Categorized | Granite Shoals, News, News By Town

Granite Shoals takes ex-police chief to court to surrender city records

CONNIE SWINNEY • STAFF WRITER

Former Granite Shoals Police Chief J.P. Wilson.

Former Granite Shoals Police Chief J.P. Wilson.

GRANITE SHOALS — Former Granite Shoals Police Chief J.P. Wilson has returned confidential information belonging to the city after a court hearing, but he’s still challenging the city manager’s rating of his “discharge” from employment.

Wilson left the Granite Shoals Police Department in May after city leaders placed him on administrative leave.

Following his departure, city staff began civil legal proceedings against Wilson, claiming he was in possession of “video recordings or copies of video recordings … made on city property or during the exercise of defendant’s official duties while employed by the city;” “electronic storage devices storing city information;” and “documents, electronic information, videotapes and audiotapes that Wilson obtained from the city,” according to a temporary injunction agreement between Wilson and the city.

“Chief Wilson took some confidential information with him when he left,” City Manager Ken Nickel said. “We had to take him to court to get it back from him.”

On Oct. 25, Granite Shoals City Council members authorized city staff to proceed with a requested temporary injunction against Wilson in a Burnet County court.

On Oct. 26, Burnet County Court-at-Law Judge Linda Bayless approved an agreement between the parties requiring the return of records listed in court documents.

“We talked to his attorney. Mr. Wilson was there also. They acknowledged they had it, and they gave it back to us,” Nickel said. “Anytime when an employee leaves, they are not allowed to take any confidential information with them, period.

“It’s the integrity of the information that no one should be able to take it for their own personal use,” he added.

Court records also stated that city officials accused Wilson of “unauthorized release of the video and other information to third parties and otherwise misuse of the information, which he has improperly retained following his employment.”

Neither city staff nor court documents revealed the contents of the items.

“It was simply an agreed order not to disseminate personal or private information that would have come into J.P.’s possession as chief of police,” said his legal counsel, Grant Goodwin of Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas. “We therefore agreed with it, signed the order and turned over any information they thought that we had that they wanted. We had no problem with that.”

Attempts to reach Wilson were unsuccessful.

Goodwin said he believes the working relationship between Wilson and the city suffered due to personal issues.

“J.P. worked very hard for the city of Granite Shoals. He worked there for more than a decade, did a very good job as the chief of police there,” Goodwin said. “I believe it was a personality conflict that led to this situation and that in the long-run J.P. will come out on top.”

In another dispute with the city, Wilson submitted an appeal to the state regarding the city manager’s exit rating of the former chief in a so-called F5 (Form 5) document.

The record is filed with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, the law enforcement regulatory agency. Other law enforcement agencies are required to review the record when considering hiring an officer.

“I gave him a rating he did not like,” said Nickel of the so-called “separation of licensee” document.

In the document, former employers can assign one of three ratings: “honorably discharged,” “general discharge,” or “dishonorably discharged.”

Wilson received a “general discharge” rating designated by the city manager.

According to the document, terms under a “general discharge” state a law enforcement employee was either “terminated by, retired or resigned from … a law enforcement agency, and the separation was related to a disciplinary investigation of conduct that is not included in the definition of dishonorably discharged; or (the officer) was terminated by or retired or resigned from a law enforcement agency, and the separation was for a documented performance problem and … not because of a reduction in workforce or an at-will employment decision.”

Wilson and city officials are scheduled to attend a hearing before an administrative judge Dec. 14 in Austin.

“We closed the first piece of this on getting the documentation back,” Nickel said. “I think I’m confident that the information that we had and what we did for the rating will be upheld by the administrator.”

Goodwin said he believes evidence surrounding Wilson’s case will work in his favor instead.

“I believe the information will do quite well and be victorious that day,” he said. “He’s a good police officer. He will do good wherever he is enforcing the law.”

connie@thepicayune.com

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