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Former Sharpsburg police chief sues town over firing

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Sharpsburg’s prior top cop is suing the town for wrongful termination.

Former Police Chief John Hunt has filed a lawsuit claiming racial discrimination and is asking for at least $50,000 in damages.

The lawsuit claims Hunt began looking into the arrest of Mayor-elect Robert Williams when the story told by arresting officer James Bruesche didn’t add up.

Williams was arrested the night of a runoff election and charged with driving while impaired. A breathalyzer test showed Williams to be five points over the state’s .08 blood alcohol content legal limit. Williams was eventually sentenced to a day in jail, 24 hours of community service and two years of probation.

Williams, a former police officer in Rocky Mount, has been a commissioner and mayor before in Sharpsburg. He was appointed as mayor in 2011, but lost to Randy Weaver in 2013. On May 8, 2018, Williams was elected mayor in a court-ordered rematch of the race he lost to Weaver by three votes in 2017.

Bruesche claimed he received a citizen tip that Williams was drinking at his victory party and about to drive away. Hunt claims in his lawsuit that the citizen was actually a town commissioner who was informed about Williams’ drinking by Weaver, who had just lost the election. The commissioner then called Bruesche instead of Hunt.

Hunt is black; Bruesche is white. Williams is also black and Weaver and the commissioner are white.

Hunt claims he was in the Town Hall parking lot after the election results were announced and Weaver told two other commissioners, who are also white, that “We don’t want a black man in charge.”

Hunt’s attorney James Hairston told reporters that Hunt heard the mayor make the statement.

“That’s not some hearsay information. That’s from their mouths to his ears. They didn’t want a black man in charge,” Hairston said.

Bruesche and his supervisor Sgt. James Hinson, who is also white, quit the department in the middle of Hunt’s investigation. Hinson also allegedly called Hunt a “motherf---er” and told him to stay on his side of Greene County where both men live, according to Hunt’s complaint.

Hunt served as police chief from January 2016 to June 2018. The commissioners fired him because they “assumed, based upon race,” he “was in some way beholden to Mayor Williams,” according to Hunt’s lawsuit.

At the same time the commissioners fired Hunt, they rehired Hinson, gave him back pay and promoted him to lieutenant. Bruesche also was rehired and promoted to sergeant.

The lawsuit cites other examples of racism, including Town Administrator Blake Proctor’s alleged repeated use of the N-word.

Town officials didn’t return phone calls seeking comment.

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