HUNTINGTON — A retired Huntington police lieutenant is suing the city of Huntington after he was laid off in January while serving as a temporary police officer.
In his suit, filed in November, Charles Kingery alleges wrongful discharge as well as negligence and breach of contract on the city's part.
Kingery is seeking damages as a result of lost wages and reimbursement for attorney fees and prosecution expenses.
In a statement Thursday from Huntington City Attorney Scott Damron, he said, "We have seen the complaint and believe that it has no merit. The retired police officer who filed the lawsuit was an excellent police officer and he served the city honorably. However, he was rehired to a temporary position as an at-will employee without any promises as to the term of employment whatsoever. Therefore, we will defend the matter vigorously."
Kingery was one of 11 officers laid off from the Huntington Police Department in January as a result of a projected S5 million deficit in the city's budget.
The deficit was the accumulation of overspending in the police and fire departments as well as increased costs for the city's health insurance and fire and police pension contributions, according to city officials.
At the time he was laid off, Kingery was filling in for an officer who was on military leave.
Kingery retired from the police department as a lieutenant Sept. 30, 2016, with the understanding that he would immediately return to HPD to fill the role of an officer on military leave, the suit states.
In 2016, Kingery collected a salary of about S112.000, which was the highest in the police department, according to city records.
During a conversation with Huntington Police Capt. Hank Dial and Huntington Police Chief Joe Ciccarelli, Kingery alleges in his suit that he was informed this temporary position would be guaranteed to him for at least two years.
The suit further states that Kingery was informed he would be able to draw his retirement and receive his pay during his new employment.
By terminating his employment after just under four months in his new position, Kingery alleges the city violated his contract, which HPD officials informed him would last at least two years.
As a result of the layoff, the suit alleges Kingery has "suffered monetary damages from the loss of his lieutenant salary and the reduced retirement amount."
The suit further alleges that the city was negligent by failing to inform Kingery of its financial troubles prior to his retirement and subsequent rehire.
In an interview with Huntington Mayor Steve Williams following the January layoffs, Williams told The Herald-Dispatch signs that the city's fire and police departments were overspending their budgets were evident as early as September.
Despite early warning signs, the financial troubles were not made public until mid-January when the city began considering layoffs in the police and fire departments.
Around the same time the signs of overspending in the police department were first spotted, Kingery's suit alleges that the mayor was pushing for the police department to hire new officers without allocating additional funds.
Kingery is being represented by D. Scott Bellomy, a lawyer of Bellomy, Turner & Bar-tram in Huntington.
The case has been assigned to Cabell Circuit Judge Christopher D. Chiles.