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Former chief juvenile officer files lawsuit against Cole Co. Commission

Former chief juvenile officer Kurt Valentine filed a lawsuit against the Cole County Commission and Michael Couty after he claims he was wrongfully terminated.

According to the complaint, Valentine had previously reported to Couty he had received reliable information there were several deputy juvenile officers, who were employed by Couty, engaging in drug use at work and outside of work.

Valentine said it was his obligation and duty to ensure no juvenile officer was engaging in illegal drug activity.

According to the petition, the Commission is supposed to require drug testing for persons employed as a juvenile officer both as a condition of initial employment and at random times throughout their employment.

The Cole County personnel manual says that any employee suspected of using illegal drugs shall be tested and should the supervisor of such employee refuse to enforce the policy “they shall be subject to immediate termination.”

Valentine said he repeatedly reported to Couty that some officers appeared to be using illegal drugs and requested drug tests. Valentine also requested to Couty that all Prenger employees involved in court services should be drug tested.

Couty initially refused to allow the officers to be drug tested saying, “You might not like the answers you get.” On another occasion Couty said, “it was too expensive” and told Valentine to let the matter drop.

Valentine said in June he received information that one officer was using urine provided by a third party to avoid drug detection.

Valentine said that he complained to Couty again and Couty started to exclude Valentine from staff meetings.

Valentine said he requested to meet with Couty on multiple occasions. Couty was accused of agreeing to meet and then cancel the meetings.

In July, Couty handed Valentine a letter saying that he had been placed on administrative leave pending an “investigation.”

Valentine said he asked Couty what the investigation was about and he would not answer.

According to the petition, a staff attorney was forced to write a letter stating that Valentine had been “hostile and harassing” her.

Valentine said the Couty told him and his attorney that no matter what the conclusion was in the “investigation” that he would ultimately be fired.

Valentine claims that he has suffered a loss of wages, emotional distress, physical injury, and loss of enjoyment of life.

Valentine wants to be reinstated and to have damages paid for.

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