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City thwarted in several attempts to criminally charge former BPD captain

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By Forrest Berkshire, Editor

Special report
These stories are the first of a two-part special report detailing some of the deposition testimony given under oath by Bardstown Mayor John Royalty and Human Resources Director Larry Green as part of a wrongful termination and defamation suit brought against them and the city by former Bardstown Police Capt. Tom Roby.
Today’s report focuses on some details Royalty and Green shared regarding the investigation and eventual firing of Roby after he was demoted as part of what Royalty has characterized as a “reorganization” of BPD. The next report will delve into some side issues they discussed that were related to recent controversies involving Royalty’s past two years in office.

The Kentucky State Police said they didn’t believe a crime was committed. The Kentucky Attorney General’s Office declined to pursue an investigation. The Nelson County Commonwealth’s Attorney publicly stated he would not present a criminal case to the grand jury.

After all those agencies said they did not see probable cause that former Police Capt. Tom Roby committed a crime by shredding documents while cleaning out his office, the Bardstown City Police opened a criminal investigation into the matter. The officer pursuing the city’s criminal investigation was the brother-in-law of Mayor John Royalty, who had originally demoted Roby, spurring his chief of police to resign and city residents to publicly protest his actions.

Those are some of the details included in more than 500 pages of deposition transcripts from December that were recently filed in the Nelson Circuit Clerk’s Office as part of a wrongful termination and defamation suit Roby has filed against the city, the mayor and Human Resources Director Larry Green.

Royalty testified under oath for nearly eight hours of deposition in December, and Green’s lasted nearly that long, in the office of Roby’s attorney, Keith Sparks. Many of the questions and answers concerned the specifics of Roby’s demotion and eventual firing, but other testimony touched on several other recent public controversies, including past actions by current assistant chief Capt. McKenzie Mattingly and an ongoing, separate investigation of the mayor’s administration by Bardstown City Council.

Roby was demoted to patrolman in April and subsequently announced his intention to retire early, but was fired May 31 while he was no longer serving in uniform but remained on the payroll using accrued time off. He claims his termination was motivated by a vendetta the mayor held against him.

In his deposition, Royalty claims no knowledge of the investigation, claiming he had not read it “to this day.” He said that, on the advice of the City Attorney Tim Butler, he removed himself from it and handed it over to Green and Butler.

HR director sought criminal investigation, denied

Green acknowledges leading the initial efforts to determine if a criminal investigation was warranted. He said it was the number of documents Roby was shredding that spurred his suspicion.

“That volume of destruction made me think that it was something, that it — that was not ordinary,” he said.

Green said someone at the police department notified him May 4 that Roby was shredding documents. He said he went to inspect them and saw a large bin full of papers. They were brought to City Hall and sealed with evidence tape.

“Not being in law enforcement, I didn’t know what my responsibilities were. But I wanted to err on the side of caution and report it,” Green said.

He said KSP seemed “the logical place to go for something that happened in the police department.”

The next day, Green went to KSP Post 4 and spoke with Lt. Ezra Stout, he said. Green said Stout told him, “Oh, I don’t think that’s against the law.”

But Green disagreed with Stout over whether Roby had violated a state law governing the destruction of public documents. He said his “intuition” led him to believe that Roby still might have done something wrong.

So Green called the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office and was told they would check with the commonwealth’s attorney. Green said the AG’s office contacted him sometime later — he couldn’t recall the date — and told him there was no interest in pursuing an investigation.

“I kind of thought that I’d done my due diligence in taking it as far as I needed to,” he said after hearing from the AG, and the matter could be handled as a personnel matter rather than a possible criminal case.

City proceeds with internal investigation, fires Roby

Green testified he still believed Roby had improperly destroyed some documents, and called in experts from the Kentucky Department of Library and Archives, who met with City Clerk Barbie Bryant on May 12 to review the documents Roby had not yet destroyed but had set aside for shredding. Green said they determined 5-10 percent of the documents should have been retained.

Green testified he did not seek any further explanation for the documents’ destruction, either from the commander of the Hardin County Narcotics Task Force or then-Bardstown Chief of Police Rick McCubbin.

On May 31, Roby was summoned to a meeting with the mayor and other police administration and notified he was being fired. Sparks was also at the meeting representing Roby, who was presented the grounds for his dismissal for the first time, and barred from asking any questions.

The following day, June 1, the news broke in local and Louisville media of Roby’s firing, and Sparks announced Roby was considering suing the city.

City opens its own criminal probe

Green testified he was finished pursuing a criminal investigation after Roby was fired, despite the city’s assertion during Roby’s termination that criminal actions still might have occurred.

Green remained convinced that Roby had destroyed internal affairs files, and testified that he asked Bardstown Police Officer Tom Blair to piece them back together.

On July 4, Commonwealth’s Attorney Terry Geoghegan announced his office had not been presented with enough evidence to present charges to a grand jury.

That news was published in the July 6 edition of The Kentucky Standard. On July 7, Blair, according to an investigation report, officially opened a BPD criminal investigation into Roby.

Blair is Royalty’s brother-in-law, and Green agreed he saw a potential conflict of interest in having the mayor’s brother-in-law investigate a former employee who had announced he would sue his relative.

But Green couldn’t object to the mayor’s relative investigating Roby because, Green said, he had no idea it was ongoing.

“I really didn’t know about it until it was well underway,” Green testified.

Green denied any involvement in the BPD criminal investigation and said he had no knowledge of its findings, except that he had been told by Royalty that it had been turned over to the commonwealth attorney’s office in November or December.

The mayor, in his deposition, said he had heard the same, but that he was told by Green.

The Standard was able to independently verify Blair did turn over an investigation file sometime in the latter part of 2016, but that it had not been presented to a grand jury.

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