Orrick Mayor Marilyn Butler was denied an order of protection ex parte Friday against Police Chief Troy Sims.
Judge David Busch denied the order after two hours of testimony, bookended by accounts from Butler and Sims themselves, that painted often different pictures of both parties. Sims was placed on indefinite administrative leave May 30, citing an investigation of Sims by what was referred to during the hearing as “another agency,” and was served with the order at an Orrick City Council closed session regarding his leave June 3.
Butler was the first to take the stand. She testified Sims frequently followed her in his car – Lunceford objected from the start to Mark Goodwin, Butler’s attorney, using the word “stalking” in his questioning – and at other times watched Butler’s home from his car across the street and would make a point of being at Butler’s restaurant, the Bearcat Den, whenever she was there.
“Every time I left my home, he would follow me,” Butler said. “He would follow me around town and out of town.”
Jeanette Lee, Butler’s neighbor, backed up Butler with her testimony later, saying she had witnessed Sims going onto Butler’s property as well as parking across the road from her home for long periods of time. Butler said she has never filed a report or complaint with the Orrick Police Department or Ray County Sheriff’s Department regarding Sims’ behavior.
Butler testified she has feared harm from Sims since she took office as mayor in the second week of April. From that point, accounts of Sims’ behavior began to differ.
Testimony repeatedly returned to two incidents with each individual to take the stand: an April 1 incident, in which Sims interrupted a closed-door meeting between Butler and fellow Orrick officer George O’Dell; and a confrontation June 1, in which Sims came to then-Orrick City Clerk Jeanette Hensley’s office to return his equipment after being placed on leave.
Butler and witnesses on her behalf described Sims in the April 1 incident as “bursting” into Butler’s office and “shaking violently,” according to Butler’s own testimony. O’Dell and Butler had met to discuss changes that needed to be made in the city, a subject Butler testified she had intended to discuss with all city employees. O’Dell also testified that Sims opened the door “fairly forcefully” and appeared to be shaking and turning purple.
During the June 1 incident, Butler testified Sims said “I will take care of this and you at the meeting,” referring to the city council hearing regarding Sims’ leave.
Under cross examination, he also testified that he never said Butler was in danger.
Lunceford called two witnesses on Sims’ behalf – former city clerk Jeanette Hensley and city laborer Aaron Meyer. Both were in the office the day of the April 1 incident and said Sims did not appear to be in the raging state of mind described in testimony on Butler’s behalf. Meyer testified he had never seen Sims lose his temper at all. Both said that from their distance, roughly 8-12 feet from Butler’s office, Sims’ voice was never raised enough to hear what he was saying to her.
Hensley testified to a tense relationship with Butler that led her to retire earlier this month, six months ahead of schedule.
“She told me that I need to grow up, that my ‘girlfriend’ (the former mayor) was not there any longer and that I needed to set a date to retire,” Hensley said. “She told me three times in that conversation that I needed to set a date to retire.”
Between accounts of those two incidents, testimony addressed Butler’s revelation in the order that Sims had previously used, under prescription, the antidepressant Paxil. Under cross examination, Butler testified she never accessed Sims’ personnel file to obtain that information but was “told” by several unidentified people Sims had been on the drug.
Regarding the June 1 incident, Butler testified Sims refused to speak to her and to hand in his badge and other equipment.
Butler declined to comment to the The Daily News as of press time.
Sims’ own testimony was no less polarizing. He claimed to have never been contacted by any outside “agency” placing him under investigation and that neither Butler nor Orrick City Attorney Kevin Baldwin has ever identified any agency investigating him. Additionally, he said the only time he had ever been on Butler’s property had been to cite her husband for unlicensed property.
He went on to explain his presence at the Bearcat Den as having to do with a preference for their Friday catfish special, and his presence in front of Butler’s home as enforcing speed traps in a neighborhood with frequent complaints about speeders. He said he declined to turn in his equipment June 1 because he was not yet fired, and that it was Butler who approached him at that time.
“I knew that there were some issues regarding her with me,” Sims said. “After she was elected, we sat down and spoke . . . I thought things were going pretty good.”
Sims admitted in his testimony that if the order is granted, he would no longer be able to carry a firearm and no longer able to be a police officer.