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City manager ‘caught on tape,’ lawsuit claims

A Lynchburg police officer says he got a tongue lashing from the city manager after he spoke out as a citizen at a public hearing on budget issues. Now, the officer is suing for $500,000, saying the manager’s tirade – which the officer secretly recorded – was unconstitutional retaliation for speech protected by the First Amendment.

WSET reports on the lawsuit and posts a copy of the complaint.

The recording of Detective John Romano’s meeting with his police chief and the city manager was filed yesterday as an exhibit with the lawsuit. The suit names the city, the manager and the police chief.

According to Romano’s lawsuit, City Manager Kimball Payne III told him, “[I]f I start to see a line of city employees coming to city council meetings hiding behind their constitutional rights to insult me, it’s not gonna work. There’s gonna be repercussions.” Similar peevish comments, some with colorful language, are quoted in the suit.

Romano demands an injunction against future retaliation plus $250,000 in compensatory damages and $250,000 in punitive damages. Romano is represented by Michael A. Kernbach of Fairfax.

UPDATE: The city manager acknowledged the accuracy of his recorded comments, reports The News & Advance, which posts the audio recording. Payne apologized for losing his temper in his meeting with Romano.

By Peter Vieth

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