Former Mono deputy files suit in federal court against Mono County and Sheriff’s officials

monosheriffIn February, former Mono Sheriff’s Deputy Jon Madrid won an administrative appeal hearing of his termination. The Arbitrator stated that Mono Sheriff’s Department management acted in a “discriminatory and capricious manner” and forced Madrid to sit in a chair for nine hours a day. The arbitrator called the practice “demeaning and insulting to a sworn peace officer.” He ordered Madrid reinstated with all back pay. Mono County has not reinstated him, and now Madrid has filed a federal lawsuit that alleges violation of his rights of free speech. The Mono Supervisors and County Counsel planned to confer on this case in closed session at Tuesday’s Board meeting.

The lawsuit was filed against Mono County and against three officers individually and in their capacity with the Sheriff’s Department. Named in the suit are former Sheriff Rick Scholl; then Undersheriff Ralph Obenberger, who is now Sheriff; Lieutenant David O’Hara, and other unnamed defendants.

The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court in Sacramento, speaks of Officer Madrid’s twelve years of service in the Marine Corps and numerous tasks within the Mono Sheriff’s Department. The complaint said Madrid had received no fewer than 43 commendations. The suit says the trouble started when Madrid spoke out about “the mishandling of medications for jail inmates” in alleged violation of the law. The suit also says he disclosed information about the falsification of a report by another member of the Department.

Madrid’s attorney then describes what he says was a string of retaliations and harassments for Madrid having spoken out. He was ordered to not report crimes or help those in need while off-duty. The complaint said Madrid was “unreasonably denied his Advanced P.O.S.T. certificate.” The suit goes on to say that Lieutenant O’Hara was overheard publicly stating that his goal was to have Madrid terminated. According to the complaint, Madrid informed Undersheriff Obenberger who took no action. Madrid’s attorney said his client was called into defendants’ offices and questioned about his divorce, personal finances and relationships. He alleges the officers used this “unlawfully acquired information” against Madrid in his appeal hearing.

The complaint says from 2008 until his termination in 2011, the defendants eliminated or denied Madrid’s special assignments with no explanation. The attorney calls this and other actions “retaliation for his protected speech.” The complaint says in 2011, defendant Obenberger “initiated a sham investigation against Madrid for alleged theft of County gasoline.” The allegations, says the suit, were unfounded. The same year, Madrid was terminated on the basis of failure to account for ten hours of time on his time cards, worth $381. That allegation was dispelled during the appeal hearing.

In 2012, Madrid was ordered by defendants to return to the Sheriff’s Department where he was forced to sit in a chair and greet people. The complaint said, “There existed no reasonable necessity to have plaintiff return to work and be seated in a chair like a child for nine hours a day.” The defendants’ actions were “clearly intended to intimidate, harass and retaliate against him for his protected speech.” Former Sheriff Rick Scholl, according to testimony, reasoned that the chair punishment was okay because his predecessor had done it.

The complaint includes other allegations of a “campaign of retaliation” against Madrid. The complaint asks for Madrid to be reinstated and to award damages and attorney’s fees and costs. We have emailed former Sheriff Rick Scholl and current Sheriff Ralph Obenberger for their comments.  Sheriff Obenberger said he would let the Mono County Counsel respond for the Sheriff’s Department.  County Counsel Marshall Rudolph said the County does not comment on ongoing litigation.


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14 Responses to Former Mono deputy files suit in federal court against Mono County and Sheriff’s officials

  1. Long Dirty Road September 5, 2013 at 9:12 am #

    Since Scholl, Obenberger and O’Hara are named individually in the suit, I wonder what attorney is representing them? Is Mono going to pay for their defense?

    In order to appeal an arbritrator’s decision, they would need to produce new evidence or identify an legal error for his decision being wrong. Isn’t the appeal a public record?

    Stall and delay is a legal tactic. An attorney once told me….somebody might die if you drag it out long enough. Mono has done a good job of stalling and delaying.

  2. Long Dirty Road September 4, 2013 at 2:32 pm #

    Why would anybody participate if there was no agreement? But folks, I have yet to hear why they didn’t reinstate Madrid. The arbritrator used some harsh words and I doubt they were based on his/her feelings. Did anybody know him/her?

    • Benett Kessler September 4, 2013 at 3:22 pm #

      I understand that Mono County has filed what amounts to an appeal of the arbitrator’s decision. That writ reportedly raises jurisdictional issues.
      Benett Kessler

      • Desert Tortoise September 4, 2013 at 4:03 pm #

        “Jurisdictional issues” are just a way to avoid dealing with the problem directly. Find an out, make it go away, a real profile in courage.

  3. P. Mancini September 3, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

    The arbitrators decision may not mean anything unless the county has agreed to “binding arbitration” with the DSA. Since the Sheriff’s Office hasn’t re-instated Madrid, it sounds like they don’t.

  4. Are we broke yet? September 3, 2013 at 12:57 pm #

    Can someone explain why the county even refused to ignore the arbitrators decision? Doesn’t the county have to choose the arbitrator they used? Don’t they have to pay for it too? How much is this federal trial going to cost the county now that they refused to reinstate Madrid based on the arbitrators findings?

  5. K. Maloney September 2, 2013 at 9:12 pm #

    I am astonished someone would be terminated for such a minor error in his timesheet ($381.) If it is true that the Deputy was assigned to sit in a chair as his job assignment, I am further astonished. What is wrong with the Sheriff’s Dept. and the management?

    As a taxpayer, I am angry the Sheriff Department’s poor management will cost taxpayers money — something the County is short on. I don’t imagine answering a federal lawsuit is cheap. And if the deputy wins, then how much does that cost?

  6. Big Rick OBrien September 2, 2013 at 7:45 pm #

    How can the County Sup’s be ignoring this ? Arbitrator orders reinstatement and they just sit on their hands ? This thing is gonna snow-ball and the longer they put it off, the BIGGER the payday it’s going to be for Deputy Madrid AND his attorney. Mono County must have a grove of money tree’s growing up there in the high country somewhere.

    • The Master Plan September 3, 2013 at 9:01 am #

      No problem. The County Supes already have a brilliant plan in the works to recoup the “wasted taxpayer’s and constituents money (Yeah, right).
      Cut the workforce for each department in half and leave the extra work for the manager’s to contend with. Cut the manager’s pay while your at it. But don’t even think of going after the union people as they might strike and really screw things up.

      • Benett Kessler September 3, 2013 at 9:47 am #

        I edited your comment because you had no concrete evidence of anything, just mean-spirited name-calling.

  7. Trouble September 2, 2013 at 5:05 pm #

    Sounds like Mammoth to me!

    • Jon September 3, 2013 at 9:12 am #

      This has nothing to do with Mammoth! The sheriff’s office is in Bridgeport!

      • Unclear on the concept September 3, 2013 at 12:35 pm #

        No, Jon –
        You don’t understand the process of this blog.
        If somebody arbitrarily slams the town of Mammoth Lakes and makes a generalization of how awful Mammothites are – that is not considered mean-spirited and without evidence.
        : >

        • Benett Kessler September 3, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

          Actually, it is. There’s no point in slamming “Mammothites.”


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