Federal court to hear ex-cop’s lawsuit
The city of Glenwood Springs is making a federal case out of a wrongful termination lawsuit. The lawsuit, filed July 11 by former Glenwood Springs police officer Jeffrey A. Lindsey against the city of Glenwood Springs, was removed from Ninth District Court and filed in U.S. District Court in Denver.The notice of removal was filed on behalf of the city on Aug. 9 and the case is now under the jurisdiction of U.S. District Court. “The complaint contains some federal claims, so it already had federal questions,” said Lindsey’s attorney, Chris Geiger of Balcomb and Green in Glenwood Springs. Geiger said the city has retained Denver law firm Hall & Evans LLC. The law firm, Geiger said, is a “well-respected law firm in the profession.” Along with moving the case to federal court, Hall and Evans also requested, and was subsequently granted, an extension to Sept. 5 for filing a response.”We don’t anticipate that we’ll be receiving an answer or any other responsive motion before that date,” Geiger said. Lindsey, who had been a police officer for the Glenwood Springs police department since November 1998, was fired on March 14 for “actions during one arrest and inventory search that took place on Feb. 16,” according to court documents.Police chief Terry Wilson, city manager Mike Copp and city human resources director Sebrina Hoffmeister are named as defendants in the suit. Despite the venue change, the case remains essentially the same, Glenwood Springs city attorney Teresa Williams said. According to text in the suit, Lindsey was working with officer Jeremy Rainwater on Feb. 16 when they stopped and arrested Juan Mendoza, who had four outstanding warrants against him, including warrants for felony narcotics charges.The act in question occurred after Mendoza was placed into custody.While Mendoza was being transported to jail, Lindsey searched the car, finding a spare tire in the trunk that felt “heavier than expected,” he said, and appeared “fully inflated without having air in the tire.” Figuring the tire might have contained drugs, he looked inside the tire. Believing he had permission from his superiors, Lindsey cut the tire. About 10 days later, the suit said, Wilson began an investigation into Lindsey’s search. Then on March 7, Lindsey had a meeting with his superiors about the tire search. This was the first time Lindsey knew an investigation into his actions was under way, the suit said. At the meeting, Lindsey was told that he had violated the department’s search and seizure policy by cutting the tire to search it. Wilson characterized the actions as “well beyond the scope of accepted practice within conventional law” and that they “may reach the threshold of prosecutable law.” During the hearing, the suit claims that of 16 hours allotted for the hearing, the city took up more than 15 1/2 hours, leaving only 19 minutes for Lindsey to present evidence and witnesses on his behalf. “Given the severe time limitations, (Lindsey’s) counsel had time only to lodge objections and make a brief statement to the hearing panel,” the suit said. Lindsey is seeking compensatory damages – including lost wages and benefits, reinstatement to his position as a police officer, removal of all disciplinary items two years old and older from his personnel file, punitive damages and attorney fees. Geiger said Lindsey has no additional comments on the merits of the case.
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