Fired Lexington jail officer gets his job back. His owed back pay could top $600,000.

·2 min read

The state Supreme Court will not review a wrongful termination lawsuit won by a former Fayette County Detention Center officer who was fired by the city in 2017.

The state Supreme Court’s June 9 decision lets stand a 2020 Court of Appeals ruling that upheld a 2019 judgment by Fayette Circuit Court Judge John Reynolds reinstating Sgt. John Lowe and ordering the city of Lexington to pay him back wages and benefits.

The city could owe Lowe as much as $600,000 in back pay, plus interest, said Scott Crosbie, whose law firm handled the case on behalf of Lowe.

“Sgt. Lowe is looking forward to returning to the jail in a full-time capacity,” said Crosbie.

It’s not clear when Lowe will return to the Fayette County Detention Center.

Lexington city officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Lowe signed an “Alford plea” to three misdemeanor counts of third-degree unlawful transactions with a minor in 2017. An Alford plea allows a defendant to plead guilty without admitting guilt.

Lexington police arrested Lowe in 2014 and charged him with two felony counts of first-degree sodomy and one felony count of first-degree sexual abuse. According to court records, a female relative accused Lowe of sexually molesting her several times from 2010 to 2012 when she was 7 and 8 years old.

He was sentenced to time served, getting credit for his brief stay in jail.

Lowe denied any wrongdoing, but an Alford plea to misdemeanors seemed like his best option for putting the case behind him, said his criminal defense attorney, Joe Jarrell, in 2019.

Meanwhile, Lowe was placed on administrative leave in 2014 while the case was moving through the courts.

He was terminated without a disciplinary hearing, violating the city’s collective bargaining agreement with jail officers, Reynolds wrote in 2019. A disciplinary hearing would have allowed Lowe to present evidence and defend himself.

Lowe didn’t know he was terminated until his lawyer — who was at the jail on other business — learned of it by accident, Reynolds wrote.

In 2019, Reynolds said the city owed Lowe $334,721 in back pay and benefits to compensate him for three years of unpaid administrative leave from his job prior to his termination. Because of interest, that back pay could climb to $600,000, lawyers for Lowe now allege.

The city appealed Reynolds’ ruling to a three-judge panel of the state Court of Appeals, who voted 3-0 to uphold Reynolds’ ruling in December 2020.

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