboards in Ashland with messages encouraging residents to show up at the Board of Alderman’s meeting to show their support for Chief Woolford, the Columbia Missourian reported.
“I own the billboard so it was a pretty cool way to show my support and our community’s support,” he explained. “We needed to make a big statement so that’s what we did.”
The city has refused to comment on what they have said is a personnel matter, KMIZ reported.
Ashland Alderman Richard Sullivan said the police chief’s contract goes through April and he is still currently a city employee.