By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Glenrock officials have asked a judge to dismiss a lawsuit brought against them by the town’s former police chief, who is accusing them of wrongful termination.
In the town’s response to a lawsuit filed by former Chief David Theel, Glenrock’s mayor, interim police Chief Colter Felton, the town clerk and council member John Moulton denied that Theel was wrongfully terminated or that their behavior and actions causes any alleged injuries or damages suffered by Theel and his wife, Carmen, who is also named as a plaintiff in the lawsuit.
The town officials also argued that they should be entitled to qualified immunity because the incident involved governmental employees and that the statute of limitations for action by Theel has passed.
According to the original lawsuit, filed in December, Theel was appointed by Mayor Bruce Roumell as police chief in February 2019, but one year later, the town initiated an investigation regarding Theel, his interactions with employees and issues surrounding a certain police officer.
“Employee interactions that were part of this investigation include allegations of [Theel] overreacting, being condescending and being a generally unpleasant boss,” the original lawsuit said.
The lawsuit noted the allegations were not made within 10 working days of the alleged incidents as required by the town’s policy manual.
An investigation showed that there were morale problems, and the lawsuit alleged Glenrock officials did “nothing” as a result.
Theel claimed in the lawsuit that he was never informed of the allegations.
He then alleged that in February 2021, rumors about a Glenrock teacher and student having an inappropriate relationship began to circulate around town, and Theel assigned an investigator to look into the matter.
Around six days after initiating the investigation, Roumell placed Theel on administrative leave “for reasons that [Theel] failed to investigate the matter or hindered or influenced the investigation.”
Roumell and Felton began emailing around this time, stating Theel was not allowed to contact the police department or its employees.
Theel was not the subject of any disciplinary action, the lawsuit said.
A second investigation regarding Theel’s investigation of the teacher and student was initiated, and Theel claimed in the lawsuit that the allegations against him were unfounded.
However, he said members of the police department issued a letter of no confidence in him, alleging there were citizen complaints against him, that Theel was insubordinate, that he created a hostile work environment, was a narcissist and that he failed to investigate a matter concerning a Glenrock officer. One of the people who signed the letter is married to councilman Moulton and worked at the department as a dispatcher.
In May 2021, a letter from the town council’s attorney was issued to the Theels, which stated he and his wife needed to stop “acting like the victim” and made accusations regarding Theel being involved with racketeering at his former employment.
Theel requested a pre-termination hearing, but also asking for councilmen Moulton and Roy Kincaid to be recused from it due to alleged conflicts of interest. This was not granted.
In October, three council members voted to fire Theel, while two did not.
Theel claimed city personnel harassed him and his family during his administrative leave and after he was fired, noting that they would “excessively” drive past his home, which is not on a through street. He also alleged that police department employees would walk past his house and point.
“The Theels felt as if they were under surveillance by police and town personnel,” the lawsuit said.
The Theels are asking for unspecified damages including for loss of income, reduced capacity to earn, embarrassment, mental anguish and loss of enjoyment of life.
Felton has filed a separate request to dismiss the lawsuit against him, saying it makes few allegations against him and none of those allegations are sufficient for a claim against him.
Glenrock Town Council members did not immediately respond to Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Tuesday.