Dallas Longwith filed suit Jan. 2 in U.S. District Court in Chattanooga asking for $1.5 million.
Attorney Gerald Tidwell alleged Longwith’s termination was a violation of his civil rights with respect to the First Amendment right to free speech and free association.
Longwith was fired Jan. 4, 2012, after a complaint was received in August 2011 from a neighbor who claimed the deputy wore nothing more than boxer shorts (underwear) while mowing the lawn.
According to the termination letter, Longwith was spoken to on the matter, but chose to ignore Sgt. James Dearth.
Instead, Longwith allegedly continued the behavior, which resulted in a second complaint from a different citizen in December 2011.
Longwith maintains he was wearing Tennessee Vols orange shorts and an old T-shirt while he mowed the lawn. The knee-length shorts had buttons. The shorts were not underwear.
Former Capt. Eric Watson, who supervised the Judicial Services Division at the time, investigated the complaint. Watson found no policy violations and closed the inquiry.
Longwith said in a related 2012 news story that he did not mow his yard in December. He said the identity of the second complainant was not revealed to him. Longwith said his dismissal was politically motivated because he and Watson are friends.
According to the lawsuit, Watson is a possible candidate to run against Ruth in 2014. Watson currently represents the 22nd District in the Tennessee House of Representatives where he chairs the House Judiciary Committee.
Watson resigned from the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office in October 2011.
According to a statement released at that time, Ruth said there was difficulty reconciling Watson’s time while the Legislature was in session earlier in the year.
“We determined subsequently there were some issues that in the future would be irreconcilable,” Ruth stated in an October press release.
Longwith said the command staff started focusing on him after Watson’s departure.
Ruth said in a March 2012 news story that Longwith was justifiably terminated.