City moves to block ethics report in Hardy trial

TUPELO – The city doesn’t want its controversial ethics report used against it in the upcoming trial of former Tupelo Police Capt. Cliff Hardy.
But an attorney for Hardy said that because the city accepted the report and paid its author, it’s fair game.
Jim Waide of Tupelo also claims that the contents of that 133-page document by hired ethics consultant Cindy Brown are relevant to his client’s claims.
The legal debate plays out in a series of motions filed in U.S. District Court in Aberdeen, where Hardy’s trial against the city for allegedly pushing him out of his job is scheduled for July 20.
Hardy claims he was forced into retirement by reassignments made after he spoke publicly in October 2006 in defense of his friend and colleague, Robert Hall.
Hardy, who is white, said he believed Hall, who is black, had been “persecuted” with demotions because of his race.
Through its attorneys, the city claims Tupelo Police Department took action against Hardy because his remarks were reckless and false.
Hardy disagrees, and Waide claims Brown’s report will provide evidence to support his client’s claims.
Unless the city admits that Hardy’s statements were not reckless, false and in bad faith, “this evidence is surely relevant,” Waide adds in his filing.
The remarks come from the answer to the city’s request to exclude from the trial certain evidence, which the city predicts will include Brown’s “2007 Cultural Diversity Assessment Report,” begun at the City Council’s behest.
Through the report’s two-year development, Brown was criticized because it lacked substantiation for statements critical of the city.
The report drove a wedge between council members, as well as between council and then-Mayor Ed Neelly. One point of contention was whether the report would be accepted and paid for.
Ultimately, the city paid Brown more than $85,000, and Waide says that makes Brown’s report a public record now.
But the city’s attorneys say any evidence from the report and officer information about DUI and traffic stops should be excluded from trial.
Hall’s troubles surfaced in 2006 when he was called to an accident scene by friends of his and of vehicle driver Jamison Shells after a child was struck on a bicycle. Although on-duty officers claimed to have smelled alcohol on Shells, Hall sent him home and turned the vehicle over to the family.
Now a state inmate in Marshall County, Shells will testify in the Hardy trial. In 2007, he was convicted of leaving the scene of an accident and felony DUI.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.

Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal