A judge’s order has reinstated an Enid Fire Department fire captain who was terminated following an October 2015 incident involving a laser allegedly pointed at an airplane.
“The court found that the evidence did not support him doing anything inappropriate, and, therefore, there was no basis to terminate his employment,” Mark Hammons, attorney for Fire Capt. Denton Morgan, said.
On Dec. 14, 2015, the Fire Civil Service Commission terminated Morgan’s employment after finding he violated the department’s code of ethics, and rules and regulations by “being dishonest about what happened on his property on Oct. 15, 2015.”
A hearing and deliberations on Morgan’s employment were held in executive session — which is closed to the public — before commission Secretary Corbin Baker read the findings of fact in a public meeting.
“Capt. Morgan testified that the laser was not intentionally aimed at the plane by him or his wife. However, it is not credible that the laser could accidentally have hit the cockpit the number of times it occurred. One of the two persons on the property had to intentionally point the laser at the plane,” Baker read. “Capt. Morgan made a statement that it was impossible for his wife to have pointed the laser at the plane because of the condition of her shoulder. He denies he pointed the laser at the plane. One of these two statements of his must be untrue.”
On Oct. 15, 2015, someone at Enid Woodring Regional Airport reported he was awaiting the nightly UPS flight when the pilot of the plane reported to the tower that someone was shining a green laser into the cockpit, according to an Enid Police Department report.
The plane then landed, and completed its delivery. As it was taking off from the airport, the pilot again reported the laser was being shone into the cockpit. The controller in the tower could tell the laser was coming from a property northwest of the airport, the report states.
When officers made contact with Morgan, he said “he did not know anything about pointing a laser at the planes,” the report states.
He later laughed, when asked if he had been shining a laser, and said he had been medicating cattle with a dart gun in his pasture, according to the report. The dart gun had a laser sight attached to it, and the pasture is located northwest of the runway.
An appeal of the Fire Civil Service Commission decision was later filed in Garfield County District Court.
According to an order in the appeal, the ruling of the commission was based on a conclusion Morgan knew more about the incident than what he said during the investigation, and was untruthful or dishonest.
“Such conclusion is understandable, but not sustainable,” Associate District Judge Tom Newby wrote in the order.
Newby wrote too much reliance was made on the expectations of how a married couple would communicate with each other.
“Clearly, the commission believed that (Morgan) would have asked his wife if she had intentionally pointed the laser at the airplane or she would have voluntarily told him if she had, as a normal discourse between a married couple,” Newby wrote. “However, there is no evidence (Morgan) inquired of his wife or she volunteered the information to him.”
Newby ordered the commission’s ruling be reversed, and Morgan be reinstated to the fire department.
City Attorney Andrea Chism said Morgan is employed as a captain, and is the station captain on his shift.
Hammons said there are still unresolved issues in regard to back pay and benefits during the time Morgan was off.
“We don’t yet know whether the city’s going to agree to repay those or not repay them,” he said.
The Federal Aviation Administration performed an investigation, Hammons said.
“After receiving information on it, they never proposed criminal charges. There was a proposed potential civil fine. They investigated that, and we responded to the proposal, gave them information, they investigated and they dropped any action — civil or criminal — against Denton Morgan. So, he was cleared of anything by the FAA,” he said.
FAA Mid-States Public Affairs Manager Lynn Lunsford said the FAA is a civil agency, and does not have authority beyond imposing a fine. He said it was possible the FAA had proposed a civil penalty, and was checking into it, but has yet to provide information.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation did not respond to requests for information about if a criminal case had ever been opened or closed in the matter.