MUSCLE SHOALS — Civil Service Board members unanimously voted Tuesday to uphold the termination of a police officer who was fired for killing a deer on federal property while on duty last month.
Greg Scoggins was fired Dec. 27, four days after being accused of shooting a deer on Tennessee Valley Authority property.
Mayor David Bradford upheld the termination last week, and Scoggins appealed that decision to the Civil Service Board.
The Civil Service Board went into executive session at 3:35 p.m. after hearing evidence and testimony for more than two and a half hours. They deliberated more than 30 minutes.
After the ruling, Scoggins' attorneys, Billy Underwood and Johnnie Franks, said they were disappointed with the decision but it was not unexpected.
Underwood said he would immediately file papers to appeal the case to the Colbert County Circuit Court.
Franks said they also will file a lawsuit against the city of Muscle Shoals' Civil Service Board for violations of the open meetings law.
"We're excited about what the Civil Service Board did," Franks said following the hearing. "They went into executive session and voted. Then came back out of executive session, announced their vote and reaffirmed that vote with another vote. That is in direct violation of Alabama law."
Muscle Shoals city attorney Marcel Black, who represented the city in the Civil Service Board hearing, said the open meetings law wasn't violated. He said the law states that a group "acting in the capacity of a quasi-judicial body" (one with powers resembling those of a court) can discuss and vote upon a contested case hearing while in executive session."
Black called four witnesses during the hearing, including Scoggins.
During questioning of Scoggins, Black was unable to get into details of the reported incident as Underwood repeatedly objected, saying Scoggins was opting not to answer based on his Fifth Amendment right, which protects the accused of potentially incriminating himself.
Muscle Shoals police Capt. Clint Reck read a statement that Scoggins gave and signed while the incident was being investigated.
In the statement, Reck said Scoggins said he went onto the research farm of TVA and used his own rifle to shoot and kill the deer. Reck said that Scoggins, in the statement, took blame for what happened and stated that he was sorry for his actions.
David Moore, an employee with the Muscle Shoals Utilities Board, testified he was working on Dec. 23 at the nearby city water treatment plant, which is on Second Street across from the TVA Reservation. Moore said heard a loud noise coming from the reservation that morning.
Moore testified that he saw a deer running toward Second Street and then die. He said he then saw a Muscle Shoals police car.
Moore said he called Muscle Shoals police and the Alabama Department of Conservation Game and Fish Division. He also took photos that showed the deer and the patrol car, images that were put into evidence.
Moore testified he saw someone get out of the patrol car and drag the deer behind a hedge row and out of sight. He added the patrol car and a red truck arrived later and the deer was loaded on the truck
Muscle Shoals police dispatcher Andrea Cole testified she tried to contact Scoggins on his police radio twice earlier that morning to dispatch Scoggins to a call, but he did not reply.
Before the executive session, Underwood and Franks entered several motions into the record, asking that the case be dismissed for several reasons.
One argument for dismissal involved what they called "selective prosecution." "There have been other situations where officers or city employees did things and they were not terminated," Underwood said.
The motion did not receive the response Underwood wanted to hear.
"Our purpose is to listen to the evidence and testimony presented by you and Mr. Black, and rule impartially," Civil Service Board Chairman Bill Aycock told Underwood.
Aycock said things Underwood brought up happened several years ago.
"We're looking at what happened now, not the past," Aycock said.
Last week, Underwood requested a new Civil Service Board be seated for the hearing. He also asked that the hearing be postponed until March, after criminal charges against his client are heard in Colbert County District Court.
Underwood has claimed the Civil Service Board was compromised after some members discussed Scoggins' case with Muscle Shoals Police Chief Robert Evans at the Jan. 8 Civil Service Board meeting.
He and Franks renewed those motions Tuesday. In each case, the motion was denied.
Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.