The city of Dunwoody has hired an outside attorney to defend it against three complaints — including one lawsuit — alleging harassment and other issues in the police department.

R. Read Gignilliat of the Atlanta firm Elarbee Thompson represents public- and private-sector employers in actions by employees, according to the firm’s website. He has represented Dunwoody in “various employment-related matters since its incorporation” in 2008, according to city spokesperson Jennifer Boettcher.

“The city is currently working with its liability insurers with regard to coverage of the legal expenses,” Boettcher said in an email.

Gignilliat has successfully represented employers before such bodies as the Georgia Supreme Court, according to the firm’s website. According to media reports, his work includes representing the city of Thomson, Georgia, in a 2018 wrongful-termination lawsuit from a former police captain, and advising the Gwinnett County ethics board in the 2017 case of a county commissioner who called U.S. Rep. John Lewis a “racist pig.”

The city currently faces at least three complaints involving former Dunwoody Police Lt. Fidel Espinoza and other police department officials. The lawsuit, filed July 7 by former officer Roger Halstead, claims that Espinoza sexually harassed him and demanded sexual materials in exchange for work benefits, then arranged for a retaliatory firing and blackballing by other departments.

At least two other complainants have filed notices of intent to sue. Civilian transport officer Brian Bolden claims Espinoza bullied and sexually harassed him and falsely accused him of theft; and former officer Austin Handle claims racial discrimination and fears of impending sexual harassment.

Police Chief Billy Grogan issued an investigative report that ruled the substance of Halstead and Bolden’s claims to be untrue or unproven.

The city previously said that its attorney will respond to Handle’s claims. Asked why Grogan is not writing a similar report about Handle, Boettcher said only, “At this time, we cannot elaborate on Handle’s claims beyond what we’ve already shared.”

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.