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Suspended Ashland police chief files lawsuit against city, mayor

Ashland billboard
ABC 17 News
A billboard outside Ashland shows support for Police Chief Lyn Woolford on Monday, Feb. 17, 2020.

ASHLAND. Mo. (KMIZ)

Ashland's suspended police chief filed a lawsuit against the City of Ashland and its mayor on Monday after city officials placed him on administrative leave.

The Ashland Board of Alderman is expected to name an interim police chief at Tuesday night's meeting, which starts at 7 p.m.

According to the lawsuit filed in Boone County court, Mayor Gene Rhorer removed Police Chief Lyn Woolford as city administrator and suspended him as chief after Woolford refused to remove Rhorer's girlfriend from Rhorer's home.

Since there was no threat of violence Woolford refused to intervene, but sent officers to "keep the peace," the lawsuit says.

The petition states that since this incident Rhorer has taken "retaliatory action" by firing Woolford as city administrator and then by placing him on administrative leave.

Ashland's city officials have yet to release any information about Woolford's status, citing legal protections for personnel issues. Even with little information about this situation or how long the investigation will take, some in Ashland say the community supports Woolford fully. 

T.J. Forck, a business owner near Ashland, said Woolford has done great things for the community and that no one has anything bad to say about him. 

“It’s kind of frustrating with little information available at this time," Forck said. "But I know our community needs to support him on the aspects that we do know.”

Forck has tried to share Woolford’s thoughts with the community through Facebook posts. 

“I talk to Lyn about every day," Forck said. "I don’t know anything. He is legally bound not to say anything and so are all the city officials so that’s why it’s been pretty tight-lipped because nobody can talk about it at all.”

Forck replaced his company’s ads with Woolford support ads on two billboards in Ashland. One billboard is along Highway 63 and the other is near the Ashland exit.

"I own the billboard so it was a pretty cool way to show my support and our community’s support," Forck said. "We needed to make a big statement so that’s what we did."

The Woolford support ads will be displayed Monday and Tuesday ahead of a Tuesday night board of aldermen meeting. If a decision is not made soon on Woolford's employment status, Forck plans to show the support ads again. 

“If it comes out something bad, some people might change their minds, but it seems like in today’s society everybody is guilty until they prove their innocence and that’s not the way it’s supposed to be,” Forck said. 

Richard Sullivan, an Ashland City alderman, said that Woolford is under contract until April 2020 and that even though he is on paid administrative leave he is still currently a city employee. 

The city has not been able to release any information regarding this situation because they are investigating a personnel matter under the sunshine law it prohibits them from releasing any information.

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Amber Tabeling

Amber joined the ABC 17 News team as a multimedia journalist in December 2019. She was a student-athlete at Parkland College and Missouri Valley College. She hails from a small town in Illinois.

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