The city of Roseburg must pay an ex-police sergeant $750,000 because it failed to give him a chance to clear his name before forcing him to quit and making public the results of an internal investigation into his conduct, a federal jury ruled Thursday.
After a three-day trial in Oregon District Court in Eugene, jurors deliberated for three hours before deciding in favor of Gregrey Fetsch, who resigned under pressure in 2010 after 18 years with the department.
Fetsch sued in 2011, seeking $1.5 million and alleging the department violated his constitutional rights to a fair hearing.
Jurors agreed with Fetsch that the city deprived him of an opportunity to continue his career in law enforcement by releasing the internal investigation to The News-Review.
Fetsch said in a statement provided by his attorney, Cindy Danforth, that he hopes to return to work in law enforcement in Oregon.
“For over two years, my family and I have lived under the shadow of a false accusation of dishonesty made by my former boss, Police Chief James Burge,” Fetsch wrote. “(Thursday’s) jury verdict hopefully will remove the false label of dishonesty that I have always denied.”
Calls to Burge’s office Thursday and today were not returned.
The city and its insurer, Citycounty Insurance Services, are considering whether to appeal the verdict, said Eugene lawyer Jens Schmidt, who represented the city.
The internal police investigation concluded that Fetsch put a young officer under his authority into an ethical dilemma by asking the officer to keep quiet about an extramarital affair Fetsch was having with a 24-year-old woman who had applied to be a reserve officer.
The investigation found that Fetsch committed no professional wrongdoing by engaging in the relationship with the woman — who ended up not pursuing a career as a police officer — but that Fetsch had been dishonest during the investigation. On Nov. 4, 2010, Burge, after being authorized by the city manager, informed Fetsch he had 90 minutes to quit or be fired.
According to court records, Fetsch resigned but asked for a hearing to clear his name. The city didn’t respond to the request, according to court records.
When Fetsch faced further discipline from a state board, The News-Review requested a copy of the report.
The state board declined to revoke Fetsch’s license to be a police officer. Advisers to the board praised Fetsch for his “impeccable honesty” during the board’s investigation.
• You can reach reporter Garrett Andrews at 541-957-4218 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.