Former Akron Police Chief James Nice, who resigned in disgrace last year amid allegations of misconduct, has filed a lawsuit in federal court accusing the city, mayor, and his successor of conspiring to force him out of the job.
Among the most damning charges, the lawsuit claims current Police Chief Kenneth Ball of "criminal utilization of false writings to unduly pressure [Nice] to resign." Both Ball and Mayor Dan Horrigan are also accused of making false statements about why Nice left his position.
Nice stepped down back in August after allegedly making derogatory, racially-charged comments against Public Safety Director Charles Brown, a former police officer. He was also accused of having an affair with a female officer and trying to obstruct a criminal investigation against his nephew.
At the time of Nice's resignation, Mayor Horrigan claimed he had "lost the ability to lead the department."
"These actions violate the mission, vision and values of the Akron Police Department and the City of Akron and they will not be tolerated," Horrigan said. "All of us who serve the public must hold ourselves to the highest standards of ethics and integrity."
In the lawsuit, however, Nice claims Horrigan pressured him into promoting others within the department who were "loyal" to the mayor, and also believed Brown was "not an appropriate selection" for the cabinet. The suit states Horrigan "became bent on removing" Nice from his position after he "would not submit to unmitigated and unconditional loyalty."
According to Nice's account, Kenneth Ball called him back on August 25 and claimed his nephew Joseph Nice had accused him of making the comments against Brown, stating that a tape existed of him making the statements. The lawsuit says "no such recording exists" because Nice "never made those statements," but Nice agreed to resign his position "to avoid causing embarrassment to the Akron Police Department."
Nice also accused both Ball and Horrigan of falsely stating to the public that Nice made racist comments against fellow officers, with the lawsuit saying the allegations "stand in stark contrast to [Nice's] character and history."
This past February, Nice pleaded guilty to a criminal misdemeanor after he was accused of unlawfully using a law enforcement database for personal use. He received one year of probation and agreed to never work as a police officer again, but now contends the prosecution that led to his guilty plea was "bogus" and that prosecutors "threatened" him if he did not accept the misdemeanor.
Nice is seeking financial damages as part of the lawsuit, as well as actions against both Mayor Horrigan and Chief Ball. The city of Akron released the following statement on the matter:
"James Nice voluntarily resigned from the City of Akron on August 27, 2017, following serious allegations that he engaged in conduct unbecoming of a member of the Akron Police Department. When asked to respond to the allegations against him, James Nice chose to resign rather than face disciplinary action. James Nice later pled guilty to a misdemeanor offense related to his criminal misuse of a police database and surrendered his Ohio Peace Officer Training Certification. Throughout this period, the various allegations against James Nice caused the City of Akron and the men and women of the Akron Police Department significant unwanted disruption and embarrassment. At no point did the City misrepresent any information or mislead the public in any way regarding the former Chief’s apparent misconduct.
"In 2018, the City of Akron and the Akron Police Department have moved on from that unfortunate chapter and are rightly focused on doing the critically important work of the Department – making Akron’s neighborhoods safer, protecting Akron homes and businesses, and improving the lives of Akron residents through engaged community policing. While it is unfortunate that any additional taxpayer resources will be spent responding to a frivolous lawsuit by the former Chief, the City and Akron Police Department will not be distracted from fulfilling the work the community expects and deserves - responding to the pressing needs and concerns of our citizens and pursuing meaningful solutions to those truly important issues facing our city."