ALPENA — Jim Goldie, Harrison lawyer representing the city of Alpena, told the City Council on Monday that an individual has sued the city over an alleged civil rights violation.
Online court records show Trevor Haynes filed the lawsuit against the city of Alpena, the city of Green Forest, Alpena Police officers Jeff Usrey and Kristopher Worrall, and Green Forest Police officers Hunter Lafever and Robert Coffelt.
The complaint in the lawsuit alleges that:
• Haynes was driving from his job at Tyson Foods in Carroll County through Alpena on July 18, 2017, when he was stopped by Worrall and Usrey for having a bright white light under the vehicle.
• Haynes was told to stay in his vehicle while the officers went back to the patrol unit, presumably to request information from dispatchers regarding identifying documents Haynes provided. He was in the vehicle for 15 minutes or more.
• The officers returned to Haynes and asked to search his vehicle. Haynes declined and the officer requested a K9 unit from Green Forest Police. Haynes was detained and waited 40 minutes more for the K9 search.
• Lafever conducted the search and said the dog alerted on the driver’s side door. Coffelt approved the response and authorized the search.
• “Mr. Haynes informed defendant officers that the alert was because of the K9 unit’s reward toy being placed on the driver’s side door,” the complaint said. “Mr. Haynes was then informed by Defendant Usrey and Defendant Worrall that he would be going to jail because officers knew that he had something illicit in his vehicle.”
• Officers searched both the vehicle and Haynes’ person and found no illegal items. He did not consent to either search, asserting his rights under the Fifth Amendment.
• Haynes was physically arrested and taken to the Carroll County Jail, where he was held for about 12 hours. When released on bond the following day, he was presented with citations for “white lights to the rear” and “failure to sign, carry or present registration.”
• Haynes appeared in Boone County District Court-Alpena Division in November, but the charges were withdrawn on the prosecution’s motion.
The suit alleges that the prosecution against Haynes was retaliation for him asserting his Fifth Amendment rights and refusing the search of his vehicle and person.
The suit alleges the respective cities failed to properly train and supervise the officers. Officials say none of the four officers named in the suit are still with the respective police departments.
The suit asks the court award punitive damages against all defendants and for attorneys’ costs and fees. He is represented by Harrison lawyers Nancy L. Mathis and Phillip Moon.
At Monday’s meeting, Goldie told the council that it was the second such lawsuit filed against the city since he became city attorney in 2009. The city hired the Arkansas Municipal League’s legal team to represent it and that case was dismissed.
Goldie told council members that there had been another similar lawsuit in another Arkansas county in which the plaintiff won and was awarded $1 in damages. However, the jury in that case awarded the plaintiff attorney’s fees and costs as well, which was by far more substantial than punitive damages.
He said he had been in contact with Municipal League officials and they tentatively agreed to represent the city, although they did want to read the complaint first.
In addition, the league charges members, which Alpena is, $3,000 for legal representation. Goldie said he made clear that Alpena is in a tight financial spot, but league officials assured him a payment plan could be arranged.
“It’ll be the best $3,000 you’ve ever spent,” Goldie told the council, adding that if he were to represent the city and bill for hours it would be well more than that.
The council voted to take Goldie’s advice and he said he would work with Municipal League lawyers as soon as possible. Mayor Theron McCammond was only served with a summons on the lawsuit last week, so the city will have to file it’s answer to the complaint within 21 days of that date, Goldie said.