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Ex-Cop alleges firing for spurning chief; Files question event sequence

Her termination was the end result of several investigations, according to documents reviewed by APR. 

Montgomery Police Department sign

A former Montgomery police officer claims in an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filing that she was terminated after refusing the sexual advances of the police chief, but internal Montgomery Police Department documents obtained by APR raise questions about the timeline of the allegations and when city officials knew of her complaint. 

Those documents, many of which were contained in the personnel file of former police officer Rene Helton, who was officially terminated in November and filed her EEOC complaint in August. 

In addition to raising questions about the timeline, the documents – most of which resulted from investigations over the past two years into Helton’s conduct while on the job – also reveal that Helton was twice found to have made false allegations – six total false allegations – against superior officers. While the nature of the allegations made by Helton was not disclosed on the paperwork, none of her allegations involved sexual misconduct, according to a source within the department.  

Attempts to reach Helton through her attorney, Mickey McDermott, were unsuccessful. APR provided McDermott with several specific questions about the information contained within Helton’s personnel file and other documents obtained by APR, but did not receive a comment or interview prior to publication.

In media interviews over the last three days, Helton and McDermott have presented damning evidence of sexual advances, including explicit text messages and photos, by MPD Chief Darryl Albert. Those allegations, and the EEOC report filed by Helton, led to the city opening an investigation through the Inspector General’s office into the claims, according to a source familiar with the ongoing investigation. 

However, additional claims by Helton that she was terminated for resisting Albert’s advances and that city officials were “notified in August and did nothing” have received pushback from several people within the police department and at city hall. According to multiple sources, who provided APR with documents to support their claims, Helton was already under investigation by MPD for several incidents when she first made public allegations against Albert in August. 

“No one is saying that her claims about (Albert) sending her inappropriate messages and anything else aren’t true – those things are still under investigation and she has a lot of evidence,” said a source familiar with the investigation who asked to speak on condition of anonymity due to the ongoing litigation. “But those things had nothing to do with why she was being fired, and that’s just a fact.”

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Additionally, Helton suggested in a radio interview that she was fired in response to filing her EEOC complaint. That would have been impossible. The first notification that Helton intended to file the EEOC complaint landed at the city in early August. Helton received notice that she was going to be fired in June. That notification came in a termination letter, which Helton signed. 

Her termination was the end result of several investigations, according to documents reviewed by APR. 

According to documents provided to APR, Helton was first investigated in March 2022 for complaints made by a citizen that Helton had been unprofessional while on duty and had refused to offer help. Both allegations were deemed “substantiated.” 

Then, according to the documents, after an anonymous complaint and another citizen’s complaint against her were deemed “unfounded,” Helton was accused in March 2023 of making multiple false allegations against several superior officers. The month-long investigation determined that she had made false claims in all five instances. 

In late March, Helton filed a harassment complaint against an MPD captain, according to the documents. That complaint was ultimately deemed “unsubstantiated.” 

In June, she filed another complaint alleging five counts of “policy violations while supervising” against six different MPD superiors. One count was “substantiated,” while four counts were “unsubstantiated.”   

All of that preceded her notifying city officials, including Mayor Steven Reed, in early August, of Albert’s sexual advances and alleged discrimination. A source with knowledge of the situation told APR that the first notification of Helton’s allegations came in the form of a letter sent by her attorney at the time, and that the letter noted that Helton had not yet filed an EEOC complaint. 

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In fact, Chip Hill, who serves as Reed’s chief of staff, confirmed to APR that the first notice that Reed’s received that an EEOC complaint had been filed came when the city attorney notified Hill on Monday of this week. Hill declined to answer any additional questions about the case, citing the pending litigation. 

A copy of the August letter provided to APR shows that attorney Ronnie Williams informed city officials, in general terms, that Albert had attempted to engage Helton in a sexual relationship and that she believed she was fired, in part, because she refused his advances. However, the letter also states that Helton has not made the allegations public and that Williams had “advised Officer Helton that it may be prudent to seek an early and less public resolution of her complaint.” 

A source told APR that the letter was reviewed by the city attorney, who engaged with Williams, and the matter was forwarded to the City of Montgomery’s Inspector General to investigate. An official investigation was opened in October.

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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