MORONI—Robert Hill, former Moroni City police chief who was fired in February for alleged excessive use of force in an arrest, has filed a wrongful-termination suit against Moroni City and Mayor, Paul Bailey.
Hill’s lawsuit asks for reinstatement to his former position, back pay, reimbursement for lost benefits and other pecuniary losses. He is also asking for compensatory damages for his emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, damage to reputation and other non-pecuniary losses in amounts to be established at trial, as well as to be reimbursed for reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs plus interest.
The lawsuit alleges that prior to Feb. 13, he met with Mayor Bailey, who expressed approval of Hill’s job performance. According to the suit, the mayor said he was trying to negotiate a pay raise for Hill.
The lawsuit states that during January, he met with each Moroni City Council member to discuss the department, his performance and the possibility of adding a second officer.
The lawsuit characterizes those meetings as “fruitful.” It says each council member expressed pleasure with his performance.
Then, according to the suit, while on patrol Feb. 13, Hill observed a pick-up truck revving its engine on the town’s Main Street and blowing exhaust smoke as it was leaving town. The truck later returned.
According to the suit, Hill pulled the driver over for making fast turns and driving erratically. The lawsuit states Hill didn’t know who the driver was at the time but suspected he might be impaired.
The suit states the driver turned out to be Cameron Bailey, the son of Mayor Bailey. The younger Bailey allegedly challenged Hill’s right to pull him over, stating, “…See what happens when you need backup.”
Despite Cameron Bailey’s belligerence, Hill cited him for failing to use signals and for failure to wear a seatbelt. He also issued him two warning tickets for other violations.
Later that night, the lawsuit states, Hill pulled over a different vehicle for having a badly damaged windshield. He discovered that the driver had outstanding warrants and could not produce either a valid driver’s license or proof of insurance. Hill arrested the driver and wrote several citations before taking her to jail.
Hill said that the next day, the mayor called him into his office and summarily placed him on administrative leave. Five days later, on Feb. 18, the mayor terminated Hill “for cause,” but, according to the suit, refused to specify the “cause.”
However, in TV news and other interviews following the termination, Mayor Bailey said the grounds were excessive use of force. The Messenger obtained a tape recording in which Bailey said Hill had “ripped” the woman out of her car and “thrown her to the ground.”
According to Hill’s complaint, Bailey told the police chief he was reporting the incident involving the second driver to Utah Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST), the state agency that oversees police officer training and discipline.