A federal jury this week is hearing a $1.5 million lawsuit brought by an ex-Roseburg police sergeant, who claims he was wrongfully driven from the department and publicly shamed by the city.
Testimony began Tuesday in Oregon District Court in Eugene on the suit filed by Gregrey Fetsch, who left the department in 2010. The case is expected to go to jurors Friday.
Fetsch, who for a time headed the department’s reserve police academy, alleges the city illegally searched his private cellphone and shouldn’t have complied with a request from The News-Review to release a report about the events leading up to his resignation.
Fetsch resigned in 2010 after an internal investigation into whether he put an officer into a ethical dilemma by telling him about his extramarital affair with a woman he met when she applied to be in the reserve program. The department concluded that Fetsch put a burden on the officer and was not honest to department investigators looking into the matter.
On Nov. 4, 2010, after receiving authorization from the city manager, Police Chief Jim Burge gave Fetsch 90 minutes to decide if he wanted to quit or be fired.
A state disciplinary board later declined to revoke Fetsch’s license to be a police officer. Advisers to that board praised Fetsch for his “impeccable honesty” during the state’s investigation.
According to court records, Fetsch, who was hired as an officer in 1990, alleges he was the victim of an arbitrary and capricious campaign to oust him.
Prior to the trial, Judge Thomas Coffin dismissed some claims Fetsch made against the city but let the jury trial proceed on whether he was defamed and whether the city violated his constitutional rights by searching his cellphone and releasing the internal investigation without first giving him a chance to clear his name at a hearing.
Fetsch is seeking reinstatement to his former job with back pay and benefits, plus $1.5 million for emotional distress, humiliation and an inability to get another job in law enforcement.
Fetsch’s annual salary when he resigned was $76,572.
• You can reach reporter Garrett Andrews at 541-957-4218 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.