Lawsuit filed on behalf of three officers demoted following Bisard crash

"We were thrown under the bus," says former top commander.


A lawsuit was filed in Marion Superior Court Wednesday, accusing Public Safety Director Frank Straub and metro Police Chief Paul Ciesielski of making, "false and defamatory" claims about three top commanders who were demoted in the aftermath of the David Bisard crash.

Homeland Security Commander John Conley, Deputy Chief Ron Hicks and Assistant Chief Darryl Pierce were all demoted to the rank of lieutenant for reportedly not showing leadership during the initial investigation into the crash caused by a speeding IMPD officer that killed one motorcyclist and injured two others.

"This lawsuit is about failed leadership," said Pierce's attorney Bob Turner while holding up a copy of the court filing. "It's about failed leadership of the mayor the public safety director and the police chief."

Mayor Greg Ballard signed off on the demotions that were recommended by Straub and carried out by Ciesielski. Turner said his client was disciplined for taking charge while the city's leaders remained in their offices that day.

"Not one of the leaders responded, not the mayor, not the public safety director, not the police chief. I think it's ironic that the very people that responded who were not required to be there were cited with failed leadership."

Ciesielski claimed Hicks and Pierce never told him of the seriousness of the crash even though cell phone records show Pierce called the chief eight times in the first hour after the crash. Hicks and Pierce were also ordered to leave the scene and report to Ciesielski's office for a meeting. Pierce said once in Ciesielski's office, the chief never asked about the crash or responded to their reports and instead focused on an upcoming news conference called to support his boss, Public Safety Director Straub.

It was Straub who later determined Conley's demotion for his decision to send Bisard to a clinic instead of a hospital for a blood draw after the crash. That sample, which was later thrown out of court, determined that Bisard was drunk at the time of the crash. Conley and other investigators claimed they were never retrained on a change in state law regarding blood draws.

"All three were stripped of their ranks by Director of Public Safety Frank Straub in a naked attempt to deflect criticsm from himself by blaming men who did nothing wrong," said conley's attorney Jeff McQuary.  

The former commanders claim they have suffered financial and professional setbacks due to the demotions and public doubts about their actions.

"My whole thing," said Pierce, "is we don't want this to happen to somebody else and we're just letting them know you can't do this to people. We were thrown under the bus."




Look for this special section in your
Baltimore Sun newspaper on Dec. 29, 2013.
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