Ex-police chief settles lawsuit against Pelican Bay

Posted Monday, Mar. 11, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Former Pelican Bay Police Chief Gilbert Towns has reached an agreement to settle his lawsuit against the city that clears his record, making it easier for him to find another law enforcement job.

In January, Towns filed a wrongful termination suit against Pelican Bay, alleging that Mayor Clifford Tynes told him to arrest Councilwoman Robin Finstad because she was asking too many questions about how money was spent at City Hall.

The mayor fired Towns on May 25 after the council was unable to vote on the action for lack of a quorum.

Matthew Bobo, Towns' attorney, said he is working out an agreement with Pelican Bay to change the former chief's employment report submitted to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Education to reflect an honorable discharge. Bobo said he could not release other details of the agreement because of confidentiality.

City Attorney Cass Callaway said the Texas Municipal League is representing the city in the lawsuit. Attorneys for the league could not be reached for comment.

In an interview, Towns said the charges against Finstad were not credible.

"The complaints were laughable," Towns said. "I told them [city officials] that I would be committing an illegal act if I arrested Robin."

Towns said one complaint alleged that Finstad stole money donated for a Halloween party she organized for children in Pelican Bay.

"That made me feel pretty sick to my stomach," Finstad said when asked about Towns being told that her council colleagues wanted her arrested. "They [the mayor] knew they were doing wrong. They wanted me to shut up, and they didn't want me asking for documents anymore."

In his suit, Towns also alleged that he was asked to change his testimony in a lawsuit filed by a former employee.

Lareina "Fawn" Mroz also filed a wrongful termination suit against the city. Mroz reported that the police chief was sexually harassing another employee, although Towns was not named in the suit.

In July, Tynes submitted an "F-5" report to the state law enforcement commission with a dishonorable discharge designation that hampered Towns' ability to get a new job.

Towns appealed to the State Office of Administrative Hearings, and on Nov. 29, state administrative law judge Tanya Cooper ordered Pelican Bay to change the report to show that Towns was honorably discharged.

Cooper wrote that Pelican Bay did not present evidence that Towns was under criminal investigation or was insubordinate, grounds for a dishonorable discharge.

In his appeal, Towns said he was fired because Tynes wanted new leadership in the department and that the city could no longer afford his salary.

In December, Towns sent a letter to the district attorney's office seeking an investigation of wrongdoing by Tynes, Police Chief James Frawley and Callaway.

Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney Ann Diamond said the letter was forwarded to the economic crimes division for review.

"There was little likelihood of successful prosecution," she said.

Elizabeth Campbell,

817-390-7696

Twitter: @fwstliz

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