Garfield County sheriff, former jail commander may be back in court next month |

Garfield County sheriff, former jail commander may be back in court next month

John Colson
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

It appears that Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario and his former jail commander, Scott Dawson, will be in court next month to confront accusations by a former jail employee that she was wrongfully terminated for blowing the whistle on sexual harassment.

But Judge James Boyd and the three attorneys involved in the case have a considerable amount of work to do before the Sept. 27 trial date, and at least one of the attorneys doubts if it is possible.

“In my opinion, there’s no way. … I don’t see how it can be done,” said attorney Jonathan Cross of Denver, who represents Dawson against accusations by former inmate services technician Lisa Martin.

The attorneys and the judge discussed some 1,900 pages of documents that will be used as evidence, up to 40 witnesses that may be called to testify, and numerous motions that must be ruled upon and perhaps appealed prior to the trial.

Martin’s attorney, Richard Dally, and Vallario’s attorney, Cathy Greer, said they believe the case will be ready for trial as scheduled.

The charges were filed in 2008 by Martin, daughter of Garfield County Commissioner John Martin. She had worked at the jail from July 2003 until May 2007.

According to Martin’s complaint, Dawson repeatedly sexually assaulted her “both on- and off-duty at and away from the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office,” according to published accounts in 2008.

She also alleged that male supervisors, including Dawson, subjected her to unwanted and inappropriate attention, and circulated gossip and rumors about her alleged sexual activities.

Her complaint also alleged that Vallario and Dawson asked her to falsify reports, budget documents and employment documents for the sheriff’s office.

Martin was fired in May 2007, according to the complaint, “under pretext of subordination” as a way of covering up Dawson’s assaults.

Dawson left the sheriff’s office in February 2009, although Vallario refused to say whether he was fired or if he quit, according to reports at the time.

Martin’s suit, which originally named the Garfield County commissioners as defendants, was sent to U.S. District Court. Then in August 2008, a federal judge dropped the county commissioners from the suit, as well as some of her claims, and sent the case back to the 9th Judicial District to be tried.

At the hearing this week, the sexual assault charges were briefly discussed when attorney Cross maintained that it was not a “nonconsensual affair,” as claimed by Martin.

Plus, he maintained, “nobody knew about it. They never told anybody,” so there are no witnesses to testify as to the question of whether it was consensual or not.

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