JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Johnson City commissioners will meet behind closed doors Thursday to discuss an attorney’s lawsuit against the city alleging she was dismissed in retaliation after she attempted to get police to more thoroughly investigate an alleged serial rapist and drug dealer.
The 4:30 p.m. executive session will precede the commission’s regular 6 p.m. meeting. A group calling for Johnson City Police Chief Karl Turner to be suspended while the city conducts an independent audit of the police department plans to demonstrate outside city hall before the meeting and have members in attendance.
A statement from the city says the executive session is to discuss “the litigation status of Dahl v. City of Johnson City.”
Kateri “Kat” Dahl has sued Turner individually, three unnamed Johnson City Police Department (JCPD) officers, and the city in relation to the case surrounding a downtown businessman the case calls “Robert Voe.” Dahl was a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney working for JCPD through a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the U.S. Attorney’s office in Greeneville.
Dahl’s June 23 suit claims that JCPD leaders and investigators, including Turner, stonewalled her repeated attempts from September 2020 through June 2021 to convince them to broaden a case against “Voe” beyond a federal charge of felon in possession of ammunition. It alleges that there was sufficient information to investigate “Voe” for a string of incidents in which he drugged and sexually assaulted women he would meet downtown.
Editor’s Note: News Channel 11 is currently not using the real name of the man known as “Robert Voe” in a federal lawsuit filed against Johnson City Police Chief Karl Turner and others pending availability of official records that would make it legally appropriate to name him.
The portion of the suit related directly to the city hinges on a Tennessee statute, TCA 50-1-304, titled “Discharge for refusal to participate in or remain silent about illegal activities…” — also known as the Tennessee Public Protection Act (TPPA).
While the suit’s first four counts are against Turner and individual officers, Count V claims “TPPA Retaliatory Discharge against Johnson City.”
The state law says “no employee shall be discharged or terminated solely for refusing to participate in, or for refusing to remain silent about, illegal activities.” It defines illegal activities as anything violating the criminal or civil code of Tennessee or the U.S. or any regulation intended to promote public health, safety and welfare.
While the suit alleges that Turner acted unilaterally in refusing to renew Dahl’s MOU in late June 2021, it still names Johnson City because city funds paid Dahl’s salary.
“Johnson City terminated Dahl for refusing to participate in, or refusing to remain silent about, illegal activities, namely Dahl’s allegations about Johnson City Police Department’s failures to investigate and seize “Voe,” and about Johnson City Police Department being either corrupt or plainly incompetent,” the lawsuit claims.
The count requests a judgment of retaliatory discharge against Johnson City under the TPPA, the awarding of damages in an unspecified amount, and awarding Dahl costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.
The City of Johnson City has declined to comment on the lawsuit since first being asked on June 29.