Session March 5, 2019
from the Chancery Court for Davidson County No. 17-0510-II
William E. Young, Chancellor
appeal arises from the Metropolitan Government of Nashville
Civil Service Commission's decision to suspend and demote
Appellant, a police officer with Metropolitan Nashville
Police Department. The department's decision to suspend
Appellant was affirmed by the administrative law judge, but
the administrative law judge reversed the demotion. The
Commission then reviewed the administrative law judge's
order and upheld the suspension but reinstated the demotion.
On appeal to the Davidson County Chancery Court, the
Commission's decision was affirmed. Finding no error, we
affirm the decision of the Chancery Court.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery
Court Affirmed and Remanded
Alex Little, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Earl
Cooper, Lora Barkenbus Fox, Nashville, Tennessee, for the
appellee, Civil Service Commission of the Metropolitan
Government of Nashville & Davidson County, and
Metropolitan Police Department of Nashville & Davidson
Armstrong, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which
Arnold B. Goldin, J., joined.
Gene Davis ("Appellant") is a Metropolitan
Nashville Police Department ("MNPD") police
officer. In 2010, Officer Davis was assigned to the Middle
Tennessee Drug Enforcement Task Force ("Task
Force"), which the United States Drug Enforcement
Administration ("DEA") runs. The DEA often
contracts with state and local law enforcement agencies for
cooperative enforcement concerning drug crimes. Relevant
here, in the fall of 2013, the City of Nashville and the DEA
formed a Program-Funded State and Local Task Force Agreement
("Task Force Agreement"). Officials from
Metropolitan Government of Nashville ("Metro") and
the DEA, along with the Metro Chief of Police, approved the
Task Force Agreement. In relevant part, the Task Force
2. To accomplish the objectives of the [Task Force], the MNPD
agrees to detail one (1) experienced officer to the [Task
Force] for a period of not less than two years. During this
period of assignment, the MNPD officers will be under the
direct supervision and control of DEA supervisory personnel
assigned to the Task Force.
3. The MNPD officers assigned to the Task Force shall adhere
to DEA policies and procedures. Failure to adhere to DEA
policies and procedures shall be grounds for dismissal from
the Task Force.
4. The MNPD officers assigned to the Task Force shall be
deputized as Task Force Officers of DEA pursuant to 21 U.S.C.
5. To accomplish objectives of the [Task Force], DEA will
assign three (3) Special Agents to the Task Force. DEA will
also, subject to the availability of annually appropriated
funds or any continuing resolution thereof, provide necessary
funds and equipment to support the activities of DEA Special
Agents and MNPD officers assigned to the Task Force. This
support will include: office space, office supplies, travel
funds for the purchase of evidence and information,
investigative equipment, training, and other support items.
6. During the period of assignment to the [Task Force], the
MNPD will be responsible for establishing the salary and
benefits, including overtime, of the officers assigned to the
Task Force, and for making all payments due them. DEA will,
subject to availability of funds, reimburse the MNPD for
overtime payments made by it to the MNPD officers assigned to
the [Task Force] for overtime . . . .
serving as a member of the "Group 1" Task Force
from 2013 through 2014, Officer Davis was involved in an
investigation of a drug conspiracy in Sumner County,
Tennessee. DEA Special Agent Tanya Bilyeu was the lead
case-agent for Group 1. Agent Bilyeu made the final
operational decisions for Group 1 and also served as the
supervisor when the group supervisor was out of the office.
During the investigation, the Task Force discovered that F.C.
was involved in a sexual relationship with his minor
step-daughter. F.C. was one of several targets in the
Task Force investigation who was suspected of distributing
cocaine and marijuana in Middle Tennessee. Based on this
investigation, F.C. was arrested for sexual exploitation of a
minor in April 2014. The arrest warrant for F.C. stated, in
part, that he was believed to be an illegal immigrant from
Mexico who posed a serious flight risk.
was scheduled for a bond hearing on July 3,
2014. F.C.'s bonding agent for this
hearing was George Espinoza. Officer Davis alleges that he
believed that members of the drug conspiracy intended to bond
F.C. out at a time when law enforcement was unaware so F.C.
could flee to Mexico. Officer Davis asserts that he believed
Mr. Espinoza was part of the drug conspiracy and intended to
accept drug funds as the source of payment for F.C.'s
bond. Allegedly fearful that F.C. would flee to Mexico,
Officer Davis claims that he and Agent Bilyeu discussed
several ideas about how to keep F.C. from fleeing the
country. Officer Davis contacted Immigration and Customs
Enforcement ("ICE") to inquire about an immigration
hold on F.C. ICE informed Officer Davis that F.C. was a legal
resident alien and that ICE would not place an immigration
hold on him. Ultimately, Officer Davis claims that he and
Agent Bilyeu decided that Officer Davis should contact Mr.
Espinoza, act as an ICE agent, and inform Mr. Espinoza that
there was an immigration hold on F.C., such that posting bond
for F.C. to make bail would be futile. Officer Davis made the
call and represented to Mr. Espinoza that his name was ICE
Agent Byron Daniels, he was going to place a hold on F.C.,
and it would be a "pretty moot point" to bond out
F.C. Subsequently, the bond hearing was rescheduled, and F.C.
remained in jail until the rescheduled bond hearing on July
7, 2014 when he was released.
7, 2014, Officer Davis reported to his MNPD supervisor,
Sergeant Gene Donegan, that he had been "outed" in
court as a DEA agent. Officer Davis was concerned that
members of the drug conspiracy knew his real name, telephone
number, and home address. Upon hearing this information,
Sergeant Donegan took immediate steps to ensure Officer
Davis's safety. In late 2014, Officer Davis was taken off
the Task Force and subsequently promoted to Sergeant.
November 2014, MNPD received a complaint from ICE regarding
Officer Davis's telephone call to Mr. Espinoza. At the
same time, Officer Davis reported to Lieutenant Johnny
Malzonie that he had impersonated an ICE agent without
ICE's permission when he called Mr. Espinoza. Lieutenant
Malzonie contacted Captain Jason Reinbold about the incident.
Captain Reinbold immediately decommissioned Officer Davis
from Sergeant to Police Officer II until an internal
investigation could be conducted. Shortly thereafter, the
MNPD Office of Professional Accountability ("OPA")
launched an investigation into the matter.
Jeremy Moseley conducted the OPA investigation. To begin his
investigation, Sergeant Moseley reviewed evidence provided by
Homeland Security. Following that review, Sergeant Moseley
determined that he needed to proceed with the investigation.
Sergeant Moseley interviewed the following people during the
investigation: Mr. Espinoza; Lieutenant Malzonie; Sergeant
Donegan; Lieutenant Mitch Fuhrer; Officer Davis; Agent
Bilyeau; and Mike Stanfield. As a result of the
investigation, on July 7, 2015, Chief Steve Anderson formally
charged Officer Davis with violations of MNPD policies and
procedures and with violations of the Rules of the
Metropolitan Government Civil Service Commission ("the
Commission"). The charging document provided, in
4.20 DEPORTMENT AND PERSONAL APPEARANCE
4.20.040 Personal Behavior: B: Adherence to
1. Employees are prohibited from engaging in conduct, on or
off-duty, which constitutes an offense under the laws or
ordinances of the United States or any subdivision thereof.
T.C.A. § 39-16-301 - Criminal
(a) A person commits criminal impersonation
who, with intent to injure or defraud another person:
(1) Assumes a false identity;
(2) Pretends to be a representative of some
person or organization;
(3) Pretends to be an officer or employee of
the government; or
(4) Pretends to have a disability.
(c) (1) Criminal impersonation under
subsection (a) is a Class B misdemeanor.
4.20 DEPORTMENT AND PERSONAL APPEARANCE
4.20.040 Personal Behavior: K: Obstruction
Employees shall not knowingly deprive any person of any right
to which they are entitled by law or the rules and
regulations of the Metropolitan Government. (Category B)
Metropolitan Civil Service ...