Mattingly was slated to be transferred until mayor intervened

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Police superiors worked out deal when prosecutors stopped taking narcotics detective’s cases after social media rant

By Forrest Berkshire, Editor

The officer Bardstown Mayor John Royalty promoted as second-in-command of the Bardstown Police Department had faced a brokered transfer only months earlier because of a Facebook rant he posted that caused prosecutors to bar him from presenting cases.

Bardstown Police Capt. McKenzie Mattingly, when he was a narcotics detective in October 2015, posted to his Facebook page a lengthy tirade criticizing the local judicial system after Nelson Circuit Court Judge Charles Simms admonished him in a court ruling for using excessive force.

During a deposition in a wrongful termination and defamation lawsuit brought by the man whom Mattingly replaced, Royalty testified that he intervened to keep Mattingly in Bardstown.

Royalty downplayed the schism between Mattingly and the legal system.

“Once he exercised his First Amendment right to voice his opinion, why should I investigate it?” he said.

But the nearly 800-word Facebook post sparked a backlash and caused his police superiors and the local prosecutor to propose having him work in another county.

Royalty said in his deposition that following Mattingly’s post, the mayor met with Commonwealth’s Attorney Terry Geoghegan, who told Royalty to “either fire him or ship him off to Radcliff.”

Royalty said Geoghegan had met with former Police Chief Rick McCubbin and Ron Eckart, commander of the Greater Hardin County Narcotics Task Force, to which Mattingly was detailed. They had formulated a plan to have Mattingly assigned to Hardin and LaRue counties, and an officer from those areas cover Bardstown.

“I said ‘That will not happen,’ ” Royalty said.

Following Mattingly’s social media outburst, prosecutors stopped taking Mattingly’s cases, according to the conversation between Royalty and Keith Sparks, the attorney representing former Capt. Tom Roby in the lawsuit.

“You understand that in order to prosecute a drug case, you’ve got to work with the commonwealth attorney and circuit judge?” Sparks asked.

“They’ve been letting other people take his cases to the grand jury,” Royalty said. “That’s what they choose to do, and that’s fine.”

“You don’t think it hinders the operation of the Bardstown Police Department when your interim chief … was prohibited from testifying before the grand jury?” Sparks asked.

“No, because they were letting other people, and it happens all the time,” Royalty responded.

Royalty confirmed that he had spoken to Mattingly and assured him he would not let McCubbin or Geoghegan transfer him, and that Mattingly “had probably” also relayed that information to Roby, who was captain at the time.

“Were you concerned in any way that this episode involving McKenzie’s strike with Terry Geoghegan and Judge Simms may damage the public trust in the Bardstown Police Department?” Sparks asked.

“I didn’t think so,” Royalty replied.