THP Trooper Michael Parker filed a complaint with the state concerning a THP Sergeant that was allegedly falsifying time sheets. He then filed an open records request regarding the inquiry, and was demoted within 20 minutes of filing the request.
Tennesse Highway Patrol State Trooper Michael Parker is suing Tennessee Homeland Security & Department of Safety Commissioner David Purkey, asserting he is protected under Tennessee law from retaliation when reporting matters of fraud, integrity, or misappropriation of state resources and funds.
Trooper Parker has worked for the state in law enforcement for over a decade, and for the past 5 years as a member of the Executive Protection Unit, providing security for the First Family, Lieutenant Governor, and Speaker of the House. When promoted to the Executive Protection Unit, Parker received the benefits that came along with the prestigious job, including a two-step pay increase, and extra potential for overtime.
In September of 2017, Trooper Michael Parker filed an internal complaint regarding allegations of fraud against the state, misuse of public funds, and falsification of time sheets and other business records by THP Sergeant Terry Scott. Once the investigation had been concluded, in December of 2017, Trooper Parker inquired about getting a copy of the investigative file and the results of the investigation.
On December 4th, Trooper Parker emailed Sergeant Justin Roll to ask for the proper procedure to obtain a copy of the file. On December 18th, Trooper Parker sent his official request for copies of the documents to Justin Roll, and Ann Stedmen. Within twenty minutes of that open records request being submitted, Trooper Parker was called to his Colonel’s office and demoted from the Executive Protection Unit, to a patrol trooper position in Rutherford County.
This immediate and involuntary transfer was signed by Colonel Tracy Trott, and Commissioner David Purkey. The assignment to Rutherford County patrol, Troop F, required Trooper Parker’s pay to be decreased immediately by two steps. On the request for transfer, Colonel Trott, who has since retired in May, wrote it was “for the good of the service of the department” and “necessary to restore the trust, unity, and stability within the unit”.
Trooper Parker, who was formerly ‘Trooper of the Year’ for the Nashville district, says that he was required by the State of Tennessee Employee Code of Conduct to report the potential fraud he observed within his unit – which should increase the trust and stability within an ethical unit, not diminish it.
The lawsuit against the State Commissioner claims the motivating factor for the transfer was to prevent Trooper Parker from reporting any further questionable incidents within the Executive Service Unit, and perhaps to send a message to others within the unit they could be transferred if they choose to not ignore signs of fraud and dishonesty within the unit. The suit also alleges that the loss of a two-step pay increase and transfer to an outlying county should both be considered retaliatory, and would likely discourage employees from coming forward in the future.
The lawsuit seeks relief in the form of reinstatement to employment position/salary prior to demotion, protection from retaliation for any future reports of fraud, misappropriation, or other misconduct, full payment of back wages, compensatory and punitive damages, as provided by law.
Of note to local legal followers, Trooper Parker is represented Megan Killion, who is listed as a staff lawyer at Branstetter, Stranch, & Jennings, PLLC. This is her first ever case or appearance of record in civil court in Nashville. She was previously with the Metropolitan Nashville Department of Law.
Prior to being commissioned as a State Trooper, Parker was an officer for Goodlettsville, White House, and the Ridgetop Police Department. He holds a Master’s Degree in Public Service Management and a B.A. in Criminal Justice Public Administration from Cumberland University.