RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A state appeals court has denied a request from Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and the city’s police chief to review rulings that allow a $5 million wrongful termination lawsuit against them to move forward.

Stoney and chief Gerald Smith are being sued by William “Jody” Blackwell, a former Richmond police major tapped by Stoney to be interim police chief in June 2020 after the mayor asked the chief at the time to resign following clashes between officers and protesters during the civil unrest that summer.

Blackwell served as chief for 11 days before Smith assumed the role. He was fired seven months later by chief Smith as “retaliation,” Blackwell claims in the suit, for not complying with an order as interim chief from Stoney to have officers stationed around the city’s Confederate monuments as contractors removed them.

Richmond Circuit Court Judge W. Reilly Marchant denied a demurrer — a motion to dismiss — arguing that Stoney and Smith were protected from liability like the city and that Blackwell’s lawsuit had failed to present claims showing that either acted with “gross negligence, recklessness or willful misconduct” to be exempt from immunity or any link between his firing and refusal to follow Stoney’s request.

Attorneys representing Stoney and Smith filed a petition on June 22 for the Court of Appeals of Virginia to review Marchant’s rulings on immunity. On July 22, a three-judge panel of the appeals court denied the request.

“Contrary to the petitioners’ assertion, the amended complaint expressly alleged intentional misconduct,” the panel wrote in its decision. “Blackwell expressly alleged that ‘Stoney directed Smith to terminate Blackwell’s employment in retaliation for reporting a violation of state law, refusing to engage in a criminal act, and refusing to violate state law.'”

Blackwell’s lawsuit alleges that following Stoney’s request would have left him and police officers open to criminal liability because it would have violated a law in place at the time prohibiting authorities from disturbing or interfering with any monuments or memorials.

That clause in the Virginia code was removed through legislation in April 2020, but the change didn’t go into effect until July 1, 2020, after Blackwell alleges Stoney made the order.

The panel sided with Marchant on the issues of immunity, adding that Blackwell’s claims “of historical fact sufficiently alleged an intentional tort from which” Stoney and Smith are not protected. The appeals court did not address other questions raised in the demurrer.

A spokesperson for the mayor’s office did not respond to a request for comment.