HomeNewsConger, Wiser sued by suspended JPD major

Conger, Wiser sued by suspended JPD major

A suspended manager within the Jackson Police Department filed a lawsuit against the City of Jackson, Mayor Scott Conger and former JPD Chief Julian Wiser.

Phillip Kemper has been employed by JPD since 2004 and worked his way up to Major. He was placed on administrative leave in late December of 2021.

Kemper is suing the City, Mayor and former chief – who was elected Sheriff of Madison County in August of 2022 – for unlawful discrimination.

According to the suit filed in October by Memphis attorney Clyde Keenan, Kemper – who was the major over special operations and criminal investigations – tried in late 2020 and early 2021 to implement a system for accountability for how money and other things confiscated in seizures would be handled and communicated to Kemper and other members of JPD leadership.

During this time, the claim says Kemper had “become aware of inconsistencies between how seized cash flowed through JPD Evidence and City Hall and how seized cash flowed through Jackson Madison County Metro Narcotics and City Hall.”

Being over JPD criminal investigations, Kemper was also over the metro narcotics unit and wanted to tie up any inconsistences since he was ultimately responsible for metro narcotics.

In February of 2021, JPD officers and metro narcotics had worked on a case in which cash was seized. After looking through the investigation and seeing the cash would likely be returned to the property owners in the case, Kemper told Capt. Jackie Benton to return money to the people living at the residence.

Kemper wasn’t Jackie Benton’s supervisor since she was in JPD’s administrative division, but she did have handle seizure processes from metro narcotics.

Because of the inconsistencies he’d observed in recent months, the suit claims Kemper began an unannounced audit of cash seizures handled by Jackie Benton “where numerous deficiencies and improprieties were discovered.”

During an interview associated with the audit reportedly conducted in Corley’s office, Jackie Benton said she didn’t know how much cash was in the metro narcotics safe but it would be a lot because she hadn’t made a deposit in more than 13 months.

The suit claims Kemper urged Wiser to make policy changes to establish proper accounting. When Wiser didn’t make the suggested changes, Kemper went to Conger, who reportedly “showed no interest in the matter.”

Kemper then reported the alleged violations to the District Attorney’s Office, who requested an investigation from the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury.

The results of that investigation were published on April 2, 2022, and reported “a great deal of mismanagement, mishandling of cash and missing money in the thousands of dollars.”

The suit claims Kemper became a target of both Wiser and Conger beginning in March of 2021 by threatening internal affairs investigations while allegedly letting Jackie Benton continued to remain unsupervised and allowed to make deposits at the bank alone without the knowledge of Kemper or the Comptroller’s office.

On March 12, 2021, the suit says Kemper was informed by another officer in metro narcotics that JPD Internal Affairs was calling investigators in metro narcotics taking statements from an incident involving Kemper, Benton and Investigator Mike Arnold at the JPD Annex next to headquarters a week earlier.

On March 15, 2021, Kemper filed a grievance with Conger regarding alleged actions taking by Wiser to intimidate Kemper.

Conger didn’t respond to the grievance, which is required within five days of the written grievance, and Kemper filed another one on May 5. Conger responded on May 10, but the suit claims the issues weren’t resolved and instead became worse.

A request filed with City of Jackson Attorney Lewis Cobb to see Conger’s response was denied because it’s part of an active investigation.

On Aug. 26, 2021, Kemper was delivered a letter that he was under an administrative internal investigation by the City of Jackson, but he would still continue to do his job.

The City hired attorney Amber Shaw to conduct the investigation, according to an e-mail Kemper received in October.

Kemper was placed on leave on Dec. 21, 2021, with pay. Corley, who’d recently been announced as the next JPD Chief once Wiser retired the following month so he could run for Sheriff, took Kemper’s badge and other equipment including his gun, squad car and keys. City HR Director Lynn Henning told Kemper the actions were based on the report and recommendations made by Shaw.

Cobb also denied a request to see the report of the investigation since that document is also still classified as part of an active investigation.

In January of 2022, the suit claims Kemper complied with three days of a “fit for duty” psychological exam and an interview with Shaw.

Two months later, Kemper was served with another internal investigation, this time from Gary Benton.

Kemper’s suit claims the actions taken against him violated his rights as his suspended status doesn’t allow him to seek a civil service review, and he was a victim of discrimination because of the actions taken against him when Jackie Benton mismanaged City funds. Kemper claims he’s under the impression Conger tried to fire him but realized he couldn’t because that action wouldn’t be supported by the Civil Service Commission.

Kemper’s position has since been removed from the departmental organization chart, and he claims the removal of his equipment makes the safety of himself and family susceptible to the violent criminals he’s arrested during his 18-year career and unable to defend himself.

Kemper, who’s still on paid leave 14 months later, wants compensatory pay for damages plus interest for back pay, loss of earnings, loss of fringe benefits, medical care, medicine, psychiatric care, counseling and other losses because of the damage from the actions of Conger and Wiser. The suit does not specify where the losses came from since Kemper’s leave is paid.

Cobb said the City has hired local attorney John Burleson of Rainey, Kizer, Reviere and Bell for the defense.

Both Keenan and Burleson along with Kemper, Conger and Wiser declined to comment for this story.

Brandon Shields, brandon@jacksonpost.news

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