Former Muncie police chief files suit against city, mayor

A letter from the FBI investigation in Muncie, Indiana, on Jan. 5, 2017. (WISH Photo/Joe Melillo)

MUNCIE, Ind. (WISH) – The city of Muncie’s former police chief, Stephen Stewart, filed a lawsuit Wednesday night in federal court in Indianapolis.

The suit cites the city and Mayor Dennis Tyler as defendants. It says the mayor repeatedly and forcefully asked Stewart to investigate a city employee believed to be cooperating with an FBI investigation.

In the suit, Stewart said Mayor Tyler told him the employee had committed crimes, but the mayor was not specific about what those crimes might be or any proof he might have. Stewart said he was immediately concerned with the ethical and legal issues of starting an investigation with no evidence. The lawsuit states Stewart repeatedly insisted he would not go forward with the investigation, and Tyler insisted Stewart continue. The suit claims there was an understanding that not doing the investigation would cost Stewart his job.

In January, the FBI raided the building commissioner’s office in City Hall. In February, the Muncie building commissioner, Craig Nichols, was indicted on 33 counts, including theft of government funds, wire fraud, and money laundering.

Stewart submitted his retirement in November 2016, but believe his benefits were calculated incorrectly. He is asking for damages and for a jury trial.

I-Team 8 reached out to Stewart’s attorney, Brian M. Pierce, but he did not return our call. I-Team 8 also reached out to the city of Muncie. Its personnel director said the city had not seen the lawsuit by 11 a.m. Thursday, and could not comment on pending litigation.