Former North Miami Police Chief Gary Eugene, who was initially suspended, then fired last Friday, has filed a federal lawsuit against the city, the city manager and a City Council member seeking to get his job back.
Eugene’s lawsuit says the city violated due process by forcing him to resign, and later be fired, without giving a clear reason and without allowing him a chance to make a case before the city. He is seeking a jury trial, unspecified financial damages and reinstatement.
The complaint also argues that the city has damaged Eugene’s reputation and took advantage of the fact that Eugene was on paid medical leave by asking for his resignation on the day that he returned from his time off.
“As a direct and proximate result of defendants’ action, Chief Eugene’s reputation, honor and integrity have been damaged in such a way as to brand him a chief of police who lost his job and has effectively prevented him from following his trade and calling as a peace officer,” the complaint reads.
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City Manager Larry Spring said the action against Eugene was in response to the city’s internal affairs investigation into last summer’s shooting of Charles Kinsey by Jonathan Aledda, a member of the SWAT team.
He also said it was due to what appeared to be conflicting statements between Eugene’s testimony with the FDLE last year and his interview with the city’s investigators. When Eugene was interviewed by FDLE investigators last year he described a department in disarray and plagued with infighting.
Vice Mayor Scott Galvin, the only council member named in the lawsuit, said in a statement: “I’m confident in the legal process and know eventually we will all reach the truth.” Galvin, who was the most outspoken council member about the city’s decision, was included in the complaint because of his public comments.
Spring said Monday morning that the city hadn’t been served with the lawsuit, “but we’re aware of it.”
The city gave Eugene until July 7 to accept a separation agreement, which he declined, choosing instead to take legal action. He was officially fired as of 5:01 p.m. Friday. Larry Juriga, the assistant chief, has been appointed interim chief. Spring said a national search for the next chief will begin soon.
The shooting took place last July when Aledda fired his rifle and struck Kinsey, a behavioral therapist, as he cared for his autistic client.
The city’s investigation centered on Cmdr. Emile Hollant, the commander in charge of the scene, and what he was doing at the moment of the shooting.