A Corbin firefighter, arrested last week for allegedly stealing city property and selling it for his own gain, has filed a lawsuit claiming city officials conspired to wrongly have him arrested in retaliation for him disciplining two firefighters that worked under him.
According to a lawsuit filed in Whitley Circuit Court Oct. 7, Eric Isom, through Corbin Attorney David O. Smith, accuses Corbin Fire Chief Barry McDonald, Corbin Police Col. David Maiden and Sgt. Bill Rose of hatching the plan. The city’s Mayor, Willard McBurney, along with Commissioners Bruce Farris, Ricky Lynch, Phil Gregory and Joe Shelton, in their official capacity, are also named in the lawsuit.
Isom apparently "wrote up for discipline" two employees of the Fire Department "who are favored by McDonald" some time after he took possession of two emergency light bars confiscated by the police following a criminal investigation in May. He sold the light bars for $125 each, one to fellow firefighter Chad Jackson and the other to Brandon Wagers.
The lawsuit claims McDonald, angered that Isom had disciplined the two unnamed firefighters, "vowed and vocally proclaimed his intention to fire Isom …" McDonald was angry, the suit says, because the firefighters were also members of the West Knox Volunteer Fire Department. McDonald is a former chief of that department.
McDonald was contacted about the lawsuit Tuesday, but would not comment.
Many of the city’s firefighters also serve with West Knox.
Rose said he was contacted by firefighters about the light bars on Sept. 13, which were supposedly handed over to the fire department. Isom claims he was given the light bars, repaired them and sold them, a fact that was known by his fellow firefighters and the Police Department.
Isom says in the lawsuit that McDonald, Rose, Maiden, and other employees, used the light bars later as a way to arrest him and put his employment in peril.
Isom was arrested last Monday on two counts of theft by failure to make required disposition under $500 – misdemeanor offenses. He was lodged in the Whitley County Detention Center and released, pending trial, on a $500 cash bond.
The lawsuit claims that Rose and Maiden "did not obtain" the light bars as evidence and told those who purchased them not to allow Isom to repurchase them prior to his arrest.
"The actions complained of herein are wrongful, for an abusive purpose, constitutes and abuse of the criminal process to effectuate the desired termination of the Plaintiff from his employment, for the purpose of defaming the Plaintiff, placing him in a false light …" the lawsuit reads. "The Defendants have caused the Plaintiff to be falsely imprisoned, slandered, libeled and maligned the reputation of a fine, young fireman … and have and continue to inflict severe emotional distress …"
Corbin City Manager Bill Ed Cannon said he recalls being informed that the light bars were being transferred to the Fire Department for its use, but was not aware that Isom had sold them until recently.
"There’s no big deal with transferring stuff between departments, but one thing my people should know is that you can’t do anything with city property unless it has been declared surplus," Cannon said. "Then you can only get rid of it one of two ways: at a public auction or by a public bid."
The lawsuit is asking the city be prevented from taking any administrative actions against Isom until his criminal case is resolved.
Cannon said city leader have no intention of disciplining Isom until his criminal charges have been taken care of by the courts. Isom has served as a firefighter since Oct. 21, 2002 and is still with the department.
The suit also asks for compensatory and punitive damages and attorney fees.